Eumenes of Cardia: A Greek among Macedonians

Eumenes of Cardia: A Greek among Macedonians

Eumenes of Cardia: A Greek among Macedonians

Eumenes of Cardia: A Greek among Macedonians

Synopsis

Eumenes of Cardia was a royal secretary who, in the years following the death of Alexander the Great became a major contender for power. Despite his having been chiefly an administrator rather than a military or political power, Eumenes came close to securing control of the Asian remnants of Alexander's empire. Eumenes was born in the Greek city of Cardia and lived during a period dominated by native-born Macedonians, and his defeat and death have traditionally been attributed to his having Greek rather than Macedonian origins. This book argues, however, that as a result of the actions of Macdonian monarchs, Macedonia was a land in which large numbers of a variety of people were successfully amalgamated into a single state.

Excerpt

Eumenes of Cardia is a remarkable figure even by the standards of his age. He was a royal secretary turned successful general and a Cardian Greek in a period dominated by native-born Macedonians. The surviving sources for the early years following the death of Alexander the Great track his career more closely than that of any of Alexander's other successors. Both Plutarch and Nepos prepared biographies of his career, while ignoring more prominent and ultimately more important contemporaries. Moreover, in general, the sources treat him very favorably. In most respects he is presented as a brilliant military leader, contending with and most often defeating those who had commanded under Alexander. He is cited as one of the last loyalists to the monarchy, a model of fidelity to the family of Alexander, and with his death the last hope of the Argead dynasty is lost (Nepos Eum. 13. 3). The picture painted by the sources is, indeed, a most sympathetic one. While often successful in battle, Eumenes' brilliance is doomed to failure before the all-consuming prejudice of the Macedonian officers and common soldiers with whom he fought and served. It is a most compelling story, but a fictional one nonetheless.

Eumenes was not ultimately the victim of prejudice. The new age ushered in by Alexander's conquests was one of opportunity for Greeks and Macedonians alike. While a sense of Macedonian nationalism was introduced by Philip and Alexander, it counted for little outside of Macedonia proper, and even there was more muted than would be typical in the poleis of southern Greece. Elsewhere in the Hellenistic world the term “Macedonian” came very quickly to represent a fighting style or a political status, not a true ethnicity. Moreover, in Asia and Africa the old Greek/barbarian dichotomy dominated,

See E. M. Anson, “Discrimination and Eumenes of Cardia,” AncW 3 (1980):
55–9; “Eumenes of Cardia” (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1975), 176–202.

Diod. 18. 53. 7, 57. 4, 58. 2–4; 19. 44. 2; Plut. Eum. 1.4, 3. 14; Nepos Eum.
6. 5, 13.

Diod. 18. 60. 1–3, 62. 7; 19. 13. 1; Plut. Eum. 8. 1; 20. 3–9; Nepos Eum. 1.
2–3.

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