bust in Selcuk Archeological Museum, Turkey
[public domain image from Livius]

Lysimachus  [ca. 360 - 281 BCE; died in battle]

Cautious Macedonian cavalry commander who became a major force in Mediterranean politics with his decisive defeat of Antigonus in the battle of Ipsus (301 BCE). Lysimachus, who was about the same age as Alexander the Great, had been one of the latter's 7 "bodyguards" (generals whose loyalty the conqueror trusted) & distinguished  himself in the conquest of Asia. After Alexander's death (323 BCE) he was made governor of Thrace (the province northeast of Macedonia).

Lysimachus often sided with Ptolemy in disputes between the other generals who had partitioned Alexander's empire.  Like Ptolemy, he generally supported opposition to the expansionist plans of any regional governor who sought to reunite Alexander's empire under his own supreme rule: first Perdiccas & then Antigonus.  When the latter took the title of king (306 BCE), Lysimachus followed other Macedonian regional governors in imitating him to stress his own autonomy (305 BCE). Yet, since he frequently had to put down uprisings by his own subjects & repel invasions by neighboring tribes, he did not intervene directly in the feuds between Alexander's successors during the first two decades of his rule.

In 302 BCE, however, with support from Cassander, Ptolemy & Seleucus, Lysimachus took the initiative in attacking Antigonus, who had tried to destabilize Thrace. He met little resistance in seizing control of much of western Asia Minor and, in the  following spring (301 BCE) was joined by Seleucus. Their combined forces engaged Antigonus' much larger army near Ipsus, Phrygia (in central Asia Minor). Though greatly outnumbered & initially repelled, the allies succeeded in dividing their opponent's troops.  While Seleucus' war elephants blocked Antigonus' cavalry (commanded by the latter's son, Demetrius) Lysimachus' archers & artillery decimated Antigonus' infantry. The 80 year old ruler, who refused to leave the battle field, was himself a casualty.

When the victors divided Antigonus' vast domains between them, Lysimachus was content with claiming most of Asia Minor, leaving Syria & the rest of the East (except Ptolemy's Egypt) to the ruler of Babylon (Seleucus). Lysimachus' ally, Cassander, was confirmed as king of Macedonia. After Cassander's death (297 BCE), Demetrius invaded Greece, letting Lysimachus easily gain control of the last Antigonid strongholds in western Asia Minor.

While the king of Thrace was becoming uncontested ruler of the former Antigonid kingdom, the irony of history now made Antigonus' son king of the Macedonian homeland. Invited to intervene in the feud between Cassander's surviving sons, Demetrius claimed the Macedonian throne for himself. Since Lysimachus was preoccupied with solidifying his control of Asia Minor, he agreed to a truce that recognized his old adversary & new neighbor as legitimate ruler of Macedonia (294 BCE), even though the heir of Cassander that the latter had deposed was Lysimachus' own son-in-law.

Still, a truce between sworn enemies means détente, not peace. As Demetrius was preparing a huge fleet to reconquer Asia Minor, Lysimachus formed an alliance with Pyrrhus of Epirus & struck first (288 BCE). Attacked simultaneously on both eastern & western flanks, the Macedonian defenses caved in, forcing Demetrius to abandon his throne & retreat to Greece. Macedonia was divided between the victors with Pyrrhus claiming the larger portion. Yet the latter failed to win the support of the Macedonian populace & army, which were unaccustomed to being ruled by a foreigner. Well aware of this, Lysimachus ousted his former ally & -- as a native Macedonian liberator -- was hailed as king of the Macedonians (285 BCE).

The 75 year old cautious strategist was now at the height of his power, claiming sovereignty over territory from the Balkans to Syria. Rather than trying to take active control of Greece, he posed as an ally of the Greek cause to counter Demetrius' domination.

For all his shrewdness in diplomacy & his own military triumphs, however, Lysimachus had one fatal flaw: a sense of insecurity that led him to suspect the loyalty of even his own kin. And this flaw was exploited by his third wife -- Ptolemy's daughter, Arsinoë, whom Lysimachus had married to seal his alliance with her father (300 BCE). To secure the right of succession for her own sons, she convinced her aged husband to execute his heir apparent -- Agathocles, his oldest son by a former marriage  -- on charges of treason (282 BCE).

Not only did this unfatherly act cost Lysimachus the support of many of his subjects, it became the catalyst that eventually cost him both his life & his kingdom. For Agathocles widow -- Lysandra, Arsinoe's own younger sister -- sought refuge with her children in the court of Seleucus, who used their cause as a pretext for invading the territory of his former ally.  When the two met -- in rumored hand to hand combat -- at Corupedium in western Anatolia, Lysimachus was killed, leaving Seleucus momentarily sole master of all of Alexander's empire except Egypt.

References: Arrian, Anabasis 5.13, 6.28.
                   Polybius, Histories 5.67.
                   Diodorus of Sicily, Historical Library 13.3.
                   Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.6.4, 7; 8.1; 9.2-10.5.
                   Justin, Epitome 15-17.

Other resources on line:

Silver tetradrachma minted at Lysimachea  [capitol of Thrace] between 297 & 282 BCE with a diademed head of Alexander sporting the rams' horns of Zeus-Amun on the face & an enthroned Athena bearing the figure of winged victory in her outstretched right hand. The Greek inscription reads [from right to left]: Basileos Lysimachou ["of king Lysimachus]  Like most early successors of Alexander, Lysimachus refrained from issuing coins bearing his own image but, instead, ruled as earthly agent of the now deified conqueror. For high resolution images of this and other coins of Lysimachus see:

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