Antigonid dynasty

Mary Stone | February 15, 2023


The Antigonids (in ancient Greek Ἀντιγονίδαι

Under Antigonides, the institutions of the kingdom of Macedonia remain stable compared to that set up by Argéades, whereas the economy knows a certain prosperity and that the cities of Pella and Thessalonica take their rise.

Demetrios Poliorcete, ephemeral king of Macedonia

The founder of the dynasty, Antigone the Borgne, “king of Asia” about 305, never reigned on Macedonia. It is his son Démétrios Ier Poliorcète which is the first to become king of Makedonia in 294 BC; but it is Antigone II Gonatas, son of Démétrios, which installs the dynasty on the throne for one century as from 277.

By the agreements of Babylon regulating the succession of Alexander the Great died in 323, Antipater preserves the regency of Macedonia with the title of strategist. With the death of Antipater in 319, Polyperchon succeeds to him, involving a long conflict with Cassander which was left of the political will of his father. Cassander ends up being proclaimed king towards 305, after having in particular made carry out Olympias and Alexander IV, last of Argéades. The death of Cassander in 297 plunges the royalty in a long period of political instability. The royalty is indeed entrusted to his elder son, Philip IV, then 18 years old. This last one dies quickly; he succeeds then jointly his two brothers, Alexander V and Antipater. But eager to reign alone, this last makes assassinate their own mother, Thessaloniké (daughter of Philip II) with the pretext that it would have favoured Alexander in the sharing. This one then calls with its assistance Pyrrhos, the king of Epirus, and Démétrios Poliorcète, son of Antigone. Pyrrhos restores promptly the situation with the profit of Alexander and is made yield of important border provinces. Also when Démétrios appears, Alexander seeks to get rid of it. Démétrios anticipates the project of assassination by making kill Alexander in Larissa in Thessaly in 294 and is made proclaim king in his place. As for Antipater, it is finally assassinated by Lysimachus, king of Thrace, after its victory against Démétrios in 288, date at which the royalty passes to the hands of Pyrrhos. In 285, Lysimachus defeats Pyrrhos and is proclaimed king.

After the death of Lysimachus at the battle of Couroupédion in 281 vis-a-vis Seleucus, he was briefly succeeded by Ptolemy Kerunos, a repudiated son of Ptolemy, who died while fighting against the Galatians during their Great Expedition in 279. Meleager, the brother of Ptolemy Kerunos, reigned for two months before being replaced by Antipater II Etesias, a grandson of Antipater. But judging it unfit to assume the defense of Makedonia vis-a-vis the Celtic bands, Sosthene, proclaimed strategist of the Macédonians, deposits it without accepting the royal title. Sosthenes governs the country with firmness from 279 to 277. Its death involves the awakening of the royal ambitions of Ptolemy of Telmessos, son of Lysimakos, and Antigone II Gonatas, son of Démétrios Poliorcète, then established in Thrace. This last takes advantage of its brilliant victory against Galates with the battle of Lysimacheia to install durably the dynasty antigonide with the capacity as from 277, the short-lived lineage of Antipatrides ending with the assassination of Antipater II.

Antigone II Gonatas and the advent of the Antigonids

After its resounding victory against the Celts with the battle of Lysimacheia in 277 BC, Antigone II Gonatas draws a sufficient prestige to be imposed like king of a Macédonia weakened by two decades of civil wars. Rejecting the adventurous Asian policies of its predecessors, it devotes itself to rectify the kingdom, henceforth with the variation of the great conflicts. Symbol of its return to the tradition, it brings back at once the royal capital to Pella of Cassandréia and Démétrias where it was successively moved, out of the historical heart of the kingdom. In order to maintain the Macedonian influence in Greece, Antigone maintains strong garrisons through Greece, which support puppet governments, causing heavy financial expenditure which penalizes the military reconstruction of Macedonia.

The power of Antigone is threatened a first time by Pyrrhos, the king of Epirus, returned from Italy in 275; but this one is killed in 272. The Macedonian domination on Greece is however quickly threatened: one of the leaders of the anti-Macedonian party in Athens, Chrémonidès, manoeuvres with success for a bringing together with Sparta in 268. Many cities of Peloponnese and Crete join this alliance supported by Ptolemy II, marking the beginning of the Christian-Monidian War, whose operations take place primarily around Corinth, the strong point of the Macedonian device held by Cratère, his half-brother, and in Attica. Antigone besieges Athens which finds a brief respite in a diversion caused by the attack in Macedonia of the king of Epirus Alexander II in 262. Antigone must carry out a fast campaign to drive out it of Macedonia and Epirus, before returning to put the seat in front of Athens which, starved, capitulates in 261.

The following decade sees Antigone Gonatas to carry out an aggressive policy in the islands and to be mixed with the conflicts between Séleucides and Lagides, in faithful ally of the first. It thus gains an important victory with Cos, towards 255, in the context of the second Syrian war. Towards 250, a fleet lagide nevertheless defeats in a decisive way the Macédonians and puts in question their influence in Cyclades until a new victory of Antigone, off Andros in 245.

The end of the reign of Antigone Gonatas is marked by the revolt of the son and successor of Cratère (his half-brother), Alexander, and by the rise of the Achaean League in the Peloponnese. Alexander, initially confirmed in his command of Corinth, rebels in 249 and involves with him Eubée. This secession is of short duration, because Alexander dies suddenly in 245, and his widow, Nicée, accepts the proposal of Antigone to marry his son Démétrios. With the favour of the preparations of the marriage, Antigone seizes Acrocorinth and thus restores its domination on the isthmus and Eubée. But in 243, Aratos of Sicyone seizes Corinth, involving the defection of Mégaride on the Achaean side. Antigone does not react to the loss of this essential link and is satisfied to make peace with the Etolian League which it encourages to attack the Achaeans. When it dies in 239, after forty years of reign, Makedonia did not find its positions in central Greece and must face the two powerful confederations of Etolia and Achaia.

Demetrios II facing the Greek leagues

Demetrios II is associated with the throne at the end of the reign of his father, Antigone II Gonatas. He is already a mature man when he reaches the power. In 240 BC, as of the beginning of its reign, it must fight against a coalition of the leagues étolienne and achéenne which enter in war against Macédonia. At the same time it reinforces its relations with Epirus by marrying Phthia the daughter of Alexander II. He passes from a defensive strategy, forged by his father, to an offensive strategy with for ambition to take again the control of Corinth. At the end of the demetriac war (239-235), it manages to maintain the Macedonian positions vis-a-vis the Etolians and Achaeans, even if the latter manage to extend in the Peloponnese. In addition, the fall of the Epirote monarchy encourages the Etolians to attack Acarnania which calls for the assistance Démétrios. This one then asks Illyrians to intervene: Illyrians drive out Etolians in 231 then ravage Elide and Messénie; with the return they seize Phœnicè, while another army invades Epirus. Attacked by those charged to help them, Epirotes then turn towards Etolians and Achaeans which agree to carry them assistance. Illyrians must recall their army in order to face a threat of Dardanians. Illyrians obtain however before their departure a new reversal of Epirotes which give up the Achaean and Etolian alliance. In 229, a new Illyrian army ravages the cities of the Epirote coast, defeats an Achaean and Etolian fleet in Paxos and takes Corcyre where is placed an Illyrian garrison. But Illyrians attracted the attention of the Roman Senate and the First Illyrian War ends in 228 by their defeat.

The incursions of Dardanians do not affect only Illyria. The kingdom of Macedonia undergoes, with the border of the Péonie, the invasion surprised of Dardanians, a tribe thraco-illyrienne. The Macédonians are defeated and Démétrios finds the death with the combat in 229, opening a period of uncertainty. His son, the future Philip V, is indeed not in age to reign, and it is his cousin, Antigone III Doson which exerts the regency.

Antigone III Doson and the victory against Sparta

Cousin of Démétrios II, Antigone III Doson is initially appointed strategist and tutor (epitropos) of the young king Philip V whom he adopts after having married his mother, Chryséis. In 227 BC, he probably receives the royal title. It puts an end initially to the threat of the Dardanians, although it is probable that northern Péonie remains under their domination. It also launches an offensive in Carie in the gulf of Iasos. The reasons of this Asian expedition remain badly known. It is undoubtedly a question of showing the maritime Macedonian power in the islands even to dispute the influence of Lagides because Ptolemy III still supports at this date the Achaean league. It manages to extend its influence on Priene and Samos and to take the control of Caria. These territories probably seek to protect themselves from the ambitions of Attale Ier of Pergamon which has just beaten the Séleucide Antiochos Hiérax. For as much Caria was not the object of an occupation or a permanent Macedonian administration.

Then Antigone Doson restored in a masterly way the Macedonian hegemony in Peloponnese, where it is called to the rescue in 224 by Achaeans, its old adversaries, who worry about the progressive reforms of the king of Sparta, Cléomène III. Antigone takes advantage of it to restore the League of Corinth by gathering in a coalition half of Greece. This confederation, of which he proclaims himself hegemon, gathers the kingdom of Macedonia, the Achaean league, Epirus, Phocis, Béotie, Acarnanie, Thessalie and Eubée. It defeats Cléomène with the battle of Sellasia in 222 marking the end of the war of Cléomène. He entered Sparta, which had never yet been desecrated by a victorious enemy. Celebrated as “Benefactor of the Greeks” after his victory against Sparta, he died of illness the following year, after a victory against the Illyrians.

Philip V and the Macedonian expansion

The reign of Philip V is marked by the intervention more and more marked of Rome in the affairs of the Hellenistic world. Philip V is an energetic young monarch, who takes part initially in a war between the Etolians and the Achaeans, the war of the Allies, which ends in 217 BC. In 215, it concludes an alliance with Hannibal Barca, one of most significant of the Hellenistic time, marking the will to fight a common adversary, Rome. Philip seeks for example to occupy Illyria by taking advantage of the Roman difficulties during the Second Punic War. The First Macedonian War ends in the division of Illyria between Rome and Macedonia in 205 at the conclusion of the treaty of Phoenice. Philip V intervenes then in the first Cretan war by carrying out operations of piracy. With Ladè, off Milet, it gains a naval victory against Rhodes. He then marched against Pergamon. The Macedonian fleet is defeated by a coalition gathering in particular Rhodes and Pergamon with the battle of Chios in 201, putting an end to the thalassocratic ambitions of Philip V even if it always holds the hellespontic straits.

In 200, Philip V turns against Athens in order to take again foot with Piraeus lost under Antigone III Doson. Pergamon and Rhodes come to assistance to the Athenians and declare the war to Philip V. It is in this context that the Roman Senate decides to intervene by addressing a first ultimatum to him in 200. The Romans enjoined Philip not to attack any Greek State whereas it is made grievance of the wrongs made before in Pergamon. Rome places itself henceforth in protector of Greece against Philip who becomes the aggressor. The operations of the Roman army begin as of autumn 200, marking the beginning of the Second Macedonian war, whereas almost all the Greek States ally themselves with Rome. After a first period of undecided conflict, during which Philip V carries out operations in Attica, in Thrace and on the Straits, the Macedonian army is defeated with Cynoscephales in 197. The following year, Rome imposes a drastic peace to Philip V which must in particular give up its strong places in Greece and Anatolia.

Perseus and the defeat by Rome

Perseus, son of Philip V, inherits in 179 BC a kingdom whose cohesion was reinforced after the defeat against the Romans: the army is reorganized, the finances reconstituted. It immediately asks the Senate to be recognized as legitimate sovereign, its brother Démétrios close to the Roman interests, having been eliminated, and to renew the peace of 196. Perseus seeks to restore in Greece the Macedonian hegemony whereas an economic and social crisis strikes in particular Thessaly and Etolia. He uses this situation to fight against the oligarchic party, rather pro-Roman, for the benefit of a “proletariat” indebted.

Faced with the rise of the kingdom of Pergamon under Eumenes II, which left victorious of its conflict against Prusias of Bithynia and Pharnace Ier of Pontus, Perseus gets closer to the Séleucides: towards 177 it marries Laodicé V, a girl of Séleucos IV, while its sister Apama marries Prusias, Perseus also gets closer to Rhodes, worried about the new power pergamienne. It even sends an embassy to Carthage. This policy of alliance worries enough the Roman Senate so that it sends in 174 a first embassy in Greece, but it returns without having been able to meet Perseus. In 173, a new embassy arrives in Thessaly after Thessalians complained about the Macedonian aims, forcing Perseus to reduce its influence on this country. At the same time, Perseus concludes an alliance with the Beotian League.

The fight against Rome takes again actively from 172, because Eumène II of Pergamon, faithful ally of the Romans, feels threatened. The Third War of Macedonia starts in 171 after the declaration of war of the Romans. Perseus receives the support of Cotys II, king of Odryses. The first great battle takes place in Thessaly near Larissa in spring 171: Perseus misses to crush the Roman legions with the battle of Callinicos. A part of Epirotes, of which Molosses, rallies then with Perseus. The war moves then in Illyria whose dynast Genthios ends up joining the cause of Perseus. The arrival in 168 of Paul-Émile, an experienced general, changes the deal. After having unloaded with Delphes, it advances towards the South of Macedonia where the decisive battle takes place: the Macedonian phalanges are crushed with the battle of Pydna. Perseus ends up being captured by Paul-Emile, who takes it along to Rome for its triumph. The kingdom is then divided into four republics placed under the supervision of Rome.

The Fourth Macedonian War sees the defeat of Andriscos, who proclaims himself son of Perseus, with the second battle of Pydna in 148. Macedonia becomes from then on a Roman province, the Roman Macedonia. In 142 another adventurer, who is called Philip, causes a new insurrection. Defeated by the quaestor Lucius Tremellius, Philip is captured and put to death.

Organization of powers

The Antigonids inherit the political structures set up by the Arigades. The king, or basileus, of Macédonians (and not of Macédonia at least officially) holds the supreme authority as chief of war, high priest and chief of the administration. It leans on a royal Council, the Synedrion of Macedonia, made up of the Friends (philois) and the principal generals. This subsistence of the Council is attested by Tite-Live (which takes again Polybe) when it evokes the regulation of the Macédonian businesses by Paul Emile with Amphipolis in 167 BC.

The power of the king is tempered by the Assembly of Macedonians, hypothetically holder of the sovereignty. It is composed of citizen-soldiers and has competences as regards royal succession and justice. Thus Antigone II Gonatas is proclaimed by the Assembly after his victory against the Celts in 277, or that Antigone III Doson, then regent, receives the royal title in 227. The appointment of the regents (epitropoi) and the great administrators of the kingdom (epimeletai) follows the same procedure as the acclamation of the kings and requires the holding of the Assembly.

Unlike the Lagid and Seleucid monarchies, there is no royal cult or deification of kings as part of a state ideology.

Role of the philoi

Although the philoi (Friends) of the Antigonid kings are less known than their Ptolemaic and Seleucid counterparts due to a lack of sources concerning them, they nevertheless played an important role in the politics of the kings. The sources, fragmentary, provide us the name of several of them. One knows under Démétrios II a named Autoklès; as regards Philip V thirteen philoi served it of which: Alexandros, Appellès, Chrysogonos, Didas, Hérakleidès, Onomastos or still Philoklès; finally as regards the last of the kings antigonides, Perseus, one knows six philoi to him: Andronicos, Evandros, Hippias, Médon, Nikias and Pantauchos.

The philoi tou basileos can play an important role within the antigonid monarchy:

Administration of the territories

The kingdom of Macédonia, whose administration was reorganized by Philip II, is a national State (the Macédonians form a civic body) and a territorial State (the local communities, cities or ethnos, are autonomous). It is a relatively reduced and homogeneous territory which also integrates conquered people (Thracians, Peonians, Illyrians, etc). The territory is divided into three categories:

The kingdom is divided into four districts or meridians according to the cutting carried out by Philip II; the examination of the numismatic and epigraphic sources shows that they continue under Antigonides. One distinguishes the meridians of Amphipolis, Amphaxitide (with for capital Thessalonica), Bottiée (with for capital Pella) and Upper-Macedonia (unknown capital). These districts are used as territorial base for the recruitment of the army. The possible existence of a coinage specific to these districts would suppose a financial autonomy (embodied by monetary workshops) and particular political institutions, but the latter are badly known. It is supposed that each meridian has an assembly gathering all the Macedonians of the area, and elects annually a strategist whose function is to represent the assembly and the central power.

In Low-Macedonia (Bottiée, Piérie, Émathie), there are many cities whose institutions are comparable with those of the remainder of Greece. The urbanization continues in the area under Antigonides. Upper Macedonia is as for it more weakly urbanized; the inhabitants are gathered in village communities (or ethnè). In Thrace, the territory is divided into associations of villages, the sympolities. Finally Thessalia, “vassalized” under the reign of Philip II, preserves its own institutions.

The cities had their own autonomy and institutions, while remaining strongly linked to the central power through royal regulations ratified by a vote of each city. The king”s representative was the epistate, who was not a governor but an elected citizen. The cities have important civic revenues of their own. The epigraphy testifies on this subject of the existence of a specialized administration directed by particular magistrates, the tamiai (“treasurers”). Numismatics shows that starting from the reign of Philip V, the cities of Pella, Amphipolis and Thessalonica can strike copper coins.

Composition of the army

Under Antigonides the Macedonian army remains the base of the royalty, the kings being acclaimed by the Assembly of the Macedonians “in weapons” in time of war. The principal force of this “national army” always lies in the combination of the phalanx of sarissophores and the heavy cavalry of the Companions. The recruitment is carried out at the level of the meridians (districts) and the cities, so that each citizen can contribute to it according to his incomes: the richest serve in the cavalry, the “middle classes” in the phalanx, the poorest in the light infantry. Each household sent the most able of its men between the ages of 15 and 50, the others were incorporated into contingents of reservists. The training of the young recruits took place in gymnasiums, which Philip V turned into public and civic institutions. It should be noted that during the Third Macedonian War, Philip V must recruit by default of the men too young or too old. The Antigonids also call upon mercenaries, often illyrians, Celts or thracians of the kingdom of Odryses, these barbarian mercenaries being cheaper than the Greek hoplites.

The armament and the tactics do not know great upheavals but adaptations are all the same to be noted. First of all the equipment and the device of the phalangites (called chalkaspides “bronze shields” as at the Seleucids) become heavier. The ranks of the phalanx can be in certain cases doubled to pass from 16 to 32, with the detriment of the maneuver, like with the battle of Pydna. The wearing of metal armor and enveloping helmets became widespread, while the size of the sarissa increased from 5 to 7.5 m. These changes, in particular the lengthening of the sarissa, are intended to be opposed with more effectiveness with other armies of Macedonian type, at a time when the need to have an effective army against flexible troops, like the Roman legions, is not yet felt. The phalanx, by this rigidity, requires to be effective to be deployed on flat ground as Polybius noticed it well. This heaviness of the phalanx finally causes its loss in front of the Roman legions in Cynoscephalus.

A contingent of 2 000 to 3 000 elite infantrymen constitutes the royal Guard (or agèma) on the model of the hypaspists or argyraspides, even if the latter disappear as a fighting unit in the antigonid army. The term “hypaspist” (“shield-bearer”) indeed refers at the time only to the direct bodyguards of the king.

The equipment of the peltasts becomes heavier with the use of metal helmets and a long oval shield inherited from the Celts (the thuréos) which replaces the peltè. This shield was probably imported in Greece by Thracians and Illyrians. In addition Antigonides weighs down the equipment of the thuréophores to make of it thorakitai, protected by a chain mail even a linothorax. Under Perseus, a unit of infantry was especially formed and equipped to fight the elephants, employed by the Romans, but without success.

The heavy cavalry, equipped like the Companions of the time of Alexander, is divided into squadrons (ilai). There are 10 in Pydna, of which the Guard (or agéma), two sacred squadrons and seven royal squadrons. The army also counts light Macedonian or Thracian horsemen, mounted archers and javelin throwers (or akontists). Perseus trained his cavalry to fight elephants from life-size models.

Finances of the Kingdom

As at the time of Argéades, the king is the guard of the treasure of Macédonia and the royal incomes (basilika) which belong in theory to the Macédonians. The tributes envisaged in the treaties granted to the overcome people are thus due to the Macédonians and not to the king. According to Polybe and Tite-Live, the basilika include the following sources of income:

The mode of exploitation of these various incomes is most often the leasing as in Ptolemaic Egypt. Tite-Live writes that the mines and the forests are leased for a fixed sum under the reign of Philip V. Except the royal ground subjected to the tributary, the ground in Macédonia is free: the Macédonians are free men and do not pay taxes on the private grounds. There is not either in Macedonia of extraordinary tax in time of war. Even when it is in perilous financial situation, like Perseus in 168, the king does not have recourse to the tax but raises funds by borrowing, in particular with its Friends, or by increasing the product of the leasing.

External link


  1. Antigonides
  2. Antigonid dynasty
  3. L”Eubée se voit accorder une large autonomie comme en témoigne l”apparition d”un monnayage indépendant.
  4. À l”époque romaine, la capitale est Pélagonia en Péonie.
  5. ^ Grant, Michael (1988). The Rise of the Greeks. New York: Charles Scribner”s Sons. ISBN 9780684185361. It was the descendants of these Dorians […] who formed the upper class among the Macedonians of subsequent epochs.
  6. ^ J. Spielvogel, Jackson (2005). Western Civilization: Volume I: To 1715. Thomson Wadsworth. pp. 89–90. ISBN 0-534-64603-4.
  7. J. Spielvogel, Jackson (2005). Western Civilization: Volume I: To 1715. [S.l.]: Thomson Wadsworth. pp. 89–90. ISBN 0-534-64603-4
  8. Encyclopædia Britannica, Antigonid dynasty, 2008
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