Polyperchon  [ca. 394 - 303 BCE]

Conservative Macedonian commander whose undying loyalty to the Argead dynasty was sorely tested by Alexander the Great's oriental policy & the personal ambitions of other surviving generals.  Though the old soldier served ably in the Macedonian conquest of Asia (334-324 BCE), his open disdain for the introduction of Persian customs & personnel into the royal court prevented his promotion into the inner circle of Alexander's confidants in Babylon.  Instead, the conqueror sent him with Craterus & other traditionalist troops back to Macedonia (324 BCE) with orders to relieve Antipater of his command in Europe & prepare a fleet for the conquest of Carthage. They had not fulfilled either assignment when news of Alexander's death sparked rebellion against Macedonian domination among the Greek city states (323 BCE). Rather than relieve Antipater of his command, Craterus & Polyperchon had to go to his rescue to insure Macedonian hegemony in Greece (322 BCE).  No sooner had they broken the back of that rebellion than their continued loyalty to the royal family led them to join Antipater, Antigonus & Ptolemy in challenging Perdiccas' attempt to assume the role of Alexander's successor.

Caterus' death in battle left Polyperchon as Antipater's most loyal ally. When the latter called a meeting of provincial governors in Syria after Perdiccas' defeat (320 BCE), he left Polyperchon in command of Macedonia. Antipater returned as the recognized regent for Alexander's blood heirs -- an infant son [Alexander IV] & a mentally incompetent half-brother [Philip III Arridaeus] -- only to die of old age a few months later (319 BCE). On his death bed he rewarded Polyperchon for his loyalty by naming him regent.

If Antipater expected the other generals to honor his will after his death, he was mistaken. For although Polyperchon may have been the senior officer, several younger men considered themselves more fit to govern.  The first to challenge the 75 year old new regent was Antipater's own son, Cassander, who [with support from Ptolemy & Antigonus] invaded Greece.  Faced with superior force, Polyperchon countered with shrewd strategy. To win Greek support against Cassander he declared that any Greek city that had been subject to Macedonian occupation would be "free and autonomous" again.  Then, to weaken Antigonus' control of Macedonian troops in Asia, he had Philip Arridaeus sign a royal decree transferring command of several units to Antigonus' old rival, Eumenes. But before Eumenes could send aid, Antigonus' fleet crushed Polyperchon's forces in the Bosporus (318 BCE). This defeat allowed Cassander to drive Polyperchon from Macedonia (317 BCE) & claim the regency for Philip Arridaeus.

But the old soldier would not just fade away. Retreating to Epirus [modern Albania] with Alexander's widow, Roxana, & infant son [Alexander IV], he joined forces with Alexander's mother [Olympias] in one last brave attempt to restore the Argead dynasty to the Macedonian throne. Loyalty to the bloodline of Alexander proved to be Polyperchon's most powerful weapon. When he & his allies returned to Macedonia while Cassander was campaigning in Greece, the Macedonian army deserted the bastard king, Philip Arridaeus, en masse. To preclude Philip's being used to challenge her grandson's right to the throne again, Olympias ordered his execution. Unfortunately for the loyalist cause, however, Cassander returned with superior forces, captured the dowager queen & had her executed (316 BCE). Roxana & her 7 year old son were held as hostages.

Though he had lost his chief ally, Polyperchon still did not give up the fight to guarantee Alexander's son the throne. Rather than defer to the man who had executed Alexander's mother, the 79 year old regent agreed to transfer that office to his former nemesis, Antigonus, in return for the latter's support (315 BCE). Polyperchon was content with a lower rank for himself as long as he could provide for the welfare of his ward. It was his misfortune to live just long enough to see that hope destroyed.

Antigonus' claim to the regency was in name only, since Cassander had physical custody of the heir to Alexander's throne. In 311 Antigonus readily agreed to a treaty relinquishing his nominal regency in return for Ptolemy & Cassander's acknowledgement that he was ruler of Asia. He agreed in turn to recognize Cassander as ruler of Macedonia & Ptolemy as ruler of Egypt.  All parties formally agreed to recognize Alexander IV as king when he reached the age of 18 (in 305 BCE). That agreement, however, sealed the royal heir apparent's doom.  For Cassander was not willing to relinquish his hard-fought control of Macedonia to a mere youth.  Rather than risk Alexander IV gaining popular support, Cassander had both him & his mother executed (310 BCE).

Antigonus countered (309 BCE) by sending Polyperchon, who still controlled the Peloponnese peninsula, Alexander's sole surviving off-spring -- Herakles, the son of Alexander's Persian mistress -- in hopes of getting the ancient loyalist to renew his opposition to Cassander. But in the eyes of that frustrated warrior the legitimate Argead dynasty to which he had dedicated his life had already come to an end. Instead of championing the cause of the scion of an oriental union that he had failed in preventing Alexander from entering into, Polycheron personally ordered the execution of Herakles. Although he lived into his 90s, with his last symbolic gesture terminating the conqueror's blood-line, Polyperchon left his definitive mark upon history & finally faded into the shadows.

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