Chapters 104-107

CIV. THE DIVISION OF THE REALM.

The day after Alexander’s death there was a sad assembly in the palace. All the Macedonian generals sat there in silence and dismay, gazing at the empty golden throne, upon which Perdiccas had solemnly laid the royal signet ring.

Who was to take the place of the king whose military genius and great conquests had won for him the title of “Great”? It is true that Alexander had a half-brother, named Ar-ri-dæ´us, but he was weak-minded. The only other heir was an infant son, born shortly after his father’s death.

The generals gravely talked the matter over, and finally said that Arridæus and the child should be publicly named successors of the dead king, while four of their own number should be appointed guardians of the princes, and regents of the vast realm.

This decision was considered wise, and the kingdom of Alexander was divided into thirty-three provinces, each governed by a Macedonian officer, who was to hold it in the name of Arridæus and of the child.

In dying, Alexander had foretold that his funeral would be followed by bloodshed, and this prediction came true. The generals who had met so solemnly around the empty throne soon became dissatisfied at being only governors, and each wanted to be king in his own right, of the land intrusted to his care.

Perdiccas, having received Alexander’s signet ring from his dying hand, was, of course, their leader, and took under his own protection the infant king and the Persian mother Roxana.

He fancied that it would thus be an easy matter to keep the power in his own hands, and to govern the vast realm as he pleased. But An-tip´a-ter, governor of Macedon, no sooner heard that Alexander was dead, than he placed the idiot Arridæus on the throne, proclaimed him king, and began to rule as if he were the only regent.

The other Macedonian generals daily claimed new rights, which Perdiccas was forced to grant in order to pacify them; but when it was too late, he found out how mistaken he had been, and regretted that he had yielded to their demands.

The various governors, never satisfied with the honors given them, were not only suspicious of each other, but particularly jealous of Perdiccas, the head of the realm. In their envy, they rose up against him; and for many years Perdiccas was forced to hold his own against them all, while trying to make his way back to Macedon, where he wanted to place Alexander’s son upon the throne.

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CV. DEATH OF DEMOSTHENES.

When Alexander left for the East, the orator Demosthenes began to urge the Greeks to rise up against him, and win back their freedom. All his eloquence, however, was not enough to persuade them to make war as long as Alexander lived.

But when the conqueror’s death was made known, Demosthenes again tried to arouse them, and this time with success. Pho´cion, a cautious Athenian, vainly begged the people to wait at least until the news was confirmed, saying, “If Alexander is dead to-day, he will still be dead to-morrow and on the next day, so that we may take counsel at our leisure.”

This wise caution, however, did not suit the Athenians, who were joined in their revolt by most of the little states and principal towns of Greece, except Sparta. The united Greeks soon raised an army, which marched north ward, and met the Macedonian governor’s troops near Thermopylæ.

Phocion.
Phocion.

The Greeks were successful here, and, after shutting up the enemy in the fortress of La´mi-a, closely besieged them. But after a time the Greek general was killed; and, when the Macedonians were reënforced, they gained a decisive victory. This really ended the war; for the Macedonian general, Antipater, broke up the union, and made separate terms of peace for each city.

In his anger, Antipater said he would punish all those who had encouraged the Greeks to revolt. He soon learned that Demosthenes had been one of the principal men to advise the uprising, so he sent his soldiers to make him prisoner.

Demosthenes, warned of his danger, immediately fled, but had only time to take refuge in the Temple of Neptune. There, in spite of the holiness of the place, Antipater’s guards came to get him.

Seeing that it would be useless to resist, the orator asked for a few moments’ respite, that he might write a letter to his friends. The men consented; and Demosthenes, closely watched, took up his tablet and the reed with which he generally wrote.

The soldiers saw him trace a few lines, then stop and bite the top of his reed, as if thinking about what he would say next. But, instead of going on to write his letter, the orator soon covered his head with his cloak and staid quite still.

After a few moments’ waiting, one of the men went to him, and, receiving no answer to his question, drew aside the folds of the cloak. He started back in terror, for the orator’s face was very pale, and he was evidently about to die.

The men quickly carried him out of the temple, so that it should not be defiled by death, and then they found that the reed with which he wrote was hollow, and had contained a deadly drug. Demosthenes had taken the poison, thinking that death would be better than prison.

The Athenians now saw that it would have been wiser to listen to the cautious Phocion: so they set him at the head of their affairs, and promised to obey him. Although honest, Phocion was not very clever, and his caution little by little became cowardice.

In his fear of the Macedonians, he allowed them to have more and more power; and Greece a few years later was entirely under the rule of Antipater, the Macedonian governor.

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CVI. THE LAST OF THE ATHENIANS.

Antipater, although master of all Greece, did not treat the people cruelly, for he was very anxious to secure friends who would help him to keep his share of Alexander’s realm.

He soon heard that Perdiccas was marching homeward with the infant king, who was named, like his father, Alexander; and he knew that the general wanted to place the child on the Macedonian throne. This plan was very distasteful to Antipater. He was not at all afraid of the infant Alexander, but he knew that Perdiccas would want to be regent, and he wished that position himself.

Rather than give up his authority, Antipater decided to fight; and, as many of Alexander’s generals were dissatisfied, they all rose up in arms at the same time, as we have seen.

Perdiccas was surrounded by enemies, but he faced them all bravely, and even led an army into Egypt to subdue Ptolemy, his greatest foe. To reach the enemy, the soldiers under Perdiccas were obliged to swim across the Nile. Here so many of them were eaten up by huge crocodiles, that the rest, angry with their general for leading them into such danger, fell upon him and killed him.

Almost at the same time, Antipater died, leaving his son, Cas-san´der, and his general, Pol-ys-per´chon, to quarrel over the government of Macedon. Each gathered together an army, and tried to get as many friends as possible, especially among the Greeks.

The Athenians vainly tried to remain neutral during this quarrel; but in the course of the war, Polysperchon came into their city, said that Phocion and many other great citizens were siding with Cassander, and condemned them to die by drinking poison brewed from the hemlock plant.

It seems, however, that there was not enough poison ready to kill them all, so the jailer made Phocion give him some money to buy more. The noble old man, forced to do as he was bidden, gave the necessary amount, saying, “It seems that one cannot even die for nothing in Athens.”

As he was the last really noted politician in the city, he has been called the “Last of the Athenians.” No one ever dared to uphold the city’s power after his death, or tried to help it win back its old freedom.

As soon as Perdiccas was dead, Roxana and her son were brought to Macedon, where they were finally placed under the protection of Polysperchon. When Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, saw his infant son, she was so anxious to secure the throne for him alone, that she slew the idiot king Arridæus and all his family.

Under pretext of avenging this crime, Cassander captured and slew Olympias; and then, having won Macedon and Greece from Polysperchon, and seeing that there was no one left to protect Roxana and the child king, he put both mother and son in prison, where they were killed by his order shortly after.

Thus, twelve years after Alexander’s death, all his family were dead, and his vast kingdom was a prey to quarreling, which broke it up into several states.

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CVII. THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES.

When Perdiccas died, An-tig´o-nus (“the one-eyed”) was named his successor, and became governor of all the Eastern province. He no sooner heard that Cassander had murdered Alexander’s family, than he marched westward, intending to avenge the crime.

On his way, Antigonus passed through Syria, the land governed by Se-leu´cus, and asked that ruler how he had spent the money of the kingdom. Seleucus, who had a bad conscience, instead of answering, ran away to Egypt, where he became a friend of Ptolemy.

Then, fearing that they would not be able to fight against Antigonus successfully, these two generals persuaded Cassander, ruler of Macedon, and Ly-sim´a-chus, ruler of Thrace, to join them.

For several years the war was kept up between the four allies on one side, and Antigonus and his son De-me´tri-us on the other. The field of battle was principally in Asia Minor. The fighting continued until the generals became weary of warfare, and concluded to make peace.

A treaty was then signed, settling the claims of all parties, and providing that all the Greek cities should have their freedom. This done, each went back to his own province; but it soon became evident that the peace would not last, for Cassander did not keep his promise to make the Greek states free.

When Cassander’s wrongdoing became known, the generals called upon Demetrius to bring him to terms. The Athenians were so pleased when they heard of this, that they received Demetrius with great joy.

Demetrius was such a good general that he soon managed to defeat Cassander at Thermopylæ; and when he came back to Athens in triumph, the happy people gave him the title of “The Preserver,” called a month by his name, lodged him in the Parthenon, and worshiped him as a god. Some time after this, Demetrius conquered Ptolemy, who had shown that he would not abide by the treaty either. This victory was so great, that Demetrius’ soldiers said he deserved a reward, and named him King of Syria.

When the other generals heard that Demetrius and his father had accepted the title of kings, they too put on royal crowns. Then, as each was still jealous of the rest, and wished to obtain more land for himself, war soon broke out among them once more.

Demetrius, who had been very lucky in all his wars, now planned to take the Island of Rhodes from Ptolemy, King of Egypt. It proved, however, a far more difficult thing than he had expected, and, after besieging the principal city for a whole year, he gave up the attempt.

But he had invented so many machines to try to subdue the city of Rhodes, that every one thought he deserved much credit, and they therefore gave him the title of Po-li-or-ce´tes (“the city taker”).

Peace was agreed upon, and Demetrius retreated, giving up to the Rho´di-ans all the mighty war engines he had brought with him. These were sold for three hundred talents (something over three hundred thousand dollars), and the money thus obtained was used in erecting a colossal statue in honor of Apollo (or He´li-os), the patron god of the island.

Demetrius Poliorcetes. (Coin.)
Demetrius Poliorcetes. (Coin.)

This marvelous brazen statue, which was so fine that it was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, represented the sun god, with his head surrounded by rays, and with his feet resting one on each side of the entrance of the port.

We are told that the Co-los´sus of Rhodes, as this statue was generally called, was so tall that ships under full sail easily passed under its spreading legs in and out of the harbor.

It stood there for about sixty years, when it was overthrown by an earthquake. After lying in ruins for a long time, the brass was sold as old metal. It was carried off on the backs of camels, and we are told that nine hundred of these animals were required for the work.

Thus vanished one of the much talked of wonders of the ancient world. The others were Diana’s Temple at Ephesus, the Tomb of Mau-so´lus (which was so fine that any handsome tomb is sometimes called a mausoleum), the Pha´ros or Lighthouse of Alexandria or Messina, the Walls and Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Labyrinth of Crete, and the Pyramids of Egypt. To these is often added the Parthenon at Athens, which, as you have seen, was decorated by the carvings of Phidias.

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