8

The Dissolution of Alexander’s Empire

Alexander’s untimely demise in June 323 left his principal generals and commanders in a quandary. Without a clear plan regarding what to do with the vast empire they had helped create, they convened a Council of Friends in Babylon to decide on a course of action. Even though some of them harbored expansive ambitions, no one expressed any interest in seeing the empire dissolved into smaller chunks of territory. Two schools of thought seem to have emerged. One, espoused by Ptolemy, was that the empire should remain intact but that the imperial sovereignty should reside in a council of the chief satraps, who would convene periodically. In effect, this would give the satraps virtually undisputed control of their provinces, but would also keep them united in the common Macedonian interest. The second school of thought, which had the strong support of Perdiccas, held that the empire should remain a unitary state under the rule of Alexander’s heirs. It was the latter view that prevailed. Notwithstanding the opinions of their generals, the armies were fiercely loyal to Alexander and proud of their unprecedented achievements under his leadership, and they were expected to remain as loyal to his heirs.

Perdiccas was given overall command of the army and, along with Alexander’s other senior commanders, Leonnatus, Craterus, and Antipater, was named co-regent for Alexander’s as yet unborn child by his Bactrian wife. The child, who would become Alexander IV Aegos, was to rule jointly with Alexander’s stepbrother, the mentally impaired Philip Arrhidaeus. However, the prospect of being ruled by either an incompetent or the son of a non-Hellenic woman had little appeal to many of the battle-hardened Macedonians. As it turned out, Alexander’s mother Olympias murdered

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