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The Race Issue and Succession

Alexander wanted to fuse the Macedonians, Greeks and Persians into one culture. He was survived by a son born to his Persian wife Roxana three months after his death – the son to be known historically as Alexander IV. Some of Alexander's Macedonian veterans could not accept that their king, Alexander's successor, was the son of a "barbarian" woman from central Asia. In the place of Alexander IV they favored Alexander half brother: the illegitimate son of Alexander's father and one of his mistresses – to be described as an epileptic and as simpleminded.

One of the generals, an old comrade of Alexander's, Perdiccas, was allied with Alexander's mother and Roxana in support of Alexander's son. Perdiccas saw holding the empire together as his responsibility, and war among Alexander's generals was averted by a compromise: Alexander IV and Philip III would reign jointly while each was supervised by one of the generals.

But the agreement didn't last. What followed was to be called the Diadochi (Successor) Wars. The general who had been in charge of maintaining order in Macedonia and Greece, Antigonus, thought his position qualified him to be the empire's supreme authority. The general who had been governing Egypt. That was Ptolemy (who would have as a descendant a couple of centuries later, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra). In 322 (the year that followed Alexander's death), Perdicas led an army against Ptolemy, and Perdiccas was assassinated by his officers.

With the loss of a central authority – Alexander the Great – a great empire was falling apart. Alexander's mother, Olympias, still had some power, and she had her grandson's rival, Philip III, executed along with his wife and a hundred others. This offended Cassander, the son of a general, who headed an army in Greece. Cassander and his army marched into Macedonia, won battles against Olympias's forces. In 316 he had Olympias executed. He put Roxana and Alexander IV under guard, and in a few years he would have them executed.

311-309, Seleucus emerged from war against a rival general as the winner of rule in the area of Babylon and points east – to the far end of what had been Persia's empire. (Diadochi map)  In 306 Seleucus assumed the title of king: Seleucus I Nicator. His dynasty was to last for almost two and a half centuries and was to play a big role regarding the Jewish people.

Meanwhile, Ptolemy had been expanding his power beyond Egypt, while Seleucus was in the east trying to consolidate his control over what had been the Persian Empire. Antigonus sent his son Demetrius to regain control of Greece, and, in 307 Demetrius expelled Cassander's power in Athens. Then Demetrius turned his attention to Ptolemy, invading Cyprus and defeating Ptolemy's fleet at the Battle of Salamis.

In 306, Antigonus attempted to invade Egypt, but storms prevented his son's fleet from supplying him, and he was forced to return home. Antigonus and Demetrius failed to take power in Rhodes. Demetrius returned to Greece, defeated Cassander, and formed a new Hellenic League, with himself as general.

Demetrius and Cassander faced off in central Greece (Thessaly) in inconclusive engagements. Cassander called in aid from an ally, Lysimachus, who had an army or armies in Thrace. Lysimachus overran much of western Anatolia. In 301 Seleucus saved Lysimachus and crushed Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus. Antigonus was killed in the fight, and Demetrius fled back to Greece to save his rule there. Lysimachus and Seleucus divided up Antigonus's Asian territories between them, with Lysimachus receiving western Asia Minor and Seleucus the rest, except Cilicia and Lycia, which went to Cassander's brother Pleistarchus.

By 301 Ptolemy still ruled Egypt and had at least de facto control over Palestine. Cassander ruled in Macedonia and Greece, but he died of dropsy in 297 and his power passed to sons who were to quarrel.

The descendants of Seleucus and Ptolemy were to fight a couple of wars between 274 to 253 over who would control southern Syria, and a third war from 245 to 241, begun by Ptolemy III to enforce earlier diplomatic arrangements disadvantageous to Seleucus II, son and successor of Antiochus II.

Rather that the peace that could have been maintained by one powerful central authority (an empire that might have included Italy had Alexander lived), the frequent wars that the world had known would. By the years 31 and 30 BCE the Roman Empire would expand into Greece. But before the grandeur of the Roman Empire, the Diadochi made themselves monarchs in the Macedonian tradition. Drawing from the Alexander legend, they attempted to have a striking personal appearance. They wore headbands similar to the one Alexander had worn, which became a symbol of monarchy, and they continued Alexander's use of the title "king." In meeting visitors they postured haughtily, while visitors were obliged to gesture submission, respect and deference.

The new monarchs sought support in religion, pretending that their wars were the will of the gods. As had Alexander, they claimed themselves divine. In Egypt, Ptolemy (Ptolemy I or Ptolemy the Savior), claimed that he was descended from the gods Heracles (a son of Zeus) and Dionysus (god of the grape harvest). He staffed his administration with Greeks rather than Egyptians. Manyf Egyptians continued to view his rule as foreign. But he attempted to appeal to the glory of Egypt's ancient past and portrayed himself as a new pharaoh.


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