Eumenes Cardianus (362 BC – 316 BC) was a general of Alexander the Great, one of the most skilled among the Crown Prince. He took part in the Macedonian general”s campaigns as well as in the wars that followed his death. He was considered the most strategic mind of the post-Alexander era and fought (in vain) for the legitimacy of power and the unity of the vast state.
Chief Secretary of Philip II and then of Alexander the Great, Captain of the Knights, and, after the king”s death, satrap of Cappadocia and Paphlagonia, he sided with Perdiccas and the royal family. After the violent death of Perdiccas he alone for a time confronted Antigonus the One-eyed, regained the confidence of the central (in name) Macedonian administration, and continued the struggle against Antigonus and the centrifugal forces until his death.
He was born around 362 BC in the colony of Miletus and the Clasomenes Cardia of the Thracian Peninsula (the Gallipoli Peninsula), where his father was a wealthy prokritos and was able to provide him with a remarkable education. There is, of course, the information that Eumenes, though the son of a poor coachman, studied with ease and played sports, and that Philip took him with him because he was impressed by his performance in the palace, but Plutarch doubts this: It was the bonds of hospitality and friendship between the father and Philip II that determined the son”s fate. The king of Macedonia took Eumenes into his service and soon entrusted him with the office of secretary.
After Philip”s assassination, Eumenes retained his position close to Alexander who valued and consulted him. He became chief secretary, editor of the “Royal Papers”, an office of great importance for the Macedonian court, was sent with a military force to the Indies as a triarch and finally became a general (equestrian), taking the place of Perdiccas, who had also been promoted to succeed Hephaestion. Alexander married Eumenes to Artonis, daughter of the Persian satrap Artabazus, sister of Barsine, wife of Alexander, who gave birth to Hercules.
Eumenes” position (and life) became precarious when Hephaestion, with whom he had always had strained relations, died. At a banquet, on the occasion of his pain, Alexander mentioned Eumenes” conflicts with Hephaestion, which portended much evil for Eumenes, since the king was in an uncontrollable state and was killing his generals in turn (Cleitus, Parmenion, Philotas, Callisthenes). But he found a way for Eumenes to avoid the danger by proposing posthumous honours for his living enemy Hephaestion and paying for them what he had not given to Alexander himself when he had once asked for money from his generals.
Eumenes” career began after Alexander”s death. While the dead king was still unburied, the first cracks in the Macedonian sympathy were manifested. Eumenes, considered neutral as a non-Macedonian, interposed between the cavalry of the partners and the phalanx of footmen and prevented for the time being the split. In the first distribution of the empire (offices and satrapies for the time being) Eumenes became satrap of Paphlagonia and Cappadocia. It was a vacant title, for these countries were then reigned by Ariarathes I, and would have remained in power if Perdiccas, the curator of the state, had not assisted Eumenes to conquer them again (322 B.C.). Eumenes became an ally loyal to Perdiccas, and remained so until the latter”s death.
But already ambitions had manifested themselves and alliances had been formed. The rupture came when Perdiccas summoned the satrap of Great Phrygia Antigonus the One-eyed to apologize for not helping Eumenes as he had ordered him, and he fled to Antipater. On the one hand was Perdiccas with the presumption of legitimacy as a curator, having with him the king-anchor Philip III Arridaios (half-brother of Alexander) and the rest of the royal family, the satrap of Armenia Neoptolemos and Eumenes and on the other hand those who opposed the intentions of Perdiccas for monarchy: Antigonus, Crateros, Antipater, Antipater, Ptolemy.
Perdiccas rebelled against Ptolemy in order to subdue Egypt and have his backside covered in the attack he would then attempt against Macedonia, where his opponents had gathered. Eumenes was appointed leader of the force that would prevent them from crossing into Asia. But he did not succeed, for two great names, Antipater and Crateros, came against him, and at hearing of them the morale of his troops was so shaken that Perdiccas” brother Alcetes of Orontus accused Eumenes of standing idly by for fear that his army would join Crateros. As if this were not enough, Neoptolemus, satrap of Armenia, chief adjutant of Alexander, descendant, according to his claims, of Achilles, who distinguished himself especially at the siege of Gaza, betrayed. He had long since mocked Eumenes, saying that he, Neoptolemus, had followed Alexander as chief marshal, carrying a shield and spear, while Eumenes, as chief secretary, followed, carrying a scribe and a tablet. Now he was to be placed under his orders. He could not bear it and came to an understanding with the opponents, but was exposed and forced to fight. He was defeated and fled to Cratero.
This first victory of Eumenes was due to the providence he had shown in forming a cavalry from within – mainly of natives and foot soldiers – providing strong incentives. This was because he had no confidence in the legitimacy of the cavalry of the Companions. As we shall say later, Eumenes” great disadvantage was his origin. He was not a Macedonian, he had no other ties than fraternal ones with any one, and the favour of Perdiccas could in no way compensate for the great office of Antipater or Craterus or any Macedonian general.
In spite of his victory against Neoptolemus, Eumenes” position was precarious. What saved him was first that his opponents were divided. Antipater marched against Perdiccas, who was marching against Ptolemy, and Crateros was left to face Eumenes.
Then he used all his ingenuity. He marched against the enemy from side roads, forbidding the troops any contact so that the Macedonians would not know that Crateros was against them. He broadcast that the conflict would be with Neoptolemus, who was coming at the head of supposedly Asian troops. And finally, he deployed “Macedonian neutral” against the wing commanded by Crateros.
Eumenes was hopelessly inferior in infantry, but he excelled with his barbarian cavalry-five thousand. He ordered almost all of it against the enemy”s right wing of a thousand horsemen commanded by Crateros, while Neoptolemus commanded the left wing with as many more. He told his horsemen not to receive the enemy”s herald, not to listen to his voices, and he unleashed them against Crateros. He himself charged against Neoptolemus.
The battle was quickly decided on the wings before the infantry were well and truly engaged. Crateros was mortally wounded and Eumenes killed Neoptolemus with his bare hands in a duel of leaders, taking revenge for the taunts and betrayal. This glorious victory was his, but he paid dearly for it: it became the cause of the death of Crateros, who had always been his dear friend and now died in his arms; he lost the infantry of his opponent, who retreated intact, and increased the hatred against him, when things had already taken a bad turn for him.
Perdiccas” campaign ended in disaster. He did not succeed in having Ptolemy condemned by the army at a trial that brought him in according to Macedonian customs, and on the march to Egypt many defected to Ptolemy, who resisted fiercely. His elephants trampled on Perdiccas” soldiers and many were mauled by crocodiles during the crossing of the Nile. Finally the army mutinied and Perdiccas was murdered in his tent.
The two armies were reconciled and soon learned of Craterus” death. Now the army of Perdiccas, the allies up to that time, were again tried and this time condemned to death Eumenes and all the followers of Perdiccas.
At the second division of the empire, which took place at Triparadice in Upper Syria (320 B.C.), Antipater was appointed the new bailiff. Antigonus the One-eyed became satrap of Great Phrygia and Lycia and was charged with the extermination of outlaws.
Antigonus Monophthalmos or Cyclops, of the royal house of Elyme, was a man of great ability, great ambition and a sparkling spirit. He harboured no hostile feelings towards Eumenes but, knowing well his abilities, he had to neutralise him in every way possible. In Triparadizov he had been assigned to eliminate him, but he would not mind at all if he were to win him over.
Thus began the duel of two brilliant strategic minds. Space does not lend itself to mentioning all the stratagems they used, Eumenes in particular being the hunted and the weakest. In their first conflict, at Orkyia in Cappadocia, he was defeated because Antigonus bought off one of his officers. He was partially repaid by Eumenes by plundering Antigonus” baggage soon afterwards, then capturing and hanging the traitor, but he was alone, without any support. So he fled to Nora, a lean metropolis on the border of Lycaonia and Cappadocia with less than a thousand men. Antigonus immediately arrived and besieged him. The capture of the fortress by assault was out of the question, so negotiations began. Antigonus and Eumenes met in a very friendly atmosphere, and it was agreed that a request should be made to the bailiff, Antipater, for amnesty. The siege continued without hostilities, and Antigonus with a large part of his force left to finish with the rest of Perdiccas” followers. He marched two and a half thousand paces in just seven days and nights, took them by surprise and routed them. Perdiccas” brother Alketas committed suicide to avoid capture.
The request for amnesty was carried to Macedonia by Hieronymus of Cardia, a compatriot and friend of Eumenes, author of a (non-existent) history on which later historians have based their work. Shortly after his arrival, and while the petition was being presented, Antipater died, having appointed Polyperchon as his successor in the office of curator. Antipater”s son Cassander challenged his father”s last will and testament and fled to Asia. The alliances were overturned. The new Curator Polyperchon summoned Olympias from Epirus, where she had exiled herself because of her hatred of Antipater, and, seeking support in Asia, turned to Eumenes.
Returning to Asia, Jerome was summoned to appear before Antigonus. He ignored Eumenes” reinstatement by the Polyperchon and asked for an oath of allegiance to himself, Antigonus. He gave the text of the oath to Jerome and notified those at the head of the force besieging Nora. Eumenes, however, modified the text. He swore that he would have the same enemies and friends not only with Antigonus but also with Olympias and the kings. He then sent the oath to his besiegers who found nothing contrary to Antigonus” instructions and lifted the siege.
Thus began a new wanderings of Eumenes (and Jerome) with only the recruiting of warriors to attend to for the time being, for Antigonus was busy elsewhere. He had now made his intentions known. He struck the satraps of Little Phrygia and Lydia, Arridaios and Aspro Kleitos, seized royal ships carrying six hundred talents, and received Cassander as his ally. Polyperchon realized that something had to be done and sent royal letters.
With these letters Eumenes took back his satrapy, was appointed commander-in-chief in the war against Antigonus, took five hundred talents from the royal treasury and the Argyraspidesc under his command, who were now in Cilicia carrying the treasures from Susa to Macedonia, with Antigend and Teutamos as leaders.
In Greece meanwhile Antigonus” ally Cassander prevailed in Athens and the Peloponnese, while in Macedonia the timid king Philip Arridaius, seduced by his wife Eurydice, sought to approach Cassander. The Olympiad killed them as well as anyone who was a relative or friend of Antipater and Cassander. She also wrote to Eumenes asking him to help her for the sake of his minor son Alexander (Alexander IV).
Eumenes moved to the distant satrapies of the East that had remained loyal to the kings, to gather forces to confront Antigonus. During this march, the Babylonian satrap Seleucus, an ally of Antigonus, opened a canal of the Tigris to flood Eumenes” camp. He had time to pull his army into the hills and turned the waters into another bed, avoiding casualties. He then summoned those loyal to the satrap kings to assemble at Susian.
The satraps came but they were all arrogant and arrogant with the first and worst among them being the royal bodyguard Pekkesta, satrap of Persis from the time of Alexander even.
In these satraps, proud of their Macedonian (and sometimes royal) origin and the offices they had close to Alexander, now had to impose Eumenes having been appointed their chief general by Polyperchon and the Olympiad. But he was a stranger, a grammarian, a man condemned to death. They could not tolerate it, but on the other hand they knew that he was the only one who could face Antigonus and they dared not ignore the orders of Pella.
Eumenes was fully aware of his position. He had learned it from the contempt of Hephaestion, the taunts of Neoptolemus, and the arrogance now of Pekkesta. His best friends, Crateros and Antigonus, were always in the opposing camp, and he was hopelessly alone.
That was why Eumenes always sought the cover of legitimacy. He was always on the side of the royal family and the Bailiffs, fighting on their behalf against famous names and taking care not to give the slightest indication of personal ambition. His action was therefore aimed at maintaining the cohesion of the empire under Alexander”s dynasty, which was not the case for the action of the other protagonists. It was of course inconceivable, to him and to the others, that he could have the aspirations of Perdiccas, Antigonus, or later Seleucus. And so he was forced to resort to subterfuge. In order that the satraps might not be humiliated by going to his tent and taking orders from him, he set up a tent with a throne in it and announced that Alexander had appeared in his sleep and so he told him to do and that every decision should be made in his name. The satraps gladly accepted it, but the truth is that he was the one who decided.
His other trick was to ask for loans from those he suspected most. Surprised, they gave it to him, so instead of underestimating him, they made sure that nothing would happen to him and they would lose their talents along with him.
Antigonus now turned in pursuit of Eumenes and his allies. He left Seleucus at Susa and attempted to cross the Coprati River, on the opposite bank of which was his enemy”s camp. Eumenes, who was watching his movements, ignored his allies, took with him only his own trusty detachments, and frustrated the crossing, wreaking havoc on Antigonus” army, which had four thousand dead and as many prisoners. Thus Eumenes avenged himself for the defeat he had suffered at Orkynia, but he could not completely crush his opponent since he had no confidence in his allies.
The two armies continued to hunt each other in Asia. It is typical of what happened at their next encounter in Parthiactyne. Eumenes had fallen ill and was following the troops on a stretcher. Antigonus, who had learned this from captives, lined up for battle, wishing to take advantage of the illness of his opponent, whose strategic mind he held in very high esteem. But the warriors, not only of Eumenes but also of his allies, nailed their staves to the earth and said that they would not fight with a general other than Eumenes. He was forced to come forward with the stretcher and take command. When Antigonus saw sudden movements across and the form the opposing faction took, he was astonished at the skill of generals whom he considered inferior to them. But then he saw the stretcher, understood what had happened, laughed and said: “It seems we were opposed by a stretcher.” He momentarily avoided the battle which was finally fought the next day without a decisive result although Eumenes won on points. He lost a possibly decisive victory because his soldiers were worried about their baggage, that is, their booty and their women, and, although Antigonus was bowed down, they were unwilling to pursue the enemy.
Then the two armies were drawn off to winter, after a series of brilliant manoeuvres and deceptive moves by both generals, which had the same destination, the fortified and rich place of Gavin. Eumenes emerged victorious in this war of subterfuge as well.
Although winter had now set in, Antigonus did not rest. He wanted by all means to crush his rival satraps as soon as possible and to win over or finally eliminate Eumenes. He learned that in the place where his enemies went to winter, in Gavin, they scattered right and left, in spite of Eumenes” recommendations that in peace his word would not pass. It came to pass that certain detachments were six days” journey from the commander-in-chief, that is, Eumenes.
And Eumenes thou under Antigonus is annihilated, for he is wiser than the rest of the Macedonians in glory, and is unimpeachable in strategies, as well as in the next year.
Lemma for Eumenes in Souda, 10th century dictionary.
Antigonus announced that he would campaign -of course- in Armenia and was again thrown into a mad march. To reach Eumenes the normal way was twenty days, but it would be quickly perceived and the enemy would have time to assemble. He preferred a terrible route through the desert frozen at night, but it was a ten-day route. Thanks to his speed, he had supplies for exactly that many days. He had covered half the distance, five days” journey, when his army could not stand the terrible cold and lit fires at night although Antigonus had forbidden it. So he was noticed. But again he had an advantage because he was only five days away from his objective, Eumenes, whereas the latter”s troops needed six days to assemble.
But Eumenes found a way to counteract the surprise. After sending the urgent messages, he in turn lit regular campfires in a vast expanse of high ground, visible from the desert. The sentries reported to Antigonus that the enemy was waiting for him concentrated, rested, and fortified, while his army was to fight in disorder. So he was forced to go out on the regular road to rest and supply his army. When he then learned from the natives that no troop movements had been observed, only fires being lit in a vast, almost empty camp, he realized what had been done and by whom, but it was too late.
Now Antigonus was at a disadvantage. But he was a curious general. When he had the advantage, he hesitated, thought it over, and was slow to decide. When he was at a disadvantage, he went forward, as if the dangers challenged him. And so it is now. He decided to go ahead and fight the battle.
Eumenes prepared himself, making his will. He had learned that the commanders of the Argyraspis, the chosen division of that day, had decided to kill him immediately after the battle he was to win on their behalf, that is, after he had rid them of Antigonus. His conspiracy was revealed to him by generals who had lent to Eumenes and were afraid of losing their money.
Antigonus arrived and the battle took place and lasted all day. Eumenes” infantry-and above all the Argyraspides-crushed Antigonus” infantry, but Antigonus prevailed in the horse-fight. It was winter and nightfall was early, so the battle was interrupted. But before nightfall the following decisive events took place: Peukestas, the most important of Eumenes” allies, came out of the conflict with his detachments and withdrew to a distance, awaiting developments. Taking advantage of this treachery, a mounted detachment of Antigonus rushed in and seized the baggage of the Argives, that is, their women and children and the treasures of so many years and campaigns.
At night there was a council in the royal camp. Eumenes wanted them to attack as soon as it was daybreak because he was still in an advantageous position. But the satraps wanted to return urgently to their satrapies, to secure themselves against the threat of Antigonus. As for the Argiraspies, they wanted only their baggage. They sent and asked Antigonus what he required to return it to them. One condition he made them: that they deliver Eumenes alive.
And so they did. As soon as it was daylight, they went to his tent and began the racket. He came out to speak to them, and they fell upon him and tied him up. His own were overpowered, the many did not interfere, and the satraps took their chance and fled.
Eumenes was thrown into prison under strict guard, but Antigonus did not want him dead. They were old friends and he wanted him by his side, his ally. After a few days he ordered and released his bonds and allowed visits. Friends and foes and curious people went to see the famous prisoner.
And Antigonus allowed the body to be burned and the remains to be burnt and the remains to be cut into silver urns, and given to the women and children. And though Eumenus died, yet the demon did not make any other punishment of the princes and soldiers who had betrayed him, but this Antigonus, projecting them as wicked and ferocious, delivered to Siberia to the governor of Arachosia, always in a manner twisting and devouring them, as if they were not threatened in Macedonia, and did not see the Hellenic chamber.
Plutarch, Eumenes III. 1-2
Antigonus called a council to decide on the fate of Eumenes. His generals demanded death and threatened to leave the camp if they were not listened to. Only Antigonus” son Demetrius (the later Poliorcetes) and Admiral Nearchos tried to save Eumenes. The council – that is, Antigonus – made no decision.
Six more days passed and Antigonus had yet to decide. But the camp was boiling, the generals were bile-ridden, and the Argyraspis were crying out for Eumenes” death-for of course, woe betide them if he lived. Then the order to leave was given. Visits to the prisoner were forbidden, his guards were reinforced and they stopped giving him food. After three more days, just as they were raising the camp, executioners entered his prison and killed him (316 BC)
Antigonus gave his body to his friends and allowed it to be buried with honors. Then he put to death by a horrible death the traitorous generals who served him. As for the Argyraspides, he gave them their baggage, but after a short time he saw to it that they too were exterminated. He sent them to distant Arachosia, slowly to perish in desperate campaigns, so that none of them would return to Macedonia, nor would they ever face the Greek sea again, according to Plutarch”s wording.
Eumenes was the most strategic of the Crown Prince, the true heir to Alexander”s strategic genius, faithful to his principles, to his choices, to the idea of the unity of the empire. It is typical what Cornelius Neos mentions: None of the Diadochi dared to be proclaimed king while Eumenes was alive. A stranger and of an unknown lineage, he swept like a whirlwind through Asia, defeating Alexander”s most famous generals – having Alexander”s generals and satraps under his command – and leading the Macedonians to victory, wreaking havoc on Macedonians. Ancient writers devote brilliant pages to him. Plutarch only wrote the lives of Eumenes and Demetrius from the whole chorus of the Diadochi. According to Droysen ”The favour of the two kings [Philip and Alexander] and his outstanding qualities made the eminent Macedonians envy and envy him… Circumstances forced him to be totally devoted to the cause of kingship, to which he remained faithful to the end… With unlikely skill and daring, he managed to subdue circumstances to his will, becoming the centre of the general development”. According to Paparrigopoulos, “he was certainly the most pretentious of the generals who came out of the school of Alexander the Great… he failed because he wanted to be faithful to the unity of the state… none of the so-called successors proved to be more adept and more useful than him”.