With Meleager’s revolt ended and the Macedonian succession issue momentarily solved, Perdiccas at last had the chance to focus his attention to matters outside of Babylon. He must have been dismayed by what he saw. The empire was in disarray; news of Alexander’s death had spread, resulting in disorder and unrest in some of the satrapies; and still other satrapies had been without a formal leader for some time. He could see that, if the empire was to survive under his regency, something had to be done.
As he had done in the wake of Alexander’s death, he returned to the idea of a council to address the situation. This time, its goal would be to partition and reorganize the provinces. He intended the result to benefit the empire, but it’s likely that he hoped it would benefit him as well. After all, he could portray the partitioned satrapies as rewards for the other commanders, a gesture that could placate their ambitions and secure their loyalty. Since it would also require them to leave Babylon to administer their new charges, it further served a political and strategic purpose by distancing his rivals from King Philip. Perdiccas must have thought it was a sound plan—all he needed to do was ensure that everyone felt amply rewarded without giving them too much power.
In the oppressive heat of the Babylonian summer, the Bodyguards and Companions again assembled in the palace for the council. Tension and ambition hung in the air as members of the factions formed during the previous meeting filed into the room. This time, though, Perdiccas intended to prevent dissent. He was the steward with the most authority and the only one present, and he made it clear that he would be assigning attendees their positions, not entertaining debate.
The council was called to order and Perdiccas’ political balancing act began. Ptolemy, who had by this point clearly become Perdiccas’ rival, leveraged his own senior status to request a satrapy of his choice. It had to be wealthy and stable, qualities fitting of his rank. He asked for Egypt, which was widely regarded as a jewel among the provinces. Perdiccas knew that denying the request risked causing more division, so he granted Ptolemy’s wish; however, in a measure to check Ptolemy’s growing influence, he appointed the current Egyptian governor, his ally Cleomenes of Naucratis, as Ptolemy’s lieutenant.
The other ambitious councilors also jockeyed for power and discussed the partition, but Perdiccas finalized his arrangement. Antipater and Craterus, who were again absent, were affirmed as co-stewards of Europe, and Antipater was further reconfirmed as viceroy of Macedon and Greece. Lysimachus, a Bodyguard and close friend of Alexander, would be their associate as the satrap of Thrace.
Perdiccas declined to take a satrapy for himself and instead decided to act solely as steward of Asia, though he redistributed many of his subordinate territories. Phrygia, Lycia, Pamphylia, Lycaonia, and western Pisidia went to the current commander of Macedonian forces in Phrygia, Antigonus Monophthalmus (“the One-Eyed”), even though he was absent from the meeting. In an attempt to appease Leonnatus, the Bodyguard who had been demoted from the council of stewards, Perdiccas gave him the prosperous satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia. Eumenes of Cardia received Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, and a portion of Bithynia for helping to end Meleager’s rebellion. Peithon, another of the Bodyguards, was granted Greater Media, part of the heartland of the former Persian Empire. Perdiccas awarded Seleucus, a veteran general and his close associate, with no satrapy, instead making him his personal lieutenant and leader of the empire’s most elite cavalry unit. Many of the other officials, both present and absent, received new appointments or confirmation of their current roles.
Once Perdiccas had partitioned the final provinces, he concluded proceedings by issuing preliminary orders to the new satraps. Because Alexander had never completely conquered Cappadocia, Perdiccas commanded Eumenes to finish the job and ordered Antigonus and Leonnatus to aid the campaign. Lysimachus received orders to pacify the hostile tribes on the northern border of Thrace. Although the others were charged with less specific tasks, Perdiccas emphasized that, unless he directly stated otherwise, no one was to attempt to expand the borders of the empire. It was clear to all that he hoped to preserve what they presently owned rather than seek further gains, yet some of the more cunning attendees may have surmised that following such a policy would also prevent them from gaining strength to challenge him.
The generals regarded both Perdiccas and each other with suspicion as they left the council for their new posts. Their mission was accomplished: peace had been won, legitimacy had been established, and order had been restored. It would be fleeting, however. The empire was abuzz with tidings of Alexander’s demise and Meleager’s rebellion, causing malcontents everywhere to contemplate the opportunities afforded them by the new political climate.
Macedon’s armies would soon fight again, but it would not be against a foreign foe.
This is the third post in a series on the death of Alexander and the First Diadoch War. The entire series can be found here.
- James Romm. Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
- Robin Waterfield. Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
My map used in this post is a significantly altered version of a map originally published by Fornadan under the Creative Commons: Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license. My version of the map is published under the same license.