Demetrios I. Poliorketes

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This is the only surviving three-dimensional representation that can be attributed to Demetrios Poliorketes. It is a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original from the Villa dei Papiri of Herculaneum , which is now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples . It shows Demetrios with a diadem and small "bull squirrels" that relate him to Dionysus and Poseidon .

Demetrios Poliorketes ( Greek Δημήτριος Πολιορκητής Dēmḗtrios Poliorkētḗs , Latin Demetrius Poliorcetes ; * around 336 BC ; †  283 BC in Apamea ) was a Macedonian general and diadochian ruler from the Antidigon .

Demetrios was one of the most prominent representatives of the varied Diadoch Wars that began after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. Under whose generals broke out. Demetrios himself was not a general of Alexander, but is still counted together with his father Antigonus I to his successors (Diadochi), since he died before Lysimachos , Ptolemaios and Seleucus . Demetrios stands out among its competitors in many ways. He fought both in Asia and Europe, conquered Athens twice and won the double battle of Salamis . At the same time he failed in the great siege of Rhodes and was mainly responsible for the defeat in the decisive battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. He led the largest armies as well as fleets and built the mightiest ships and siege engines of his time. His nickname, "the city besiegers" (Poliorketes) , indicates his military abilities in besieging and conquering cities.

Together with his father Antigonus I. Monophthalmos , Demetrios took 306 BC. BC was the first diadoche ever to have the title of king, with the claim to the sole successor of Alexander the great. Growing up in Asia, he was shaped by an oriental image of rulers, which he celebrated in the capital of the Attic democracy with lavish festivals and an extensive personality cult. This made him one of the first representatives of a new type of ruler who shaped the epoch of Hellenism . As king of Macedonia, which he brought under his control for a few years, he ultimately failed, and only his son was able to establish a stable rule over the country.


Origin and childhood

Demetrios was a son of the high-ranking Macedonian general Antigonos Monophthalmos ("the one-eyed") and his wife Stratonike . His younger brother was the later general Philip . Centuries later, the Greek philosopher and biographer Plutarch speculated that Demetrios was actually a nephew of Antigonus. Antigonus had an older brother who was also called Demetrios and had a son of the same name, whom Antigonus adopted as his own child after his own son had died early.

Antigonus belonged to the princely family of the West Macedonian Elimiotis and was a close confidante of King Philip II of Macedonia . Demetrios was born in or around 336 BC. In which King Philip II also fell victim to an assassination attempt. The father then took part in the Persian campaign of King Alexander III. of the great part and was entrusted by this after the battle of Granikos (334 BC) with the office of satrap of Phrygia , Lycia and Pamphylia (today's western Turkey). In this responsible position, Antigonus controlled the most important supply routes from Europe to Asia. Demetrios, whose childhood is unknown, probably grew up in Kelainai , his father's residence in Asia.

After the death of Alexander in Babylon in 323 BC BC Antigonus became one of the most determined opponents of the imperial regent Perdiccas , whom he fought in league with Antipater and Ptolemy during the first Diadoch war . After the assassination of Perdiccas in 320 BC BC Antigonos was one of the biggest winners at the subsequent Triparadeisos conference . He was appointed by the new regent, Antipater, as strategist (commander-in-chief) of the imperial army in Asia and confirmed in his satrapies. The understanding between Antipater and Antigonus was strengthened by a dynastic alliance in which Demetrios was married to Phila , the daughter of Antipater and widow of Krateros .

While Antigonus took up the fight against the Perdiccan Eumenes of Cardia , after the death of Antipater in 319 BC it broke out. The second diadoch war. The main actor was Antipater's son, Kassander , who succeeded Polyperchon as regent . Antigonus allied himself with Cassander after Polyperchon had taken the Asian strategy from him and allied himself with Eumenes. The war ended in 316 BC BC with the victory of Antigonus over Eumenes in the battle of Gabiene , while at the same time Cassander in Europe won over Polyperchon.

Antigonus was now at the height of his power. He ruled Asia from the Hellespont to the Indus . From this position of power he left himself in 316 BC. Proclaimed the new regent against Kassander by his army, but this triggered the third war of the Diadochs, as Kassander immediately allied himself with Ptolemy and Seleucus against him. During the siege of Tire in 314 BC In BC Antigonus proclaimed the liberation of the Greek cities with the aim of winning them as an ally in the back of Cassander. This policy should still be important for Demetrios.

The third diadoch war

Strategist in Syria

Sculpture of a male head with a diadem and two incorporated holes. It probably represents Demetrios Poliorketes or Hermes , Smyrna (Paris, Louvre)

In 313 BC BC Demetrios was appointed strategist of Syria and Koile Syria (today Palestine) by his father . There he was supposed to lead the fight against the ruling Ptolemy in Egypt , while his father in Asia Minor faced Kassander, the ruler of Macedonia and Greece. The task was therefore of particular importance, since Demetrios was also responsible for securing the Phoenician seaports.

In 312 BC BC the inexperienced Demetrios suffered a crushing defeat near Gaza against Ptolemy, one of the most capable generals of Alexander the great. He lost about 13,000 men in the field, including the general Peithon , or through captivity, and his camp, including his personal tent, was captured by the enemy. However, Ptolemy soon returned his personal possessions in an act of mutual recognition. A little later Demetrios achieved his first victory over a Ptolemaic army at Myus, whereupon he subsequently subdued the Nabataeans despite a poor supply situation . Nevertheless, the defeat at Gaza had serious consequences: Seleucus, who was in the service of Ptolemy, was able to move with a small force to Mesopotamia and there take Babylon , which was now permanently lost to the Antigonids.

In 311, the forces of the war opponents had exhausted themselves, who agreed on a peace ( Diadochian Peace ) in which the status quo was largely preserved for all conflict parties. Ptolemy continued to be the ruler of Egypt and received confirmation of the Cyprus he had conquered , just as Cassander and Lysimachus kept Macedonia and Thrace, respectively; Antigonus was able to hold Asia and Syria. Cassander, however, had to release the Greek cities, as Antigonos demanded, which he only partially implemented. In Athens , in particular , he retained his crew.

The third war of the Diadochs brought about important changes in the power structure of the Alexander Empire. 310 BC The sons of Alexander, King Alexander IV. Aigos and Heracles, and Alexander IV's mother, Roxane , were murdered by Kassander. Shortly thereafter, Antigonus had the Alexander sister Cleopatra murdered in order to prevent her planned marriage to Ptolemy. The Diadochi broke away from the old royal family's claim to power and viewed the territories they held as their own "spear-won" land. The idea of ​​the unity of the Alexander empire was still kept alive by Antigonus, albeit with his own family as a unifying bond, in place of the extinct Argeads .

The Four Years Babylonian War

see main article: Babylonian War

Seleucus was excluded from the peace of the Diadochi. This had taken Babylon, which Antigonus and Demetrios tried to recapture. But their generals failed because of Seleucus' cunning warfare. They lost 311 BC. The cities of Ekbatana and Susa , with which in fact the Persian satrapies slipped away from them. 310 BC BC Demetrios besieged Babylon twice, but had to give it up after fierce street fights. After Antigonus in 309 BC BC was also defeated in a field battle against Seleucus, he concluded a separate peace with this in which he finally gave up Mesopotamia, Persia and Bactria. The territory of the Antigonids thus shrank to Asia Minor. This enabled the Antigonids to free themselves from the threat in the east for the time being, as Seleucus then embarked on a multi-year conquest of India.

The fourth diadoch war

Landing in Piraeus and the conquest of Megara

Middle fresco on the east wall of Villa Boscoreale (Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale); Franca Landucci Gattinoni pleads for an identification of the client of the Hellenic model with Antigonos Gonatas . His mother Phila and his father Demetrios Poliorketes would then be shown. (Gattinoni: L'arte del potere. Vita e opere di Cassandro di Macedonia . Franz Steiner Verlag, 2003)

The peace did not last long. In 309 BC BC Antigonus suffered a heavy loss after his nephew Ptolemy fell away from him and allied himself with the ruler of Egypt of the same name. The nephew had once conquered most of Greece from Kassander for Antigonus and had hoped for a principality of his own. But because he did not see this fulfilled, he switched sides, with which Antigonos lost his strategically important positions in Greece. Antigonus countered this loss with the appointment of his son Demetrios as strategist of Greece and equipped him with a fleet of 250 ships and 5000 talents of silver. In recourse to the proclamation for the liberation of Greece, he let Demetrios in the spring of 307 BC. Set sail from Ephesus , with Athens as the main pillar of Kassander in Greece as a destination. This opened the fourth Diadoch War.

Passing the streets of Kythnos or Serifos , Demetrios penetrated the Myrtoic Sea and steered his fleet into the Saronic Gulf . On June 10, 307 BC He anchored in front of the entrance to the great port of Piraeus . The port crew took his ships for an Egyptian fleet of Ptolemy, the ally Cassander, and therefore let him enter. After he had made known his real intentions to the surprised delegation of the Attic citizens, Demetrios took up the siege of Munychia , in which the Kassander garrison had withdrawn.

After the Munychia had been sealed off, Demetrios moved in front of Megara , which he immediately besieged. While the siege dragged on, he is said to have put himself in danger when he heard that the beautiful princess Kratesipolis was staying in Patras . He left his troops to meet her for an intimate rendezvous. But his enemies heard of this encounter and lay in wait for him in his tent outside Patras. Only dressed in the bare essentials with a coat, he managed to escape from his enemies.

After the conquest of Megara, Demetrios, at the urging of Athens, refrained from destroying the city and was satisfied with the expulsion of the garrison. When he found out that the famous philosopher Stilpon , who had a reputation for being a connoisseur, lived in the city, he had him taken for a chat. Ignoring the death of his wife and daughter and the destruction of the philosopher's house, Demetrios asked him whether he had lost anything as a result of the siege. Stilpon replied that he had lost nothing, that he was carrying all his possessions with him (meaning his knowledge). This dialogue, especially Stilpon's saying, was quoted and interpreted in various ways by ancient authors. After Demetrios had promised to leave Stilpon as a free man, he agreed with Stilpon, pointing out that Demetrios would in fact not leave a single slave behind. Demetrios had taken all of Megara's slaves as spoils of war, which meant enormous economic damage for the city.

The first conquest of Athens

Ancient siege engines

After taking Megara, Demetrios turned back to Munychia, which he was finally able to take with specially redesigned siege engines. Two months after landing he was able to enter Athens with a ceremony.

Demetrios immediately eliminated the Kassander-supported oligarchic regime of Demetrios von Phaleron and in turn set up a new democratic authority that came to power for the first time in fifteen years. He pardoned the deposed governor Kassander because of his services to the city, even though the new democratic regime had sentenced him to death. He also acquitted the comedian Menander and the speaker Deinarchos . Demetrios von Phaleron later moved to Alexandria , where he played a key role in building the large library . Demetrios won favor with the people of Athens by providing wood from Asia free of charge, which should be sufficient for the construction of a hundred ships. He also gave them back Imbros and probably Lemnos as well, with which the loss of Athens' dominant position at sea in the previous years should be alleviated.

The old orator and Macedonian enemy Stratocles proved to be the most reliable support for Demetrios' rule in Athens . At his instigation, the Ekklesia of the city showered Demetrios and his father with obeisances of various kinds. Both were placed under the fathers of the city by adding two new golden phyls (Demetrias and Antigonis) to the ten originally existing. They were placed right next to the statues of Harmodios and Aristogeiton . They were given two crowns worth 200 talents. Her images were also woven into the sacred cloak of Athena . Furthermore, they were included among the "saving gods" (Soter) , for whom a priest should now be appointed annually. Demetrios himself was honored with his own altar (Altar of the Descending God), which was set up in the place in the city where he first got off his chariot.

Demetrios celebrated the festivities on the Acropolis , where he celebrated lavish celebrations based on the model of Dionysus . He tried to cement his ties to Athens through marriage. He married the city citizen Eurydice , the widow of the Ptolemaic general Ophellas , who was allegedly a descendant of the Attic general Miltiades the Younger . He took no offense at his first, still existing and legal marriage to Phila, making him the first Hellenistic ruler to live polygamous .

The triumph of Salamis (306 BC)

Although Demetrios in 306 BC BC was still busy with the fight in Greece, he was encouraged by his father to pull the fleet against Ptolemy. In the past few years he had established a dominant position in the eastern Mediterranean and threatened to cut Antigonos off from Greece. Demetrios sailed with about 200 ships and about 15,000 men towards Cyprus, which was held by Ptolemy brother, Menelaus .

Demetrios landed unmolested on the north coast of the island near Karpasia . After quickly capturing this city, he moved to the center of the island. A few kilometers from Salamis , Menelaus confronted him with around 12,000 infantrymen and 800 cavalrymen. Demetrios was able to overrun the less motivated opponent who withdrew behind the city walls of Salamis. A siege ring was immediately drawn around this city. Demetrios had craftsmen, wood and metal brought in from Asia in order to build the largest and most sophisticated machines for the upcoming siege, including the famous Helepolis ("city taker"). According to the historian Diodorus , however, the effort should not have been worth it, since Menelaus was able to set the tower on fire in a nightly failure, which then burned down completely.

At the same time Ptolemy reached the island with about 150 warships and 200 transport ships and, in the hope of averting a losing battle, offered Demetrios a free retreat. Demetrios countered with a counter-offer to let Ptolemy in turn draw unscathed if this it the Greek cities of Corinth and Sicyon aushändige. After Ptolemy had turned down the offer as expected, Demetrios sailed towards him with his fleet. Some of his ships were seven oars, but most of them only had five rows of oars. Menelaus attempted to help his brother with 60 ships, but was stopped by 10 Demetrios ships, which blocked the port exit of Salamis. At the same time, Demetrios had the ships captured in this way bombarded with catapults that were set up on protruding headlands. Demetrios decided the naval battle with a violent attack, in which he succeeded in overpowering the center and the right wing of the opposing fleet and pushing them to the coast of Cyprus. Over 80 enemy ships were sunk or badly damaged and 70 captured, Ptolemy himself escaped with only eight.

In addition to the ships, Demetrios looted Ptolemy's entire war treasure and captured his entire immediate retinue, including his son, Leontiskos , and the flute player Lamia . Now with no prospect of relief, Menelaus also surrendered and handed over the city, as well as the fleet and army, to Demetrios. Demetrios used the booty to give the people of Athens 1,200 complete armor as a gift. He released the prisoners Menelaus and Leontiskos unconditionally as a revenge for Ptolemy's noble behavior after the battle of Gaza.

The year of the kings

Tetra-drachms of Demetrios Poliorketes
left: profile of his head, crowned with the diadem,
right: the embossing ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ (German: Basileus Demetrios ), as well as a Poseidon holding a trident

After this victory Demetrios sent a messenger to his father, who was probably staying in the recently founded city of Antigoneia (later Antioch). After the public proclamation of the victory, the army assembly proclaimed Antigonus to be the new king ( Basileus ) and tied a diadem around his head. At his behest, a diadem was also sent to Demetrios, whom he immediately addressed as King in an accompanying letter. Through his kingdom won in this way, Antigonus laid claim to the legitimate successor to Alexander the great in the kingdom conquered and undivided by him.

In the following year Demetrios sailed with his fleet against the Egyptian coast, while at the same time his father pulled up with about 80,000 men and 83 elephants by land. The landing of Demetrios' troops was repulsed by the Ptolemaic troops and after a storm had destroyed a considerable part of the fleet, Antigonus decided to break off the attack. He did not want to suffer a fate similar to that of Perdiccas once (321 BC) on the Nile .

In response to the ascension of Antigonus and Demetrios to the king, 305 BC took place. BC also Ptolemy, Cassander, Seleucus and Lysimachos the title of king. On the one hand, they rejected the claim to sole rule of the Antigonids in the Alexander Empire, but on the other hand they questioned the unity of the empire in general, since they themselves made no personal claims to the entire empire, but limited their kingships to the areas they ruled: Ptolemy in Egypt, Cassander in Macedonia, Seleucus in Mesopotamia and Lysimachus in Thrace. Demetrios and his father consequently refused them recognition as kings. Later, on the occasion of the re-establishment of the Corinthian League (302 BC), Demetrios claimed to be the "only king" and demonstratively demoted the other rulers to his office holders; He gave Ptolemy the rank of "Admiral", Seleukos that of "Commander of the elephant troops ", Agathokles he appointed "Island Commander" and Lysimachus "Treasurer" (gazophylax) , an office that was usually occupied by eunuchs . Of course, he ignored his main opponent Kassander, as the declared enemy of the Reich.

The Siege of Rhodes (305-304 BC)

On the return journey from Egypt Demetrios decided to attack the independent Rhodes . The island appeared largely neutral in the Diadoch Wars, but with its strong fleet it often favored Ptolemy against the unity of Antigonus. Demetrios wanted to eliminate this constant threat to unrestricted rule in the Aegean region , for which he assembled 200 warships and 170 transport ships of all sizes, as well as 1,000 pirate ships and no fewer than 40,000 men.

After landing in the south of the island in front of the capital of the same name, Demetrios immediately began the siege. This huge undertaking is considered the pinnacle of ancient siege technology. Demetrios used, among other things, two four-story siege towers erected on ships to press the city's port from the sea. After these were destroyed by Rhodian fires after a fierce battle, he had a breach made in the harbor wall with large catapults, but the defenders were able to hold it back. Demetrios managed to conquer the harbor dam, but lost it after a counterattack by the Rhodians.

The Colossus of Rhodes in an illustration from the 19th century.

At the onset of winter Demetrios continued the siege from the land. As with Salamis, he had more than 25,000 craftsmen build a new Helepolis that was bigger than its predecessor. It rose on a four-sided base of 50 cubits each, to approximately 100 cubits in height. It was protected from fire arrows by sheet metal cladding on three sides and had several openings for guns of all kinds on its front. It was served by around 3,400 soldiers. To do this, he had two rams built, each 125 meters long, each served by 1,000 men. In the meantime, the Rhodians improved their situation by daring their fleet several failures from their port and disrupting Demetrios' supplies at sea. They received help from the Ptolemaic fleet, which managed to steer a large delivery of grain into the port. The defenders also received supplies of food and weapons from Lysimachus and Kassander.

While the engineering was progressing, Demetrios visited several times the famous painter Protogenes , who lived in his workshop outside the walls of the city. In response to his astonishment as to why the artist continued to work on his paintings despite the fighting, he declared that Demetrios was at war with the city and not with art. During this time, Protogenes' most famous painting, The Sleeping Satyr, was created .

In the spring of 304 BC The construction work and the leveling of the field in front of the city for the machines were finished. After two attacks on the city wall, Demetrios managed to break a breach, but the defenders had already built a second wall behind it, which was now additionally protected by the rubble of the breach. Behind her they built a third wall and dug a trench in front of the breach. At the same time, they continued to carry out pirate attacks on Demetrios' grain trucks with their ships. In one night, Demetrios and 1,500 selected warriors undertook a final attack through the breach. His troops advanced to the city theater, but were again repulsed by the defenders. Demetrios wanted to continue the fight until envoys from his father, but also from the Aitolian League and from Athens, appeared. They made it clear to him that Cassander was on the advance in Greece and was already besieging Athens.

Demetrios made peace with Rhodes and promised to respect the island's independence. In return, the Rhodians took one hundred hostages and vowed to obey the orders of Antigonus in the future. The siege was considered a success by the Antigonid propaganda, Demetrios' nickname goes back to it. The Rhodians, on the other hand, saw themselves as the actual victors because of their bitter and successful defense. Openly they made it clear by giving Ptolemy the honorary title of “Savior” (Soter) for his support. The most visible sign of their victory, however, was the monumental statue they erected in honor of the sun god Helios , which they erected in the entrance of their port from the material of the siege engines that Demetrios had left behind. As the Colossus of Rhodes , this symbol of victory went down in history as one of the Seven Wonders of the World .

Hegemon of Greece

Demetrios entered in the late autumn of 304 BC BC with 330 ships near Aulis again on Greek soil. Since he now threatened to cut off Cassander from Macedonia, he forced him to break off the siege of Athens and to retreat from Attica . Demetrios pursued him through Thermopylae and took Herakleia . He then drove Kassander's crews from the fortresses Phyle and Panakton, which he handed over to Athens. With the Aitolian and Boeotian League , he concluded an alliance directed against Kassander. After his triumphal entry into Athens, he took up residence in the Parthenon of the Acropolis , where he spent the winter of 303 BC. Chr. With new festivities and sat in scene as the brother of Athena . He now appeared more and more clearly as the true master of the city and also sat in judgment on the citizens. Stratocles passed the resolution in the popular assembly, according to which all orders of Demetrius should be regarded as sacred to the gods and to men. However, Demochares objected to this, for which he was banned.

In the following year Demetrios opened a major offensive and successively took Argos and Corinth as well as large parts of Achaia and Arcadia . The old royal city of Sikyon was destroyed and its population resettled a little above the old town. The conqueror took care of the fortification of the new acropolis, which according to his wishes was to be called Demetrias, but the name change did not last. On the occasion of a Herafeier in Argos he took Deidameia, the sister of Pyrrhus, as third wife. Then he tried to subjugate the rest of the Peloponnese , which still ruled Polyperchon. He conquered Bura , Skyros and Aigion , other cities submitted to him without a fight. Then he invited a synhedrion to Corinth, where he renewed the Corinthian League and was appointed by him as the hegemon of Hellas . For the rest of the year Demetrios undertook extensive armaments that were to lead to the decisive blow against Kassander. He wanted to move to Macedonia with around 8,000 Macedonians, 15,000 mercenaries and 25,000 Hellenic federal troops.

In the meantime Demetrios was initiated into the Mysteries of Eleusis in Athens . For this purpose, the traditional ordinance laws were bent, which stipulated that the minor ordinations should be performed in the month of Anthesterion (February) and the major ordinations two years later in the month of Boëdromion (October). Since Demetrios did not want to spend that much time, Stratocles simply left the month of Munychion (probably April) of the year 303 BC. Rename first to Anthesterion and then to Boedromion and date a year later so that the city lord could receive the ordinations quickly. Demetrios again held lavish festivals in the Parthenon and was sung about by the citizens of the city as the son of Poseidon and Aphrodite and brought together with the fertility goddess Demeter . He himself is said to have humiliated the flatterers and wooers of the city at will, for his amusement by dedicating several Aphrodite temples to his hetaera Lamia and giving her the gold donated by the city so that she could buy herself make-up .

Decision at Ipsos (301 BC)

During Demetrios until the end of the year 302 BC. After finishing his armor, Kassander and Lysimachos joined forces militarily to fend off the impending attack by Demetrios. After Ptolemy joined the alliance, they decided to go on the offensive themselves, but against Antigonus in Asia. Lysimachus besieged Abydos , but Demetrios was able to relieve him with his fleet. Then a general of Lysimachus conquered the Antigonid city of Ephesus , whose democracy was abolished and the fleet burned. There Demetrios also lost his Rhodian hostages, which were freed and were able to return to their homeland. Furthermore, Teos and Colophon also surrendered ; Erythrai and Klazomenai could be held. The situation worsened for the Antigonids after the satrap Phoinix fell from them to Lysimachus and took the strategically important satrapy of the Hellespontic Phrygia with him. Lysimachus himself moved with an army into central Anatolia and threatened Kelainai, but had his army buried in a permanent position when Antigonus approached him with an army via Cilicia . At the same time Seleucus returned from his Indian campaign to Asia Minor and took up alliance negotiations with Lysimachus.

In this situation Demetrios was summoned to Asia by his father with his entire army, which meant that the offensive against Kassander had to be canceled. With his fleet, Demetrios recaptured Ephesus, which had been lost shortly before, and sealed off the Hellespont with 3,000 warriors and 30 ships. An army of Cassander, commanded by his brother Pleistarchus , had to take a detour via Odessos and the Black Sea on the way to Asia . Thereupon Demetrios defeated an army of Lysimachos at Lampsakos , whose luggage he captured. Shortly afterwards, the Epirot king Pyrrhus, who had been driven out of his kingdom by Kassander, arrived in Demetrios' camp. After the arrival of Seleucus had got around in Asia Minor, Demetrios also moved in the first half of 301 BC. BC with his army further east to unite with his father.

The collapsed empire of Alexander after the battle of Ipsos
Seleukos (yellow)
Lysimachus (orange)
Ptolemaios (blue)
Cassander (green)

In the near Ipsos the army of Antigonid hit each other with their combined opponents. Together, Antigonus and Demetrios commanded about 70,000 infantrymen, 10,000 cavalrymen, 120 sickle chariots and 75 elephants, while their opponents were able to muster around 64,000 infantrymen, 10,500 cavalrymen and over 400 elephants that Seleucus had brought from India. On the morning of the battle, the aged Antigonus allegedly stumbled as he left his tent. On his knees he is said to have raised his arms to heaven and asked the gods for a victory or a quick death without knowledge of a defeat. Antigonus took command of the infantry, which was divided into three phalanges (Macedonians, Hellenic federal troops and mercenaries), while Demetrios led the cavalry. The battle began with an attack by the cavalry of both armies as the opposing phalanxes moved towards each other. Before the cavalry wedges could break into the ranks of the opposing army, they met each other. Demetrios allowed himself to be lured away from the battlefield by his opponent, led by Antiochus , in the course of the battle . Seleucus took advantage of this by pushing his elephant phalanx like a wall between Antigonos and Demetrios. This prevented Demetrios from returning to the battlefield, where Antigonus was now alone against the enemy. Even during the hard battle, the mercenaries of Antigonus defected to the enemy. After his phalanx was overrun by the enemy, Antigonus plunged himself into battle without armor and eventually fell. Allegedly he had hoped for a victory until the end, because he believed Demetrios would come back to him in time after he had bypassed the elephant wall.

The death of Antigonus decided both the battle and the fourth war of the Diadochs. The fallen was then buried by Seleucus in an honorable manner, according to the dignity of a king. The Asian dominion of the Antigonids was divided among the victors. Lysimachus got western Asia Minor, Seleucus secured Syria and Central Anatolia, Pleistarchus got Cilicia. With the Battle of Ipsos, however, the idea of ​​the unity of the Alexander Empire came to an end, because none of the victorious Diadochi still pursued such an idea. Demetrios continued to represent his father's claim, but no longer had the opportunity to implement it.

Sea control

A coin from Demetrios Poliorketes. In addition to the diadem, this depiction also shows his characteristic bull horns on his head. On the one hand, they relate him to Dionysus, alluding to his way of life , and on the other hand, because of his appearance as "Sea King" with Poseidon (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art )

Demetrios himself was able to escape captivity with about 5,000 men and 4,000 riders and turned to Ephesus, where his fleet of about 300 ships was waiting. He first sailed to Cilicia, where he took his mother in and brought her to Cyprus. Thereupon he returned to Ephesus to get rid of his governor, who had tried to surrender the city to Lysimachus. When Demetrios wanted to sail to Athens, he was turned away by an Attic embassy, ​​which denied him entry to the city. This ended his rule in Athens and in large parts of Greece, which, following the order of the day, came closer to Kassander. Only Megara and Corinth and with it the isthmus remained under his control. Demetrios' mainstay of power was now his fleet, his kingdom the sea. In addition to the Aegean islands of the Nesiotenbund , he was able to maintain control of some port cities in Asia Minor (e.g. Ephesus), Phenicia (Tire, Sidon) and Cyprus.

From the sea Demetrios continued to act against his enemies and carried out pirate-like raids on their port cities, which he plundered. He subordinated his remaining troops in Greece to 300 BC. His friend Pyrrhos and attacked Lysimachus on the Chersonesos peninsula (Gallipoli). In the meantime, his position in power politics improved, as the alliance of the four kings established against his father broke up immediately after the battle of Ipsos. Because of the rule over Koilesyria, Seleucus fell out with Ptolemy, who then fell in 299 BC. Entered into an alliance with Lysimachus. In return, Seleukos made contact with Demetrios, who agreed on a mutual peace. Now having a free hand in Asia, Demetrios landed on the coast of Cilicia, there drove Pleistarchus out and seized his treasure. Then he met in 298 BC. BC in the Syrian town of Rhossos with Seleukos, whom he entertained on a thirteen-row grand ship. By marrying his daughter Stratonike to the ruler of Asia, Demetrios secured the alliance dynastically. In the same year, probably after the occupation of Samaria and Gaza by Demetrios, Ptolemy was forced to give in and made peace with Demetrios through the mediation of Seleucus. In addition, Demetrios married the daughter of the king of Egypt, Ptolemais, and sent Pyrrhus as a hostage to Alexandria .

Return to Greece

The second capture of Athens

A decisive turning point occurred in 297 BC. With the death of Kassander. Freed from his strongest adversary in Greece, Demetrios set sail towards Attica the following year to recapture Athens. There had been stasis there since 301 between the politicians Charias and Lachares , who had leaned politically to Kassander, while the defeated group around Charias Demetrios called over. Charias had since been executed, but his party was occupying Piraeus. Near the Attic coast, Demetrios' fleet was hit by a storm that killed many ships. Weakened in terms of personnel, Demetrios initially decided on a train to the Peloponnese. There he conquered Messene , where a catapult bullet pierced his cheek, and other cities. Then he turned against Athens, where Lachares hastily concluded a defensive alliance with King Philip IV of Macedonia through Demochares . His death on the way to Athens favored the offensive of Demetrios, who, reinforced by new ships, conquered Aigina, Salamis , Eleusis and Rhamnus . While he was gradually bringing Attica under his control, he sent envoys to Piraeus who made contact with the enemies of the Lachares there. After Demetrios had driven out a transport fleet of Ptolemy with aid deliveries for Athens with his fleet by means of a threatening gesture, Lachares decided to flee the city disguised as a farmer. In later tradition, including Plutarch, he was denigrated as a tyrant . Only since the discovery of a fragment of a historical work preserved on papyrus has it been known that the events were preceded by a civil war in Athens.

No sooner had Lachares fled than Demetrios was killed in 294 BC. The entry into the city granted. He immediately restored "democracy" and had the Ekklesia assemble in the city's theater. There he forgave the citizens of the city for their garbage seven years earlier and gave them 100,000 bushels of grain to fight the famine caused by the siege. At the suggestion of the speaker Dromokleides, the Ekklesia agreed to give Munychias and Piraeus to Demetrios. This also had the Museion occupied with its own garrison. The renewed establishment of Demetrius as ruler in Greece had made his alliances with Seleucus and Ptolemy, concluded a few years earlier, invalid again. This cost him his cities in Koilesyria. The return of Pyrrhus to his Epirotic kingdom in 296 BC was even more far-reaching. With the support of Ptolemy. The former friend now became the most dangerous rival in Europe for Demetrios, who also allied himself with Lysimachus.

King of Macedonia

Ptolemy had made contact with Sparta at the same time and induced its king, Archidamos IV , to campaign against Demetrius. Demetrios went against the Spartans and set fire to the forest of Mount Lykaios, in which they had hidden. He pursued the fleeing Spartians and beat them in the valley of the Eurotas . He was on the verge of conquering Sparta when, in Asia, Ephesus was conquered by Lysimachus and the Phoenician cities by Seleucus. In the end, Cyprus was lost forever to Ptolemy, in whose captivity the entire Demetrios family fell, but they were soon released to Greece. Furthermore, Pyrrhus went offensively in Macedonia, where he occupied the western regions of the country. Demetrios renounced a conquest of Sparta and hurriedly withdrew with his army from Laconia. The Spartans dared to leave their city, attacked him in a bottleneck and destroyed his entourage.

After Demetrios quickly appeared at Chaironeia , the Boeotian League submitted to him. He founded another Demetrias on the Gulf of Volos . Although Thebes continued to resist, Demetrios first moved to Macedonia, where order was dissolved due to a bloody conflict in the ruling family. He had been called to help by King Alexander V himself, but when Demetrios and his army set out from the Peloponnese, the king had already been able to assert himself on the throne against his brother. Alexander met Demetrios at Dion's , hoping to persuade him to withdraw. According to Plutarch's not always reliable account, the young king feared Demetrios would dispute his throne and decided to kill him at a banquet. However, this was prevented by Demetrios' caution. The next day, in order not to arouse suspicion, Alexander accompanied Demetrios to Larisa in Thessaly . According to Plutarch, Demetrios was excused at a meal together because he had important matters to do. Fearing that this was a secret signal, Alexander also stood up to accompany Demetrios out of the tent. At the exit, however, Demetrios called out to the guards: "Kill the one who follows me," whereupon Alexander was slain. In death he is said to have cursed, if he had lived just one day longer, it would have been Demetrios who lay dead.

Before the Macedonian army assembly, Demetrios evidently justified the act as an act of self-defense. He pointed out that he and his father had always been the most loyal representatives for the house of Alexander the great, while the Kassander family was responsible for the murder of him and the old royal family. In fact, Demetrios was proclaimed the new king of Macedonia by the warriors. He quickly received contractual recognition from his most important rival, Lysimachos, because he needed his strength to fight the Geten .

Lord of Greece

Demetrios now set about subjugating the rest of Greece. He turned against the strong Thebes, which had allied themselves with Sparta. With the help of his machines, including the Helepolis , he besieged the city and then moved into Boeotia, where he installed the historian Hieronymos von Kardia as governor. After a conspiracy of oppositional forces in Athens was uncovered, Demetrios had the Museion fortified and placed an additional Macedonian garrison in the city.

Despite his peace with Lysimachus, Demetrios fell in 293 BC. In his Thracian kingdom after Lysimachus was captured by the Geten. Thereupon Pyrrhus allied himself with the Boeotians and advanced with an army in Thessaly to Thermopylae. When the Getes had released Lysimachus for their part, Demetrios gave up his campaign in Thrace to turn against Pyrrhus. He drove him from the Thermophyls and invaded Boeotia. Then he turned back to Thebes, which he stormed at the risk of his own life. Despite a serious arrow wound on his neck, he succeeded in 290 BC. The conquest of the city. At the intercession of his son Antigonus , Demetrios treated the defenders mildly, but had a dozen of them executed. Although he also gave Thebes a democratic constitution, he had the Kadmeia provided with a crew that was to guarantee his rule over the city in the future.

Demetrios was now ruler of the entire Greek area; only Sparta, Aitolia, and Lokris were not yet subjugated. When the Locrians refused to participate in the Pythian Games of Delphi due to their hostility to Demetrios , Demetrios ordered the cult of the Pythias to be relocated to Athens, as this city was more right than anyone else. In the winter of 290 BC BC Demetrios moved his court back to Macedonia, where he received an embassy from the old tyrant Agathocles of Syracuse . For the purpose of a common alliance against Pyrrhus, Demetrios married his daughter Lanassa , who brought him the island of Korkyra as a dowry into the marriage. Presumably Demetrios was aiming for a union of the Sicilian Greeks with his kingdom through this alliance, which is probably why he had planned a piercing of the isthmus and established diplomatic contacts with Rome .

In 289 BC BC Demetrios opened an offensive against Pyrrhus and subjugated the Aitolians allied with him. Leaving his general Pantauchos behind, he then marched through Epiros, plundering and crossing to Korkyra, where he married Lanassa. Pyrrhos used this for a counterattack on Aitolien, which he brought back under his control, where he seriously wounded Pantauchos in a duel. Because of this defeat, Demetrios rushed back to Macedonia with his army.

End of rule in Macedonia

There he evidently soon turned his subjects against him through an increasingly despotic style of government. The later Greek tradition describes his kingship as a real tyranny . He ignored the Macedonian army assembly, which was used to taking part in the political decision-making process, and alienated himself from the warriors through his lavish oriental lifestyle. He imposed a submissive court ceremony on his subordinates and, as it is said, rarely allowed supplicants to come to him. An Attic embassy had to wait two years before granting it an audience. It is unclear how credible these accounts are, but there are many indications that Demetrios' rule rested on a weak foundation. When he was finally confined to bed by an illness, Pyrrhos of Epiros plundered Macedonia and penetrated as far as Edessa , after several units of Demetrius overflowed to him. Demetrios made a peace with the king of Epiros, in which he formally ceded western Macedonia to him. After the death of Agathocles of Syracuse, he renounced an expansion to the west, which he left to Pyrrhus, who therefore later set out on his famous campaign in Italy.

The winter to the year 288 BC. Chr. Demetrios used for large-scale armor, which should serve for a conquest of Asia to restore the Alexander Empire. He pulled together more than 98,000 infantry and almost 12,000 horsemen. In the shipyards of Piraeus, Corinth, Chalkis and Pella , he had 500 ships built, the largest fleet ever to have sailed in the Mediterranean. These included the largest seaworthy warships of antiquity, with up to sixteen row benches and gigantic superstructures. The Ptolemies in Egypt were later to build even larger ships, but they were used for representative pomp and were not seaworthy. These armaments were probably the final decisive factor in the end of Demetrius' rule in Europe. A project of this magnitude would have to use up the entire material, financial and human resources of its territory. Droysen assumed up to 300,000 people that Demetrios had to spend on building and maintaining this war machine.

When Demetrios' preparations for war became known, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy found themselves in the year 288 BC. BC once again, as already against his father, in an alliance against him. Pyrrhus also joined this a little later. Ptolemy sent a fleet to the Aegean and called on all Greek cities to desert Demetrios, while Lysimachus was advancing into upper Macedonia. Demetrios handed the strategy over Greece to his son, Antigonos Gonatas , and personally moved against Lysimachus. Meanwhile, Pyrrhus conquered Beroia , penetrated to the Aegean coast and threatened Pella. Demetrios then hurried back and set up camp at Beroia opposite the army of Pyrrhus. There his warriors ran over to the king of Epiros in droves, so that Demetrios fled to Kassandreia in disguise to set sail with his fleet waiting there. His first wife, Phila, in desperation at every rescue, committed suicide from a poisonous drink.

Demetrios met his son in Boeotia and was able to take Corinth and Thebes for his cause. In Athens, however, the population rose under the leadership of Olympiodorus , who drove the garrison from the Museion and allied with Pyrrhus. Demetrios gathered 11,000 men with whom he besieged Athens. The new city leaders sent the highly respected philosopher Krates to his camp, who asked him for peace. With the appeal that a preservation of the venerable Athens would serve Demetrios' reputation forever for the best, he finally broke off the siege and released the city from his rule. After his departure, Pyrrhus reached the city that allowed him to enter. He made a sacrifice to the goddess Athena on the acropolis and, when leaving the city, admonished the city's citizens never to open their gates to a king again. Then Pyrrhus and Demetrios made a peace in which the latter probably accepted all previous losses.

Asian campaign

Bust of Seleucus
(Paris, Louvre)

Demetrios came across in 287 BC BC with his fleet and an important military force at sea. He left his son in Europe, who from then on represented the Antigonid cause there. He first landed in Miletus , where he first met his longtime wife, Ptolemais. A little later she gave birth to his second son of the same name. Demetrios quickly passed through the regions of Lydia and Caria, where he took several cities from Lysimachos, including Sardis . Lysimachus sent his son, Agathocles , to meet him with an army, before which he retreated to Phrygia with the aim of reaching Armenia . Persecuted by Agathocles, Demetrios crossed the Lyksos with great losses and was pushed further and further into the mountains of Cilicia. Due to a poor supply situation and a spreading epidemic, he lost several thousand men in the autumn. After he had crossed the Tauros he was stuck in Cilicia because Agathocles had sealed off all passes leading north.

As the situation for his army deteriorated further, Demetrios asked Seleucus for help through an embassy. This allowed his former father-in-law to bring his army to the winter quarters in Cataonia and asked him to put several hostages. Demetrios refused this formal submission and began to plunder the surrounding countryside. He succeeded in conquering the passes to Syria at Issus, which made him dangerous for Seleucus. Then a new disease struck him that turned him off for a month. During this time, large parts of his troops overflowed to Seleucus. In the spring of 286 BC BC Demetrios advanced into the Kyrrhestic landscape, where he was finally placed by Seleucus. Before a battle broke out, Seleucus was able to convince the marked troops of his opponent to overflow; only a few loyal ones accompanied Demetrios on the escape into the Aman mountains. After food problems and the desertion of other companions, Demetrios surrendered and surrendered to Seleucus.

Captivity and death

Demetrios was treated by Seleucus with the utmost respect for a king. A strong guard brought him to Apamea on the Orontes , which was not far from Antigoneia, his father's former capital, which was now called Antiocheia. There he was allowed to set up a courtyard and the hunting grounds, riding arenas and gardens were opened for his own use.

For Seleukos Demetrios became a bargaining chip. Lysimachus had seized several Greek cities, which the meanwhile united Antigonos Gonatas and Pyrrhos could not prevent. The rising power of Lysimachus became a serious threat to Seleucus as well. Antigonus offered everything he still owned and himself as a hostage for the release of his father, and even Ptolemy and Pyrrhus stood up for their old opponent. Lysimachus, on the other hand, offered Seleukos 2000 talents for eliminating Demetrios, which was immediately rejected by Seleukos, since Demetrios was once his own and now his son's father-in-law. Demetrios himself accepted his imprisonment. He sent his diadem to his son and told him to consider his father dead. In no case should he divulge the few positions that Antigonus held for him.

Demetrios spent the last years of his life with dice games and extravagant festivities. He was probably suffering from alcoholism . Physically weakened by excessive drinking, he died three years later at the age of fifty-four after illness. Like his father before him, Demetrios received an honorable funeral from his opponent Seleucus . His ashes were brought to his son in Greece in a golden urn. In front of Corinth, the urn adorned with purple and a diadem was displayed for which the flute player Xenophantos played a funeral song. She was brought overland to Demetrias in Thessaly and was solemnly buried.

Six years after Demetrios' death, his son, Antigonos Gonatas, conquered the Macedonian kingdom and finally secured its throne for the Antigonid dynasty. Until the Roman conquest in 168 BC. They kept dominion in Macedonia.

Wives and children


The main source is Plutarch , who compared Demetrios in his parallel biography of the same name (Bíoi parálleloi) with the Roman triumvir Marcus Antonius . It is the only surviving ancient depiction that is directly dedicated to Demetrios Poliorketes. As a great moralist, Plutarch wrote a total of 48 biographies (46 of which are still preserved), each time comparing an important Greek to an equally important Roman. Most of the time he presented very virtuous men as examples of behavior worth imitating, but especially with his sketch of Demetrios and Antonius he wanted to portray a significantly less exemplary couple. Even if Plutarch honored some of Demetrios' positive qualities in his work, such as his abilities as a general, his mildness towards the subjugated and human greatness towards the conquered, he described him as a morally deterrent negative example of statecraft. Demetrios only used his positive character traits in hours of greatest desperation to change his fate for the better; as soon as he regained power, however, he dropped it, surrendered to the diversion and neglected his duties as ruler, which in the end cost him everything. Plutarch was less of a historian than a biographer and liked to forego depicting the actions of the people he portrayed in a historical context in favor of a broader account of their private lives. Historical inaccuracies are therefore not infrequently found in the ancient biographer.

For his part, Plutarch based his work on the traditions of the ancient historians Hieronymos of Kardia and Duris of Samos, which today are only fragmentary . He also drew the works of the historians Diodor ( Διόδωρου Σικελιώτου Βιβλιοθήκη Ἱστορική , Diodori Siculi Bibliotheca historica ) and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Vita Deinachs) .

A supplementary source for Demetrios' vita was the biography of Pyrrhus, also written by Plutarch. For the period up to 301 BC. In addition, the completely preserved volumes 19 and 20 of Diodor's world history are historically very important.




Lexicon article


  • Hermann Bengtson : rulers of the Hellenism. CH Beck, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-406-00733-3 , p. 63 ff.
  • Hermann Bengtson: The Diadochi. The successors of Alexander the great. CH Beck, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-406-32068-6 .
  • Kostas Buraselis: Hellenistic Macedonia and the Aegean Sea. Research on the politics of Cassander and the first three Antigonids (Antigonos Monophthalmos, Demetrios Poliorketes and Antigonos Gonatas) in the Aegean Sea and in western Asia Minor (= Munich contributions to papyrus research and ancient legal history. Volume 73). CH Beck, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-406-07673-4 (partly also dissertation, University of Marburg 1978/1979).
  • Steffen Diefenbach: Demetrios I. Poliorketes (306–282 BC). In: Kay Ehling , Gregor Weber (Ed.): Hellenistic Kingdoms. Zabern, Darmstadt 2014, ISBN 978-3-8053-4758-7 , p. 36 ff.
  • Steffen Diefenbach: Demetrius Poliorcetes and Athens. In: Henning Börm (Ed.): Antimonarchic Discourse in Antiquity. Steiner, Stuttgart 2015, ISBN 978-3-515-11095-2 , p. 113 ff.
  • Boris Dreyer : Studies on the history of late classical Athens (322 - approx. 230 BC) (= Historia. Individual writings. Volume 137). Steiner, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-515-07531-3 (also dissertation, University of Göttingen 1997).
  • Graham Shipley: The Greek World After Alexander, 323-30 BC. Routledge, London / New York 2000, ISBN 0-415-04618-1 .
  • Pat Wheatley, Charlotte Dunn: Demetrius the Conqueror. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2020, ISBN 978-0-198-83604-9 .

Web links


  1. To identify the bust, see Roland RR Smith: Hellenistic Sculpture. A handbook. Thames & Hudson, London / New York 1991, p. 21 f. ( Digitized version ), or HP Laubscher: Hellenistic rulers and Pan. In: Communications from the German Archaeological Institute, Athenian Department. Volume 100, 1985, pp. 333-353, here: pp. 336 f.
  2. Plutarch, Demetrios 2
  3. Plutarch, Demetrios 5
  4. Diodor, Libraries 20.45 f.
  5. a b Plutarch, Demetrios 9
  6. Stilpon of Megara was known in his youth as a drinker and womanizer.
  7. Seneca : De Constantia Sapientis 5, 6 - “Nihil; omnia mea mecum sunt. "(" Nothing; all my belongings are with me. ")
  8. Seneca: Epistulae morales ad Lucilium - "Omnia bona mea mecum sunt." ("All my goods are with me.")
  9. Diogenes Laertios had Stilpon add that no one had carried away his education and that he still had his reason and knowledge. ( Life and Teaching of the Philosophers 2, 115)
  10. Diodor, Libraries 20,46,4.
  11. Diodorus 20,46,1-4 - The value of the crowns appears unusually high; the value of the gold statues was probably included.
  12. Plutarch, Demetrios 10
  13. Plutarch, Demetrios 2 to 3
  14. Plutarch, Demetrios 15
  15. After Diodorus only 40 ships were captured.
  16. The battle of Salamis is described by Plutarch in Demetrios 16 to 18.
  17. Plutarch, Demetrios 16 to 18
  18. Historian fragment (possibly Zenon of Rhodes ) on the "Year of Kings", P. Cologne VI 247, translated by Dr. Gregor Weber
  19. Diodor, Libraries 20, 48, 2; 20, 91, 2f.
  20. Pliny Natural History 35, 104
  21. Plutarch, Demetrios 24
  22. Demetrias was called Sicyon again very soon. Not to be confused with Demetrias, also founded by Demetrios, in the Magnisia prefecture .
  23. Demochares in Athenaios VI, p. 253. ( FrGrHist. ) - The Ithyphallos , which was sung for the consecration of Demetrios, has been handed down through Duris of Samos .
  24. There is no exact time for the Battle of Ipsos. Diodor's world history calls the year 302 BC. According to Julian calendar, in which he mentioned the battle.
  25. The exact geographic location of Ipsos is also unknown. It was probably near Synnada in central Anatolia.
  26. Antigonus was in the 81st year of his life.
  27. The battle of Ipsos is described in Plutarch, Demetrios 28 to 29
  28. Plutarch, Demetrios 33
  29. Pap. Oxy. 2082.
  30. Plutarch, Demetrios 34
  31. Plutarch, Pyrrhos 5
  32. The Lykaiosberg, not far from Mantineia in Arcadia.
  33. ^ Plutarch, Demetrios 35.
  34. Plutarch, Demetrios 39
  35. Plutarch, Demetrios 40
  36. Lanassa had already been married to Pyrrhus but separated from him because he had lived a polygamous life. Marriage to Demetrios was no improvement in this regard, but it was probably not asked at all.
  37. ^ Strabo I, p. 54 and Strabo V, p. 232
  38. Plutarch, Pyrrhos 7
  39. Agathocles was 289 BC. Chr. Dying, supposedly because he was poisoned by his son. If the testimony of Diodorus can be believed, he was burned alive by an envoy from Demetrius. - Diodor, libraries 21, 16, 5
  40. ^ Droysen, History of Hellenism , Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 1, p. 22
  41. ^ Plutarch, Demetrios 44
  42. ^ Plutarch, Demetrios 45
  43. Plutarch, Pyrrhos 12
  44. a b Plutarch, Demetrios 53
  45. Plutarch, Demetrios 49
  46. ^ Plutarch, Demetrios 51
  47. ^ Plutarch, Demetrios 52
predecessor Office successor
Antigonus I. Monophthalmos King in Greece and Asia
306–283 BC Chr.
Antigonus II Gonatas
Alexander V. and Antipater I. King of Macedonia
294–287 BC Chr.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on June 4, 2009 .