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Succession of Alexander III (Alexandros)

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The Succession of Alexander III, collectively known as the Macedonian Succession Crisis was a period of conflict, civil war, and crisis in the Kingdom of Macedon and Greece following the death of Alexander III, without any clear heir to succeed him, following Alexander's defeat and death at the Battle of the Granicus against the Persian Empire.

As Alexander was only in his early twenties at the time of his death, he had no male heir to succeed him. His closest applicable relative was his brother, Arrhidaeus, son of Philip II, who was probably mentally disabled and unfit to rule over Macedon. Over the course of the next few years Macedon would be plunged in a series of wars, involving a number of claimants to the throne of and later over Macedonian hegemony in the Hellenic world.

Background

Macedonian Invasion of Anatolia

With Greece and the Balkans secured under the rule of Alexander, he set out on an expedition into Anatolia, the result of years of planning, first begun by his father Philip II. Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Anatolia, with the army of Macedon being transported by over one hundred triremes. This movement was initially ignored by the Persians, who were hesitant to act. For the first three months of Alexander's invasion he was not taken seriously by the Persians, and Darius refused to mount a serious offensive against him. Scorched earth tactics were proposed by Memnon of Rhodes, a Greek mercenary aligned with the Persians, advocating for the destruction of Persian lands in front of Alexander, so that his army would starve and he would be forced to retreat back to Greece, a Scorched earth policy. But the noble satraps of Anatolia refused to pillage their own land. Alexander continued to advance into Persian territory, and eventually Darius appointed Memnon the head of an army to meet Alexander on the battlefield, hoping that a confrontation would lead to his defeat.

In May, Alexander's forces met Memnon on the battlefield, at the Granicus River in northwestern Anatolia, near the site of ancient Troy. During the battle, Alexander would be struck down and killed by a Persian commander, ending the campaign altogether, and forced Macedonian leadership and troops to return to Greece.

The Succession

Following the death of King Alexander III at the Granicus, the Kingdom of Macedon was left without any direct heir, as Alexander had no children, having died at a very young age. Alexander's body was carried back to Macedon, where he was to be buried in a modest tomb with his father Philip II, in Pella. Numerous generals quarreled for control of Alexander's army, with the majority of his forces recognizing Alexander's friend and general Hephaestion as leader. Under Hephaestion's leadership the army of Macedon retreated back into Greece.

When news of the Macedonian defeat at the Granicus reached Greece, almost immediately, various city-states raised their forces in open rebellion. In southern Greece the states of Thebes, Athens, and Thessaly all began mobilizing forces for war against Macedon, hoping to establish their independence from Macedonian hegemony, and control over southern Greece.  Similarly, in the north the Thracians, Illyrians and Getae, who had previously been subjugated or subdued by Alexander a few years prior, also began preparing for war against the returning Macedonians, hoping to cut off Hephaestion before he could reach Greece. Thus, the Lamian War began.

Hephaestion's advance was stalled by bickering and infighting among many of Alexander's former generals. Various sides within Alexander's former army soon formed, with the main factions either supporting Hephaestion or Alexander's older brother Arrhidaeus, who was mentally disabled. Many of the generals in favor of Alexander's brother perhaps hoped to seize control themselves, utilizing Arrhidaeus as a puppet king, or a temporary figure head. One of these generals, Meleager, a commander of the phalanx at the Granicus, argued that Hephaestion had no right to command the Macedonian forces, and attempted to combat Hephaestion with a portion of the Macedonian infantry. Other generals, such as Perdiccas, supported Hephaestion, arguing that the Macedonian forces had to remain strong in order to reestablish control in Greece and elsewhere.

After attempts to placate Meleager and other rebellious leaders failed, Hephaestion was forced to march the main Macedonian army into battle against sections of the Macedonian infantry at Troy, who were joined by a select few number of Greek mercenaries; the Greek contingents in Alexander's former army largely having fled west. In the ensuing battle, Hephaestion established himself as a strong general, in his own merit rather than that of his late friend Alexander, defeating Meleager and accepting the surrender of his army, to be absorbed back into his. With Meleager and several other generals now dead on the field of battle, Hephaestion's leadership went largely unchallenged. Soon after a number of other generals would be executed by Hephaestion on accusations of treason, including Philotas and Parmenion. This short conflict weakened but a unified Macedonian army crossed over into Europe, and began the campaign back into Macedon.

Lamian War

Following the death of King Alexander III at the Granicus, the Kingdom of Macedon was left without any direct heir, as Alexander had no children, having died at a very young age. Alexander's body was carried back to Macedon, where he was to be buried in a modest tomb with his father Philip II, in Pella. Numerous generals quarreled for control of Alexander's army, with the majority of his forces recognizing Alexander's friend and general Hephaestion as leader. Under Hephaestion's leadership the army of Macedon retreated back into Greece.

When news of the Macedonian defeat at the Granicus reached Greece, almost immediately, various city-states raised their forces in open rebellion. In southern Greece the states of Thebes, Athens, and Thessaly all began mobilizing forces for war against Macedon, hoping to establish their independence from Macedonian hegemony, and control over southern Greece.  Similarly, in the north the Thracians, Illyrians and Getae, who had previously been subjugated or subdued by Alexander a few years prior, also began preparing for war against the returning Macedonians, hoping to cut off Hephaestion before he could reach Greece. Thus, the Lamian War began.

Consolidation under Hephaestion

After several years of constant war to defend Macedon, and retain its ownership or influence over much of Greece and the north, in 332 BC, Hephaestion returned to Macedon, marching his forces into the city of Pella. There he sought to solidify his rule as king, and retain the recognition of the remaining Macedonian nobles, as well as the people of Macedon itself. Ultimately it is possible that Hephaestion also sought to deal with Alexander III's brother Arrhidaeus, the main resistance to Hephaestion's potential rule.

During this time a number of political weddings would be arranged, to secure positions in the Macedonian royal family and arrange possible succession. During this time Hephaestion was wed to Alexander III's sister, Cleopatra, thus placing him in Alexander's dynasty. At the same time Arrhidaeus was wed to his own distant relative: Eurydice, daughter of Cynane, a daughter of Philip II. Arrhidaeus took up the name of Philip III, acting as a sort of regent in Macedonian territory, although a puppet king to his wife. Eurydice sought to grant her husband, and in turn herself, absolute power, by removing Hephaestion, and securing Arrhidaeus as an officially recognized king.

Epirot-Macedonian War

When Hephaestion returned to Pella, Eurydice feared that he would would have her and her husband executed, to secure his rule, and forced her husband flee the city. Arrhidaeus was also supported by Olympias, his and Alexander's mother, who established a military alliance with her cousin, Aeacides of Epirus. Aeacides was convinced by his cousin Olympias to invade Macedon, and restore her son to power. This invasion came in 331 BC, causing Hephaestion to mobilize his forces once more for war. Antipater also marched north from the Peloponnese with additional reinforcements, although his forces would largely not arrive in time.

As the Epirot army advanced into Macedon, they quickly became outnumbered, and Aeacides lost the support of his men, causing them to rebel and desert. The Macedonians quickly drove Aeacides off, repelling the invasion of Macedon. Hephaestion, supported by reinforcements from southern Greece, later peacefully marched into Epirus, declaring the kingdom a territory of Macedon. With relatively little conflict, Macedon had now expanded to include a large border on the Adriatic Sea. Arrhidaeus, his mother Olympias, his wife Eurydice, and his mother-in-law, Cynane would all be imprison and killed by Hephaestion soon after the engagement with Aeacides.

Macedonian Civil War

By 330 BC, the region of Epirus had been established as a part of the Kingdom of Macedon under Hephaestion, while he at the same time managed to secure his rule over the kingdom, defeating rival claimant Arrhidaeus, Alexander III's brother, and receiving recognition as king for his military brilliance and leadership in Greece. Over the course of the next year Hephaestion would continue to consolidate his rule over Macedon, executing those who opposed his rule, and securing his future succession. By his wife, Cleopatra, sister of Alexander III, he had his first son, also named Alexander IV in honor of his late friend and king. The birth of Hephaestion's son reassured many nobles in Macedon, who believed that recent wars of civil war would soon be behind the state, as succession was now ensured and stability was established.

During this time the uncertainty of who was to serve as hegemon of the League of Corinth caused confusion between many states in Greece. It was widely recognized that Hephaestion should serve as the position, as the past kings of Macedon; Alexander III and Philip II before him had. At the same time, Hephaestion's rival and Macedonian general, Antipater continued to act essentially as hegemon, with a loyal army under his command in Greece. Antipater derived this right from the belief that as strategos of Greece, and acting regent of Macedon under Alexander III, Antipater was to assume to rights and responsibilities of former hegemon, Alexander III.

This crisis eventually developed into a serious conflict, as orders from both leaders confused the Greek city-states, and led to conflicting announcements. Finally in the Spring of 329 BC, Hephaestion ordered Antipater to relieve his command and return his army, which was ignored by Antipater. This was viewed by Hephaestion as an act of treason, although initially, Hephaestion elected to remain quiet and secretly begin organizing his forces for war. That same year Hephaestion would attempt to arrest Antipater, and when this attempt failed the Kingdom of Macedon was launched into all out civil conflict.

The majority of Macedonian forces marched under Hephaestion, although Antipater retained a moderately sized, well experienced force of Macedonian soldiers, who were veterans of his wars in Greece in the past few years. Unknown to Hephaestion, Antipater had managed to secure an agreement with Thessaly, who promised to assist him against the king of Macedon if a conflict arose. Similarly a number of Greek soldiers and mercenaries were employed by Antipater, after years of activity in southern Greece.

Ultimately one of the major factors in deciding the outcome of the war was the allegiance of the major Greek city-states, who had the choice of beginning another conflict similar to the Lamian War, or to endorse one of the Macedonian claimants. Ultimately the city-state of Athens would decide not to rebel against the League of Corinth, citing the fact that such an action would likely lead to invasion of Athens' southern allies, in the absence of Macedonian protection, and to take advantage of Athenian vulnerability. Instead Athens, and later the other members of the league, elected to declare war against Antipater's forces, as it was their obligation as part of their oath to attack Thessaly, who had rebelled against the league. This decision came after Athens and its allies spending the majority of the initial conflict mobilized defensively, although not declared for either side, and eventually lead to Greek military action against Antipater. Despite this decision a large number of Greek forces still chose rebellion over support for the Macedonians, and supplemented Antipater's forces rather than fight against him or Thessaly.

Siege of Larissa

Hephaestion immediately mobilized his forces and marched against Thessaly, hoping to set to decisively defeat the Thesselians before Antipater could launch a major offensive, and at the same time rally support from the remaining Greek city-states to his cause. Rebellious Thessaly was quickly targeted, and the lead city of Larissa was surrounded by Hephaestion's forces. As Hephaestion lead siege to the city, Antipater finished rallying his forces and marched to relieve the allied city. Antipater positioned his soldiers along the southern end of the city, forcing Hephaestion to diverge a large number of soldiers to meet them, taking heavy casualties against sullying defending rebels.

The infantry of both sides engaged in heavy combat, before being broken up by Hephaestion's superior cavalry, numerically and in terms of quality. Despite Antipater's aggressive assault against Hephaestion, he would ultimately be forced to retreat, ending the battle in a victory for Hephaestion's forces. With the relief force at Larissa now routed, and morale low, the Thessalians surrendered to Hephaestion, and Hephaestion gained a large boost in manpower and resources for his campaign against Antipater. Thessaly was directly annexed into to the Kingdom of Macedon after the war, and the province would become home to a military garrison from Macedon to prevent future rebellions.

Battle of Trikka

The decision by Athens and the other allied Greek city-states of the League of Corinth granted Hephaestion an additional advantage numerically, with the combined forces of these states at his disposal. Recognition from other Greek city-states also greatly increased Hephaestion's claim to the position of hegemon of the league, and over the course of the rest of the year Hephaestion would fight offensively against Antipater in central Greece. Losing men rapidly in an unsuccessful guerrilla campaign, Antipater prepared to mount a last ditch defense against Hephaestion by placing his remaining forces in a defensive position near Trikka.

Hephaestion surrounded Antipater's position with his greater number of soldiers, trapping Antipater. Despite his many numerical advantages, Hephaestion did not wish to risk a direct assault against Antipater's tactically advantageous position. Instead his light infantry and cavalry harassed the defenders, hoping to draw out the defenders from their position. Initially this tactic was unsuccessful, but after Hephaestion deliberately made a section of his line appear weak, Antipater's forces, now exhausted from frequent fighting, chased Hephaestion from their position, allowing the offensive forces to break the defensive line. Antipater's forces, now diminished to his loyal forces, fought to the death against Hephaestion, finally ending the Macedonian Civil War with Antipater's death.

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