Alexander the Great: Veterans and Settlers – Part III
Watching the fast-evolving state of affairs following Alexander’s death, the Athenian demagogue Demades compared the Macedonian army to the: “Cyclops after his one eye had been burned out, seeing its many disorderly and unsteady motions.” The trouble, which would spread to the distant corners of the empire, commenced in Babylon in June 323 BC.
The dying Alexander greeting his troops one last time. ( Public Doman )
The Convocation in Babylon
To decide the fate of the empire as Alexander’s body awaited its embalming, following his death on the 23rd of June, the traditional ‘common assembly’ of the Macedonian army was convened by Perdiccas, Alexander’s former second-in-command. The infantry officers had gathered to argue the fate of the ‘home’ kingdom of Macedonia, excluded as they were from wider decisions on the Asian empire. Most cared little who governed the former Persian lands, for the army had seen its fill of the East. They did, however, care about the fate of the Macedonian throne and their age-old right to participate in its destiny.
Alexander’s empire at his death in 323 BC. ( CC BY-SA 3.0)
The convocation in Babylon was unique and perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to decide on something truly hard-earned and of real value to returning veterans. Alexander had already instructed his regent in Macedonia to endow the repatriated campaigners with garlands and ‘prohedria’, the privilege of front row seats, at public performances; their accumulated campaign wealth, if not already squandered away, ensured them a privileged retirement in the nation that now ruled the Graeco-Persian world.
In contrast, Alexander’s former bodyguards and the higher echelons of command, led by the aristocratic elements of Macedonia, were gathered at the assembly in Babylon, in the ‘spirit of empire’, to secure their chunk of the vast Persian provinces. Out of these divided interests emerged an uncomfortable ‘settlement’ which almost resulted in a full-scale confrontation between the cavalry command, and the peasant-recruited infantry under their veteran officers with a conservative attitude on what constituted acceptable leadership and a new king.
Fate of the Asian Settlers
In this traumatized post-Alexander world, very different mindsets were coalescing within the ranks as governors were appointed to each region: there were men intent on getting home to Macedonia with any hoarded wealth intact, alongside those who were ambivalent with little to return to, and those who could not return at all.
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This article is an extract from the newly-published book ‘ In Search of the Lost Testament of Alexander the Great ’ by author and historian David Grant . Visit AlexandersTestament.com
Top Image: Alexander the Great Refuses to Take Water by Giuseppe Cades (1792) ( Public Domain )
By David Grant