Demetrius I of Macedon

Demetrius I of Macedon

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Demetrius I called Poliorcetes (Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Πολιορκητής - "The Besieger"), son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus
Antigonus I Monophthalmus
Antigonus I Monophthalmus , son of Philip from Elimeia, was a Macedonian nobleman, general, and satrap under Alexander the Great. During his early life he served under Philip II, and he was a major figure in the Wars of the Diadochi after Alexander's death, declaring himself king in 306 BC and...

 and Stratonice
Stratonice (wife of Antigonus)
Stratonice was daughter of Corrhaeus , and wife of Antigonus, king of Asia, by whom she became the mother of two sons, Demetrius Poliorcetes and Philip, who died in 306 BC...

, was a king of Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 (294–288 BC). He belonged to the Antigonid dynasty
Antigonid dynasty
The Antigonid dynasty was a dynasty of Hellenistic kings descended from Alexander the Great's general Antigonus I Monophthalmus .-History:...

.

Biography


At the age of twenty-two he was left by his father to defend Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 against Ptolemy
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter I , also known as Ptolemy Lagides, c. 367 BC – c. 283 BC, was a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great, who became ruler of Egypt and founder of both the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Ptolemaic Dynasty...

 the son of Lagus
Lagus
Lagus from Eordaea was the father, or reputed father, of Ptolemy, the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty. He married Arsinoe, a concubine of Philip II, king of Macedon, who was said to have been pregnant at the time of their marriage, on which account it is told that the Macedonians generally looked...

; he was totally defeated in Battle of Gaza
Battle of Gaza (312 BC)
The Battle of Gaza was a battle of the Third war of the Diadochi between Ptolemy and Demetrius .Ptolemy launched an invasion of Syria...

, but soon partially repaired his loss by a victory in the neighbourhood of Myus
Myus
Myus, Caria was an ancient city-state and was one of twelve major settlements formed in the Ionian Confederation, called the Ionian League. The city was said to have been founded by Cyaretus , a son of Codrus. Myus was a small peninsula, it is now however surrounded by land...

. In the spring of 310, he was soundly defeated when he tried to expel Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus I was a Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great and one of the Diadochi. In the Wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire...

 from Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

; his father was defeated in the autumn. As a result of this Babylonian War
Babylonian War
The Babylonian War was a conflict fought between 311-309 BC between the Diadochi kings Antigonus Monophthalmus and Seleucus I Nicator, ending in a victory for the latter...

, Antigonus lost almost two thirds of his empire: all eastern satrapies became Seleucus'.

After several campaigns against Ptolemy on the coasts of Cilicia
Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

 and Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, Demetrius sailed with a fleet of 250 ships to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. He freed the city from the power of Cassander
Cassander
Cassander , King of Macedonia , was a son of Antipater, and founder of the Antipatrid dynasty...

 and Ptolemy, expelled the garrison which had been stationed there under Demetrius of Phalerum, and besieged and took Munychia (307 BC). After these victories he was worshipped by the Athenians as a tutelary deity under the title of Soter (σωτήρ) ("Preserver").

In the campaign of 306 BC against Ptolemy he defeated Menelaus, Ptolemy's brother, in the naval Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis in Cyprus (306 BC)
The naval Battle of Salamis took place in 306 BC near Salamis, Cyprus between the fleets of Ptolemy I of Egypt and Demetrius, two of the diadochi, the successors to Alexander the Great...

, completely destroying the naval power of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Demetrius conquered Cyprus in 306 BC, capturing one of Ptolemy's sons. Following the victory Antigonus assumed the title king and bestowed the same upon his son Demetrius. In 305 BC, now bearing the title of king bestowed upon him by his father, he endeavoured to punish the Rhodians
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

 for having deserted his cause; his ingenuity in devising new siege engines in his unsuccessful attempt to reduce the capital gained him the title of Poliorcetes. Among his creations were a battering ram
Battering ram
A battering ram is a siege engine originating in ancient times and designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates...

 180 feet (54.9 m) long, requiring 1000 men to operate it; and a wheeled siege tower
Siege tower
A siege tower is a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The tower was often rectangular with four wheels with its height roughly equal to that of the wall or sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on...

 named "Helepolis
Helepolis
Helepolis was an ancient siege engine invented by Polyidus of Thessaly and improved by Demetrius I of Macedon and Epimachus of Athens for the unsuccessful siege of Rhodes, based on an earlier, less massive design used against Salamis...

" (or "Taker of Cities") which stood 125 feet (38.1 m) tall and 60 feet (18.3 m) wide, weighing 360,000 pounds.


In 302 BC he returned a second time to Greece as liberator, and reinstated the Corinthian League. But his licentiousness and extravagance made the Athenians long for the government of Cassander. Among his outrages was his courtship of a young boy named Democles the Handsome. The youth kept on refusing his attention but one day found himself cornered at the baths. Having no way out and being unable to physically resist his suitor, he took the lid off the hot water cauldron and jumped in. His death was seen as a mark of honor for himself and his country. In another instance, he waived a fine of 50 talents imposed on a citizen in exchange for the favors of Cleaenetus, that man's son. He also sought the attention of Lamia, a Greek courtesan. He demanded 250 talents from the Athenians, which he then gave to Lamia and other courtesans to buy soap and cosmetics.

He also roused the jealousy of Alexander's Diadochi
Diadochi
The Diadochi were the rival generals, family and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for the control of Alexander's empire after his death in 323 BC...

; Seleucus
Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus I was a Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great and one of the Diadochi. In the Wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire...

, Cassander and Lysimachus
Lysimachus
Lysimachus was a Macedonian officer and diadochus of Alexander the Great, who became a basileus in 306 BC, ruling Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedon.-Early Life & Career:...

 united to destroy him and his father. The hostile armies met at the Ipsus
Battle of Ipsus
The Battle of Ipsus was fought between some of the Diadochi in 301 BC near the village of that name in Phrygia...

 in Phrygia
Phrygia
In antiquity, Phrygia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The Phrygians initially lived in the southern Balkans; according to Herodotus, under the name of Bryges , changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the...

 (301 BC). Antigonus was killed, and Demetrius, after sustaining severe losses, retired to Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

. This reversal of fortune stirred up many enemies against him—the Athenians refused even to admit him into their city. But he soon afterwards ravaged the territory of Lysimachus
Lysimachus
Lysimachus was a Macedonian officer and diadochus of Alexander the Great, who became a basileus in 306 BC, ruling Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedon.-Early Life & Career:...

 and effected a reconciliation with Seleucus, to whom he gave his daughter Stratonice
Stratonice of Syria
For other persons with the same name, see StratoniceStratonice of Syria was the daughter of king Demetrius Poliorcetes and Phila, the daughter of Antipater...

 in marriage. Athens was at this time oppressed by the tyranny of Lachares - a popular leader who made himself supreme in Athens in 296 BC - but Demetrius, after a protracted blockade, gained possession of the city (294 BC) and pardoned the inhabitants for their misconduct in 301.

In the same year he established himself on the throne of Macedonia by murdering Alexander V
Alexander V of Macedon
Alexander V of Macedon was the third and youngest son of Cassander and Thessalonica of Macedon, who was a half-sister of Alexander the Great. He ruled as King of Macedon along with his brother Antipater from 297 to 294 BC...

, the son of Cassander. In 291 BC he married Lanassa
Lanassa (wife of Pyrrhus)
Lanassa was a daughter of king Agathocles of Syracuse, Sicily, perhaps by his second wife Alcia. In 295 BC Agathocles married Lanassa to King Pyrrhus of Epirus. Agathocles himself escorted his daughter with his fleet to Epirus to her groom. Lanassa brought the island of Corcyra as dowry into the...

, the former wife of Pyrrhus
Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus or Pyrrhos was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic era. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house , and later he became king of Epirus and Macedon . He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome...

. But his new position as ruler of Macedonia was continually threatened by Pyrrhus, who took advantage of his occasional absence to ravage the defenceless part of his kingdom (Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, Pyrrhus, 7 if.); at length, the combined forces of Pyrrhus, Ptolemy and Lysimachus, assisted by the disaffected among his own subjects, obliged him to leave Macedonia in 288 BC.

He passed into Asia and attacked some of the provinces of Lysimachus with varying success. Famine and pestilence destroyed the greater part of his army, and he solicited Seleucus' support and assistance. But before he reached Syria hostilities broke out, and after he had gained some advantages over his son-in-law, Demetrius was totally forsaken by his troops on the field of battle and surrendered to Seleucus.

His son Antigonus
Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas was a powerful ruler who firmly established the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia and acquired fame for his victory over the Gauls who had invaded the Balkans.-Birth and family:...

 offered all his possessions, and even his own person, in order to procure his father's liberty.
But all proved unavailing, and Demetrius died after a confinement of three years (283 BC). His remains were given to Antigonus and honoured with a splendid funeral at Corinth.

His descendants remained in possession of the Macedonian throne till the time of Perseus
Perseus of Macedon
Perseus was the last king of the Antigonid dynasty, who ruled the successor state in Macedon created upon the death of Alexander the Great...

, when Macedon was conquered by the Romans
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 in 168 BC.

Demetrius was married five times; his first wife was Phila daughter of Regent Antipater
Antipater
Antipater was a Macedonian general and a supporter of kings Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great. In 320 BC, he became Regent of all of Alexander's Empire. Antipater was one of the sons of a Macedonian nobleman called Iollas or Iolaus and his family were distant collateral relatives to the...

 by whom he had two children: Stratonice of Syria
Stratonice of Syria
For other persons with the same name, see StratoniceStratonice of Syria was the daughter of king Demetrius Poliorcetes and Phila, the daughter of Antipater...

 and Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas was a powerful ruler who firmly established the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia and acquired fame for his victory over the Gauls who had invaded the Balkans.-Birth and family:...

. His second wife was Eurydice of Athens
Eurydice of Athens
For other persons with the same name, see Eurydice Eurydice was an Athenian woman of a family descended from the great Miltiades. She was first married to Macedonian Ophellas, the conqueror and king of Cyrene, and after his death returned to Athens, where she married Demetrius I of Macedon, on...

 and his third wife was Deidamia
Deidamia I of Epirus
Deidamia was daughter of Aeacides, king of Epirus and his wife Phthia, and sister of Pyrrhus. While yet a girl she was betrothed by her father to Alexander IV, the son of Roxana and Alexander the Great, and having accompanied that prince and Olympias into Macedonia, was besieged in Pydna together...

, a sister of Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus or Pyrrhos was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic era. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house , and later he became king of Epirus and Macedon . He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome...

. Deidamia bore him a son called Alexander who is said by Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 to have spent his life in Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt
Ptolemaic Egypt began when Ptolemy I Soter invaded Egypt and declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt in 305 BC and ended with the death of queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The Ptolemaic Kingdom was a powerful Hellenistic state, extending from southern Syria in the east, to...

, probably in an honourable captivity. His fourth wife was Lanassa
Lanassa (wife of Pyrrhus)
Lanassa was a daughter of king Agathocles of Syracuse, Sicily, perhaps by his second wife Alcia. In 295 BC Agathocles married Lanassa to King Pyrrhus of Epirus. Agathocles himself escorted his daughter with his fleet to Epirus to her groom. Lanassa brought the island of Corcyra as dowry into the...

 and fifth wife was Ptolemais, daughter of Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter I , also known as Ptolemy Lagides, c. 367 BC – c. 283 BC, was a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great, who became ruler of Egypt and founder of both the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Ptolemaic Dynasty...

 and Eurydice of Egypt
Eurydice of Egypt
Eurydice was daughter of Antipater and wife of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus. The period of her marriage is not mentioned by any ancient writer, but it is probable that it took place shortly after the partition of Triparadisus, and the appointment of Antipater to the regency, 321 BC. She was the...

, by whom he had a son called Demetrius the Fair
Demetrius the Fair
For the similarly named Macedonian ruler, see Demetrius II of Macedon.Demetrius the Fair or surnamed The Handsome , also known in modern ancient historical sources as Demetrius of Cyrene, was a Hellenistic king of Cyrene.-Family:Demetrius was of Greek Macedonian descent...

. He also had an affair with a celebrated courtesan called Lamia of Athens
Lamia of Athens
For other persons named Lamia, see LamiaLamia of Athens was a celebrated courtesan, daughter of Cleanor. She commenced her career as a flute-player on the stage, in which profession she attained considerable celebrity, but afterwards abandoned it for that of a hetaera...

, by whom he had a daughter called Phila
Phila (daughter of Demetrius)
For other persons named Phila, see PhilaPhila , a daughter of Demetrius I of Macedon and Lamia of Athens....

.

Literary references


Demetrius appears (under the Greek form of his name, Demetrios) in L. Sprague de Camp
L. Sprague de Camp
Lyon Sprague de Camp was an American author of science fiction and fantasy books, non-fiction and biography. In a writing career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and notable works of non-fiction, including biographies of other important fantasy authors...

's historical novel, The Bronze God of Rhodes
The Bronze God of Rhodes
The Bronze God of Rhodes is an historical novel by L. Sprague de Camp, first published in hardcover by Doubleday in 1960, and in paperback by Bantam Books in 1963...

, which largely concerns itself with his siege of Rhodes.

Alfred Duggan
Alfred Duggan
Alfred Duggan was an English historian, archeologist and best-selling historical novelist during the 1950s. Although he was raised in England, Duggan was born Alfred Leo Duggan in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a family of wealthy landowners of Irish descent. His family moved to England when he was...

's novel Elephants and Castles provides a lively fictionalised account of his life.

Ancient sources

  • Plutarch
    Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

    , Life of Demetrius
  • Diodorus Siculus
    Diodorus Siculus
    Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

    , Library of History, books 19–21
  • Polyaenus
    Polyaenus
    Polyaenus or Polyenus vs. e]]; , "many proverbs") was a 2nd century Macedonian author, known best for his Stratagems in War , which has been preserved. The Suda calls him a rhetorician, and Polyaenus himself writes that he was accustomed to plead causes before the emperor...

    , Stratagems, 4.7
  • Justin, Epitome of Trogus, books 15–16
  • Athenaeus
    Athenaeus
    Athenaeus , of Naucratis in Egypt, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD...

    , Deipnosophists, 6.252–255

Modern sources

  • R. M. Errington, A History of the Hellenistic World, pp. 33–58. Blackwell Publishing (2008). ISBN 978-0-631-23388-6.
  • Demetrius I at Livius.org

See also

  • Winged Victory of Samothrace
    Winged Victory of Samothrace
    The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a 2nd century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike . Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.-Description:The Nike of Samothrace,...