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).
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
1.6.4, 7; 8.1; 9.2-10.5.
Justin, Epitome 15-17.
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