Chap. 1-Heroes of the Hellensitic Age (2016) Charles N. Pope
In 323 BC, Alexander had been forced to step down as Emperor in the West before the gender of his royal child was even known. And when a male heir was born to him later that same year, the succession was still not immediately conceded. That son, Alexander IV, remained a royal “spare” for a great many years to come. Roxane (the former Persian Princess Barsine) had already given birth to two other princes. Ochus (the future Antiochus I) was born in 337 BC and Heracles (the future Ptolemy Ceraunus) born in 327 BC. Priority was retained by these princes and any sons that they might produce in the coming years. There was also the possibility that the current Great King Seleucus (i.e., the former Persian king Xerxes II) could yet produce a royal son of his own. Such a son would likely out-rank all three existing sons of Roxane/Barsine. However, in the decades to follow, neither Seleucus nor Ochus nor even Heracles could sire the necessary prince.
The Macedonian identity of Philip II had been sacrificed prior to the Greek Conquest, however the prince formerly known as Philip II was every bit as alive as Alexander the Great himself. Philip II, now known as Antigonus Monophthalmos (“The One-Eyed”), among other things (such as Antigenes, Polyperchon and Porus), would have taken every opportunity to produce another son (besides the handicapped Philip III Arrhidaeus) of his own by one of the younger princesses. And since he still had at least 15 years to live, this was not at all unrealistic. He could always make a comeback if his fortunes in fatherhood were to change. Yet, they did not, and he dutifully accepted his lot. (Recall that Philip II had lost an eye while besieging a city in Greece. Phthalmos, means “eye,” “sight,” “vision,” and connotes clear vision ala the god Apollo.)
Note: Philip III Arrhidaeus did manage to produce a healthy daughter (Adea-Eurydice) by Atossa’s daughter (Cynane). In time a healthy son might also be born to Arrhidaeus and form the basis of a dynastic line for Philip II. Yet, this did not materialize either.
The son and successor of Antigonus Monophthalmos was called Demetrius Poliorcetes. This Demetrius had an unusual problem with his jaw, as did both Ptolemy and another contemporary king named Agathocles. And it is this peculiar shared feature that helps untangle the web of regional royal names in the Post-Alexander Era. Agathocles was forced to resign his kingship in Sicily in 289 BC due to a cancer of the jaw. This of course associates him with Ptolemy, whose portraiture on coins struck late in his reign depict him with a “slack” or “cracker” jaw. A triple identification between Agathocles, Ptolemy, and Demetrius is possible, because it is known that the jaw of Demetrius was shattered by an errant catapult bolt while he was casually besieging a city of the Peloponnese in 296 BC. In other words, the accident suffered by Demetrius explains the symptoms of both Agathocles and Ptolemy.
It can be deduced that Antigonus Monophthalmos, without a suitable heir of his own, instead adopted Ptolemy as his successor in Greece under the name of Demetrius Poliorcetes. Demetrius is a pivotal figure in Greece in that he was also considered the father of Antigonus Gonatas. The name Gonatas connotes, “born after,” and alludes to the birth of Alexander IV after the “death” of Alexander the Great). The name also suggests “born of the (Great) Queen.” Alexander the Great had in effect created a Proto-Triumvirate in Greece consisting of Monophthalmos/Philip II, Demetrius/Hephaestion and Gonatas/Alexander IV to ensure the unassailable establishment of his dynasty in that critical region.
Note: Ptolemy also actually claimed to be the son of Philip II, which would have been by virtue of his mother’s marriage to Philip prior to the Greek Conquest of Asia.
Ptolemy, the former Hephaestion, was the kinsman that Alexander the Great relied upon most to look after the interests of his son Alexander IV. Ptolemy was also previously known as Neoptolemus in Epirus and was considered the offspring of Alexander of Epirus and his full-sister Olympias. He was in turn quite possibly the full-brother of the leading princess of the following generation, Barsine/Roxane. Therefore, his hopes of siring royal children of his own through Barsine were extremely slight, and a son by this union would not have been considered desirable for royal succession in any event. Ptolemy seems to have accepted early on that his role within the royal family would be one of a facilitator and not a contender to the throne. In that respect he was certainly a son of Philip II. What’s more, as well as being tall, these two royal kinsmen also suffered from a traumatic wound to the face. Handsome Philip lost an eye and beautiful Hephaestion sustained a disfigured mouth. While Philip strove to maintain strict impartiality, Hephaestion remained the devoted ally of Alexander.
Hephaestion’s assumed epithet, Poliorcetes, is translated as “Besieger of Cities.” It perhaps connotes “crippled” only to modern readers. However, to the ancient multi-lingual royal court, it succinctly defined the role of Hephaestion after the “Greek Conquest” was over. The Greek name Orcetes is perhaps (and quite inexplicably!) a play, by way of the Latin form Orœtes, on Oroetes, who had been the Persian magnate who killed a certain Polycrates, the self-made king of Samos and lone hold-out against Persian dominance in the Aegean at the beginning of the Persian Period. Polycrates had eliminated his own co-conspirators when taking power. After disposing of Polycrates, Oroetes was himself then sold-out by his men to Darius. This enabled Darius to shrewdly appropriate the difficult maritime strongholds of Polycrates without any military intervention whatsoever. (The historian Herodotus praises Darius for this maneuver.) Likewise, the mission of Demetrius Poliorcetes (“The Cities/Confederation of Orcetes”) was to terminate the dynasty of the self-proclaimed king Cassander and hand over Greece to the dynasty of Alexander the Great. After battling with Cassander and then killing Cassander’s son, Demetrius Poliorcetes was abandoned by his soldiers and forced to surrender. This ultimately led to the succession of Antigonus Gonatas (the former Alexander IV) to the throne of Macedon and kingship over all of Greece.
Note: Among his royal ancestors, Hephaestion would have naturally been compared to Tutankhamun, and perhaps even more so, to Horemakhet/Esarhaddon (a.k.a., Orestes), a beautiful youth that became a disfigured and tormented old man.
The name Hephaestion derived from demi-god and famed womanizer Hephaestus, the lame master craftsman of weaponry, who also had numerous conquests of women but did not sire a royal son and heir. Likewise, Hephaestion was crippled. His alter egos Ptolemy and Demetrius Poliorcetes pursued many women and welcomed many marriages, but probably produced no actual royal sons or even daughters. Prior to the accident that marred his face, Demetrius was considered the “handsomest man in Greece.” The best depiction of Hephaestus is actually one made about Demetrius and given by the historian Plutarch in his Life of Demetrius:
“Demetrius had not the height of his father Antigonus [Monophthalmos/Philip II was known to have been very tall], though he was a tall man. But his countenance was one of such singular beauty and expression that no painter or sculptor ever produced a good likeness of him. It combined grace and strength, dignity with boyish bloom, and, in the midst of youthful heat and passion, what was hardest of all to represent was a certain heroic look and air of kingly greatness. Nor did his character belie his looks, as no one was better able to render himself both loved and feared. For as he was the most easy and agreeable of companions, and the most luxurious and delicate of princes in his drinking and banqueting and daily pleasures, so in action there was never any one that showed a more vehement persistence, or a more passionate energy. Bacchus, skilled in the conduct of war, and after war in giving peace its pleasures and joys, seems to have been his pattern among the gods.”http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/demetrus.html
In contrast to Hephaestion/Demetrius, Alexander the Great was never described as either tall or strikingly handsome. Unlike Hephaestion, Alexander also was depicted with large, bulging eyes, a physical trait he seems to have shared with another half-brother of his, Darius III. Alexander had an unconventional look and may have more closely resembled Gerard Depardieu than Colin Farrell. As with his descendent Cleopatra VII, Alexander’s appeal was attributed to his “noble spirit” (agatho-daemon) and “passion” (pothos).
Hephaestion dutifully perpetuated the legacy of Alexander by assuming the name of Agathocles (“Glory of Agatho-”). And Agathocles emulated Alexander to such a degree that he was even mocked for it (even by his contemporaries). Agathocles was also clearly fulfilling Alexander’s stated agenda by conquering Sicily and attacking both Rome and Carthage. However, rather than claiming Carthage for himself, Agathocles attempted to establish a certain magnate named Hamilcar (evidently a local adaptation of the name Alexander) as tyrant in North Africa. When this failed, another Hamilcar (the son of Gisgo/Gisco) was raised up to push Carthage into a costly and ultimately disastrous war against Agathocles. This Hamilcar was assisted in the mission by another magnate named Bomilcar (an obvious local adaptation of the name Ptolemy).
The so-called “Last Plans of Alexander” had included a campaign against Carthage and nearby Sicily, as well as construction of roads in the West and the resettlement of Eastern Peoples in the West. Now that it is realized that Alexander did not literally die in Babylon, these plans take on a new significance. Although Alexander was no longer in a position to direct all of the resources of the Empire toward these plans of his, it can be discerned that the first steps were taken in Alexander’s actual lifetime toward their eventual achievement. It is also clear that Alexander was not entirely absorbed with further conquest of the East, but maintained some strategic presence in the West, either directly or through surrogates. As time passed and his royal rivals remained childless, the need to firmly establish his own son in the West became increasingly important and urgent. In pursuit of this objective, and like all of the other major figures of that time, Alexander assumed (or controlled) new political identities in the West.
Around 312 BC in Rome, a mysterious aristocrat named Appius Claudius Caecus suddenly asserted himself as a veritable dictator. Although never having held any high office in Rome, Caecus at once took sole possession of the most prestigious office in Rome, that of Censor. In the following decades he would take the offices of Consul, Praetor and ultimately ruled as Dictator. Caecus corrupted the voting system and began the process that inevitably transformed Rome from a royal outpost to a center of Imperial Power. He is also known for constructing the first Roman road, the Appian Way. The campaigns of Agathocles (“Glory of Agatho-/Alexander”) were evidently not aimed at personal conquest, but used to pressure Rome (and likely Carthage also) into accepting the dominant position of a still active and dynastic heavy-weight, Alexander the Great!
The childless Ptolemy Soter adopted Alexander IV under the name of Ptolemy Philadelphius, and eventually designated him as his kingly successor in Egypt. Heracles was also adopted by Ptolemy and called Ptolemy Ceraunus/Keraunos (“Thunderbolt”) in Egypt. The older full-brother of Heracles, Ochus was adopted as the son of Seleucus in Syria and the north, and became known as Antiochus (“Like/After Ochus,” that is, like his true father Ochus/Artaxerxes III). Seleucus (Lysimachus of Thrace) also adopted Alexander IV under the name of Alexander, but he was passed off as the son of a concubine. Finally and for good measure, Seleucus/Lysimachus adopted even Ptolemy under the name of Agathacles. However, Agathocles was fully aligned with his alter ego Ptolemy of Egypt throughout a long and successful career. Agathocles reached the very gates of Rome and also came valiantly close in his bid to capture Carthage. Afterwards he settled for kingship in Syracuse (on Sicily), at which time he became known as Agathocles of Syracuse.
The impression that Prince Heracles and the even younger Alexander IV were held hostages as hapless orphans and ultimately also executed in Post-War Macedon can now be completely dismissed as “royal misdirection.” Heracles and Alexander IV were two of only three royal princes of that entire generation. Their survival and well-being were paramount, particularly when the eldest prince Ochus remained without a qualified son. It was necessary to groom all available princes as potential successors to the Great Throne through extensive travel and training at the various royal courts and in the major languages of the day. All of the senior royal males took responsibility for the junior princes and became father figures to them.