Cultures > Antigonid Macedonia‎

Antigonid Macedonia‎

Background

After Alexander the Great’s death, his empire was promptly divided between various somatophylakes (bodyguards), generals, members of the Macedonia nobility, and his other friends. Among them was Antigonus I Monophtlamus, Alexander’s general, who seized Asia Minor after the scramble to gain control of the territories he left behind. Following an attempt to reunite the empire, he was defeated by an alliance between Cassander, Lysimachus, and Seleucus I Nicator and Antigonus was killed in the Battle of Ipsus.

Antigonus’ son Demetrius and his grandson Antigonus I Gonatas fled to Macedonia after this defeat. There they established the Antigonid Dynasty. Demetrius was given the title Poliocretes (which means City Sacker) because of his reputation for attacking heavily defended cities. He was defeated by Ptolemy I of Egypt at Gaza, but he took his revenge when he devastated Ptolemy’s fleet at Salamis and liberated Athens from Ptolemy’s ally, Demetrius of Phalerum.

Demetrius extended his campaigns into Greece but failed after he was chased by Agathocles, Lysimachus’ son, into Cilicia. He surrendered to Seleucus I Nicator in Syria and there he died in captivity while his son Antigonus II Gonatas was forced to fight hard against other claimants for the throne of Macedonia. He briefly lost control of Macedonia to his rivals but retook it after an invasion of the Gauls when he cooperated with the Aetolians. He was known as a brilliant politician and Macedonia briefly achieved stability during his reign.

During the height of Macedonian power under Philip II and Alexander the Great, Macedonia wielded great control of a vast empire made up of different kingdoms and city-states. This was a great contrast during the time of the Antigonids when they ruled only the people of Macedonia with a few Thracians, Illyrians, and other minorities that made up its kingdom. Meanwhile, the Illyrians and Dardanians who frequently raided the kingdom from the north continued to be a source of problems for the Macedonians.

Demetrius II Aetolicus succeeded Demetrius the Fair (who briefly reigned as king before he was killed by his own wife) and saved Macedonia by defeating Alexander II of Epirus. He fought and defeated both the Greek Aetolian League and Achaean League during his reign, as well as fought the invasion of the Dardanians from the north. Demetrius died in battle and left his son Philip V as heir.

As Philip was still a child when his father died, the Macedonian nobility turned to his half-cousin Antigonus III Doson as a temporary ruler. He fought against and defeated the Dardanian tribes as well as the forces of Thessaly. He was considered a good leader with superior diplomatic and military skills but his reign was cut short when he died while fighting the Illyrians.

Philip V was 17-years old when he became king after the death of Antigonus III Doson, but he was successful in finally defeating the Dardanians. He became an ally of the Carthaginian general Hannibal and invaded Illyria (a Roman client state) during the Second Punic War. There was no decisive victory for both sides, and the war ended with the Treaty of Phoenice. Philip also went to war against Rhodes and Egypt but was defeated by an alliance between Rhodes and Pergamum.

These conquests alarmed Rome and caused the Second Macedonian War which resulted in Philip’s defeat at Cynoscephalus in Thessaly. A younger son named Perseus became king of Macedonia after Philip had his elder son executed because of a conspiracy. Perseus was the last king of the Antigonid dynasty after he was defeated in the Battle of Pydna against Roman troops. He was taken as a captive to Rome and this defeat signaled the end of the Macedonian dominance in the region. Macedonia would lose its independence, and it became a Roman province soon after.

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Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Rossos, Andrew. Macedonia and the Macedonians: A History. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2008.

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