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Eumenenes of Cardia: Part 1

Eumenes of Cardia 362-316 BC

Early Life

Eumenes of Cardia was born in 362 BC in Cardia,  Thracian Chersonesus (modern-day Gallipoli) to a Greek family which had fallen on hard times – his father was forced to take up the trade of a waggoner. Although we know next to nothing about his early life, we do know that he had a traditional Hellenic education, with literature and athletics. However, Eumenes’ entry into history would come through complete chance. Phillip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander III, came to Cardia and for a period of relaxation watched the youth engaging in the pancratium (A mixture between boxing and wrestling) in which Eumenes participated. Probably to maintain appearance, and to maintain respect with Cardia, Phillip took on Eumenes with him as a secretary.

In the Service of Phillip and Alexander

Although after this point until he reappears in history, there is very little on him. Suffice to say that Eumenes must’ve served well under Phillip II and had a relationship of some sort with Alexander, as he would also serve under Alexander during the invasion of Asia. Although a ‘mere’ secretary under Phillip, he became undoubtedly more important under Alexander in a position where he had the king’s ear. It would be during the war with Persia that Eumenes would become chief secretary to Alexander.

However, when Eumenes comes back into history, it is due to his relationship with Alexander and his generals. He and Hephaestion had a problematic relationship, at one point Hephaestion gave the quarters of Eumenes to a flute player, after which he went to Alexander and exclaimed, “That it was best for him to throw away his arms and be a flute-player or a tragic actor.”1[Plutarch, the Life of Eumenes] Although Alexander’s reaction to this was outrage at Hephaestion, he would later see it as manipulation on the part of Eumenes to turn him against Hephaestion and berate him for it. After Hephaestion’s death, their anger towards each other was remembered, and Alexander had begun to attack those who he saw as celebrating his death after hating him in life. Although a direct target for this, Eumenes managed to deflect the situation to his advantage by instead suggesting honours and paying for Hephaestion’s tomb. A hint of the skill of Eumenes to come.

Eumenes, however, remained important within Alexander’s conquest. Even after his arguments with the King, he would be given his first military command during the Indus campaign, another showing of the trust that Alexander placed in his chief secretary and implying recognition of competence. Despite having gained victory in the expedition, albeit, at a hefty price, the army of Alexander refused to go on and as such marched back west towards Babylon. Where Alexander III would die.

The Death of Alexander

Following the death of Alexander, Eumenes attempted to stay above the growing discourse between the Macedonians in Babylon (the cavalry and officers who wanted Alexander’s unborn son to be king, and the infantry who wanted his bastard brother, Arrhidaeus, to be king) by stating that his position as a foreigner made it none of his business, although he did personally support the ascension of Alexander’s son. He maintained good relations with both camps and following the departure of the supporters of Alexander’s son, Eumenes moved to calm their opponents’ in Babylon against direct action.

After a compromise between the two sides was reached regarding joint kingship and the rise of Perdiccas to the regency, the lands of Alexander’s conquests were finally separated out into administrative satraps. In this divvying up of land, Eumenes would be given the unconquered provinces of Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, and parts of the southern coast of the Black Sea. Eumenes was to be given men and aid by Antigonus and Leonnatus to do so. However, Antigonus would refuse due to his ambitions elsewhere, although Leonnatus would arrive to help Eumenes conquer these provinces. Eumenes, once a simple clerk in the army of Phillip had become one of the many players in the wars following Alexander’s death. He had become one of the Diadochi[A general].

The First War of the Diadochi

Perdiccas, now needing to deal with military opposition from Egypt and Macedonia proper, ordered Eumenes to watch over the Hellenspot[The Dardanelles today] should any armies attempt to cross and challenge Perdiccas. He was given more troops and the commanders Alcetas and Neoptolemus were put under his jurisdiction in order to resist the attempt of Antipater and Craterus to enter Asia via the Hellenspot. However, the loyalty of Neoptolemus was suspect due to his own pride, not to mention the average Macedonian infantryman who looked down on the Greek forces.

Due to his opponents’ high popularity with Macedonian troops; not to mention their dubious loyalty to him, Eumenes made a cavalry unit of his own. He raised 6,300 cavalrymen made up of the local population, instead of Macedonian forces, and called upon Alcetas and Neoptolemus to challenge the crossing of Antipater and Craterus. Despite the order, neither would obey. Alcetas refused on the grounds that his troops were unwilling to fight Antipater, and would likely mutiny and join Craterus – such was the popularity and fame of Craterus amongst Macedonian forces. Neoptolemus had been plotting against Eumenes and was in the midst of negotiating with Antipater when he was summoned, (Eumenes was aware of this and the summons were also clearly to force him to openly take a side) but instead of simply refusing the order he moved to directly attack Eumenes.

Neoptolemus and Eumenes met on the battlefield shortly afterwards. Neoptolemus took the upper hand as he managed to defeat Eumenes’ Macedonian infantry. However, as Neoptolemus’ forces began to chase the retreating troops, Eumenes and his cavalry drove back and routed his remaining forces, then seized their baggage. He then turned his cavalry to Neoptolemus’ remaining troops and demanded their loyalty to himself and Perdiccas through an oath. With their sudden isolation, Neoptolemus’ forces had no choice, and they joined Eumenes.

Neoptolemus himself fled to Craterus with his remaining 300 cavalrymen in order to collaborate with their attack on Eumenes. Despite this, Craterus and Antipater had been offering Eumenes the opportunity to defect with promises of extra satrapies and land. Yet Eumenes refused, stating that Antipater was always an enemy of his and that he could not become his friend whilst Antipater treated his own friends as enemies.

This led to the council of war between Antipater, Craterus and Neoptolemus in which it was decided that the former would move to directly challenge Perdiccas, whilst the latter two men would lead forces to attack Eumenes. Neoptolemus claimed that the Macedonian forces under Eumenes would refuse to fight them, and would, in fact, swap sides.

Eumenes was very conscious of this and refused to inform any of his troops – from the lowest soldier to the highest officer – that they were facing Craterus, a hero to Macedonian troops throughout the Macedonian empire. He instead stated that they were fighting Neoptolemus and some other foreign auxiliaries in order to prevent any sort of sympathy of his own forces for the enemy. Eumenes, knowing that Craterus would personally be on their left flank – the right flank of the Macedonian army was considered the most honourable position – assigned a man called Pharnabazus to lead a contingent of cavalry on their left flank to immediately attack Craterus as soon as he moved forward. This contingent was purposefully emptied of any Macedonian troops in order to prevent any sort of defection or recognition of Craterus. The aim of this was to kill Craterus before he would even have a chance to reveal himself to Eumenes’ Macedonian forces. Eumenes positioned himself on the right flank, facing Neoptolemus, in the place of honour.

Craterus’ forces consisted of 20,000 infantrymen – mostly Macedonians who he relied on to win the battle due to their experience and morale – and around 2,000 auxiliary cavalrymen. Meanwhile, Eumenes also had 20,000 infantrymen, although they were a mixture of peoples and were not to the quality of Craterus’ forces, he relied on his 5,000 horsemen as his infantry would not be able to defeat the Macedonian forces opposing them. It was here that the battle of the Hellenspot in 321 BC would begin.

The battle began with Pharnabazus immediately attacking Craterus. Craterus was furious that Neoptolemus appeared to have lied to him on the Macedonian forces’ disloyalty to Eumenes. Despite his anger and resistance Craterus was thrown off of his horse and was trampled to death by the fighting horsemen, he was apparently recognised by an officer who dismounted to protect the dying general, but he did die without the Macedonian forces under Eumenes ever realising it.

Meanwhile, on the right flank, Eumenes attacked Neoptolemus’ contingent. In the first two charges neither realised the other’s presence. However, by the third, they saw each other and moved to kill the other. Eumenes and Neoptolemus grappled with each other on horseback, causing the horses to run out from beneath them. The two fell and in Neoptolemus’ desperate attempt to get up, Eumenes cut his hamstring, disabling him. Despite this, Neoptolemus fought viciously yet failed to seriously wound Eumenes, who managed to cut Neoptolemus’ throat.

With the routing of their cavalry, the death of Craterus and Neoptolemus and the slaughter being caused by Eumenes’ now freed up cavalry, the opposing Macedonian forces agreed to surrender to Eumenes and swore an of loyalty. Craterus’ former troops than requested and were permitted, to move out to the local villages to forage and recuperate. Instead of doing this, however, they used the opportunity to slink away to Antipater. Eumenes was furious and attempted to make the chase, but his men were exhausted after two battles and so he gave up the chase.

Despite this setback, Eumenes had earned himself great fame and respect for his two victories against Macedonian forces. However, this also worked against him as his Greek lineage brought resentment from Macedonians, who saw his victories against fellow Macedonians as treacherous especially due to the death of Perdiccas in Egypt, who had been killed in a mutiny, and when the news of Eumenes’ victory had arrived, it was looked upon with scorn and the mutineers sentenced Eumenes to death and ordered Antigonus to challenge him (Notably Acletas was mentioned in this order too).

Following the battle, Eumenes went to Mount Ida [ Modern day Turkey] to take some horses from the royal coral there, notably, he also gave a message to the overseers stating how many he had taken showing that he was already preparing to have royal authority and return the horses to the coral. This apparently caused Antipater to laugh over Eumenes’ farsightedness and his assumption and preparation for victory.

Eumenes also furthered the loyalty between him and his troops by paying them – on time – with lands and estates from within his territories. This earning of loyalty would prove itself incredibly valuable, as when news of Eumenes’ death sentence arrived in the camp his Macedonian forces refused to do so and in fact created a bodyguard of their own to protect Eumenes. Eumenes further exploited the situation by distributing purple hats and cloaks which were royally bestowed honours – something Eumenes had been empowered to give. This further rewarding of loyalty showed Eumenes’ position, as his troops’ possibly treachery would always be the greatest concern throughout his remaining life.

This was highlighted when a commander under Eumenes named Perdiccas (no relation to the previously mentioned) mutinied and left Eumenes with 3,500 men. In a quick reaction, Eumenes sent a man called Pheonix of Tenedos with around 5,000 men to put him down. He succeeded in surprising and ambushing the mutineers and captured Perdiccas alive and forced the remaining Macedonian forces to return to him. However, by putting only Perdiccas and the other ringleaders to death and showing incredible leniency to the Macedonians who had rebelled, he once again showed his primary focus, maintaining the loyalty of the Macedonian forces.


It would be after this reassertion of control that Antigonus would arrive.

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