Demetrius I Poliorcetes  [337 - 283 BCE]

Aggressive son of Antigonus Monophthalmus who persistently harassed his father's rivals [Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus & Seleucus] & established the Antogonid dynasty of Macedonian kings. Though he was never able to secure his own kingdom, his invention of the moveable siege tower [which earned him his byname: "the besieger"] revolutionized siege warfare & became a stock weapon for attacking fortifications until modern times.

While Demetrius' own military & political projects often met with failure, he repeatedly demonstrated a remarkable resilience by seizing the initiative in the wake of defeat. In his first command he lost the battle of Gaza (312 BCE) to the combined forces of Ptolemy & Seleucus but regrouped to win his next engagement.  In the last coalition war against his father (308 -301 BCE) Demetrius failed to wrest control of Babylon from Seleucus, but was hailed as "savior" [soter] by Athenians for liberating them from the forces of Cassander.  Antigonus rewarded him with the title "king" for his destruction of Ptolemy's navy at the battle of Salamis (306 BCE).  After failing to take Rhodes -- despite his invention of the moveable tower he dubbed "the city-taker" [helepolis] --, he drove Cassander out of Greece & revived the league of Greek city states with himself as its leader. 

At Ipsus (301 BCE), however, the pattern of failure followed by success was reversed. Flushed by a successful attack, his cavalry got separated from the main army, turning apparent victory into a devastating defeat that cost his father both his kingdom & his life. Still, Demetrius did not surrender. While Lysimachus & Seleucus divided the bulk of Antigonus' domain between them, Demetrius not only salvaged control of Ephesus & other ports on the southern coast of Asia Minor, he used them to launch counter-attacks against Lysimachus & regain control of the Peloponnese & much of the Aegean.

Cassander's death (298 BCE) gave Demetrius the opportunity to seize an even greater prize. Invited by Cassander's younger son to aid him against his older brother, Demetrius claimed the throne of Macedonia for himself (294 BCE). His conquests in Europe, however, were offset by his loss of all his holdings in Asia Minor to Lysimachus. Moreover, Demetrius failed to consolidate his control of Macedonia. A native rebellion coordinated with simultaneous attacks by Lysimachus from the East & Pyrrhus of Epirus from the West forced him to retreat to Greece (288 BCE), leaving the victors to divide Macedonia.

Instead of contenting himself with leadership of the Hellenic league, almost immediately Demetrius attacked eastern Asia Minor, where he was eventually captured by his own son-in-law, Seleucus (287 BCE).  Although the consummate "Besieger" -- who had been the main destabilizing factor in Mediterranean politics for a quarter century -- ended his own career as a captive, his decision to leave his son [Antigonus Gonatas] in control of Greece during his final campaign laid the foundation for the Antigonid dynasty to reclaim the Macedonian throne.

References: Josephus, Against Apion  1.184-185, 200, 206-207.
                  Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.6.5-6; 10.1-2.
                  Plutarch, Demetrius. 
                 
_____, Pyrrhus 4, 6-7, 10-12.
                 
_____, Aratus.                  

Other resources on line:

Silver tetradrachma minted at Amphipolis ca. 291 BCE with diademed profile of Demetrius on the face & the standing nude figure of Neptune holding a trident (symbolizing control of the seas) on the reverse. The inscription reads simply Basileos Demetriou ["of King Demetrius"].

For high resolution images of this and other coins of the Besieger see Ancient Coinage of Macedonia, Demetrios Poliorcetes in David Surber's excellent ancient coins website: Wildwinds.

Perspective on the World of Jesus

Copyright 1999-2017 by Mahlon H. Smith
All rights reserved.

an American Theological Library Association Selected Religion Website
OCLC catalog no.: 62046512