Battle of Ipsos

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Battle of Ipsos
Part of: Diadoch Wars
The Diadochin Empire before the Battle of Ipsos.
The Diadochin Empire before the Battle of Ipsos.
date Summer 301 BC Chr.
place Ipsos / Turkey
output Victory of the Diadoch coalition
consequences End of the Alexander Empire
Parties to the conflict


Coalition of the Diadochi


Antigonos Monophthalmos
Demetrios Poliorketes


Troop strength
according to Plutarch:
70,000 infantrymen
10,000 cavalrymen
75 elephants
according to Plutarch:
64,000 infantrymen
10,500 cavalrymen
400 elephants
120 chariots



The battle of Ipsos was in 301 BC. Chr. A high point in the struggles of the Diadochi the legacy of Alexander the Great . It took place near the ancient site of Ipsos in western Anatolia, in what is now western Turkey , which cannot be precisely located . For many historians, the battle also marked the final end of the Alexander Empire , which then fell into the so-called Diadochian Empire, which shaped the states of the Hellenistic East until the Roman conquest.


Since the death of Alexander in 323 BC Its generals, called "successors" (Diadochi), found themselves in a relentless struggle for supremacy in its world empire. The Macedonian royal dynasty was divided, the kings Philip III. Arrhidaios and Alexander IV. Aigos were mentally handicapped or underage and therefore incapable of governing . In these wars, characterized by manifold and often changing coalitions, which were only interrupted by short phases of peace, in their early phase the supporters of an Alexander Empire that was concerned with unity and preservation fought against the representatives of particularist interests who intended to establish themselves as rulers of partial empires.

By 306 BC The old Macedonian royal house of the Argeadians was exterminated and the empire had in fact already disintegrated into several spheres of interest for the Diadochi. The most important were the Macedonia of Cassander , the Egypt of Ptolemy , Thrace under Lysimachus and Mesopotamia under Seleucus . The last warlord to be named was Antigonos Monophthalmos , who ruled the regions of Asia Minor , Syria and Palestine . Antigonus stood out among the other diadochi because he was the only one who had realistic prospects of uniting the entire Alexander empire under his own royal rule. When his son Demetrios Poliorketes just in 306 BC BC won a complete victory against Ptolemy in the great double battle of Salamis , Antigonus felt legitimized for the elevation to king of the undivided Alexander empire , which had fallen to him following the principle of the " land won by spears ". However, he did not succeed in the final submission of Ptolemy in Egypt, whereupon he as well as Kassander, Seleukos and Lysimachus also accepted the title of king and thereby rejected the claim to rule of Antigonus. But since no one apart from Antigonus actually claimed sole power, the other Diadochi abandoned the idea of ​​maintaining the unity of the Alexander Empire as unrealistic. Only Antigonus, the most powerful of the rivals, continued to hold on to it and thus represented a constant threat to the remaining Diadochi that could only be removed in a decisive confrontation.

The eve of the battle

The decisive events that ultimately led to the Battle of Ipsos took place in Greece . For some years now, Demetrios Poliorketes has appeared there as the supposed protector of a free and democratic pole-ice world against a hegemony claimed by Macedonia. In fact, however, Demetrios himself was the ruler of Greece, who suppressed all forms of self-determination in the poleis. The democratic movements he promoted, especially in Athens , turned out to be primarily compliant vicarious agents. After the failed undertaking against Egypt and the subsequent also failed siege of Rhodes , Demetrios planned a decisive blow against Cassander in Macedonia in order to decide his and his father's cause in the European theater of war. For this purpose he renewed in the spring of 302 BC BC as the hegemon of the Greeks the Corinthian League , which should now be directed against Macedonia. Originally this union was founded by the Macedonian king Philip II for the fight against Persia.

Demetrios was far superior militarily, and Kassander had to fear for his survival. In this situation, however, the latter did not decide to confront Demetrios directly, but rather moved his ally Lysimachus to a surprising offensive against the Antigonids in Asia Minor. Asia was the actual center of rule of the Antigonids , and Demetrios' power in Greece ultimately depended on the resources obtained from him. When Lysimachus invaded Asia Minor from Thrace, crossing the Hellespont , several cities such as Lampsakos and Ephesus as well as governors of Antigonus, such as Philetairos of Pergamon , Phoinix of Sardis and Dokimos of Synnada , passed over to him in a very short time . Antigonus marched towards him from Syria across the Taurus with all his army; the inferior Lysimachus, however, avoided a battle several times by skillful troop movements. When winter came to 301 BC. BC, both generals decided to retreat to the winter camps, Lysimachos in the Pontic Herakleia and Antigonos at an unspecified one near the Hellespont.

During this time the news of the approach of Seleucus hit Asia Minor. This was after the year 308 BC. BC set out on a campaign of several years in the " upper satrapies " (east of the Euphrates), which Antigonus had once left to him after a long struggle. In India he had 303 BC. A peace was made with the first representative of the Maurya dynasty , Chandragupta (Greek Sandrokottos) by ceding part of his dominion ( Gedrosien , Arachosien , Gandhara and Paropamisaden ) and receiving 500 war elephants in return . With these, among other things, Seleucus returned surprisingly quickly to the west, to be able to live in the spring of 301 BC. To unite with Lysimachus. When Antigonus found out about this, he ordered his son Demetrios to return to Asia from Greece with all his might. According to Diodorus , Demetrios received his father's message just at the moment when he was facing the Cassander, who was ready for battle, at Othrys' . Instead of fighting the battle, however, he withdrew to obey his father's orders immediately and transferred his army to Asia by means of his fleet. There he brought the Hellespont under his control by retaking Ephesus and other places, which he secured with his fleet. During this time he was joined by the young King Pyrrhos of Epiros , who had been driven out of his kingdom by Kassander and who was now an ally of the Antigonids who hoped to regain his throne. At the same time Kassander had sent an army of 12,000 infantrymen and 500 cavalrymen under the leadership of his brother Pleistarchus to Asia to support the Diadochi allied with him. Because the Hellespont had meanwhile been cordoned off by Demetrios, Pleistarchus felt compelled to transport his army from Odessos across the Black Sea , losing more than half of his men in the storm.

In the meantime Ptolemy, who had left Egypt with his army in the direction of Asia Minor, had also become active. On the way he intended to conquer the strategically important ports of Phoinikiens for the rule in the eastern Mediterranean . But while he was besieging Sidon , he received a false report of the alleged victory of Antigonus over Lysimachus and Seleucus, whereupon he immediately withdrew to Egypt. His absence from the events in Asia Minor was to have a particular effect on the relationship between his descendants and those of Seleucus, who had meanwhile passed through Cappadocia and united with Lysimachus. Sometime in the early summer days of 301 BC The united armed forces of the enemy moved up to the place of Ipsos ( old Greek Ἱψός ) ready to fight.

The battle

For an event with such far-reaching effects on the historical development of the ancient Mediterranean East, the course of the Battle of Ipsos is relatively sparsely recorded. The main reason for this is likely to be the extensive loss of the only fragmentarily preserved twenty-first book of Diodors Bibliothéke historiké , in which the battle occupied the first chapters, of which only a few sentences have survived. Even Arrian Diadochengeschichte is lost. Only in Plutarch's biography of Demetrios is a more detailed description of the battle, the details of which therefore cannot be compared with alternative representations. It should also be noted that Plutarch was primarily active as a philosopher and biographer, not as a historian, and that his battle report is therefore not very detailed and rather superficial. In addition, his work was only created about 400 years after the events.

Because of these poor sources, it is not even possible to pinpoint the exact geographic location of Ipsos. Somewhere in the region of what was then Phrygia , in the area of ​​today's Anatolia (Western Turkey), in the extensive area around Synnada, it can be found. Possibly Ipsos is identical with the present day Sipsin near Afyonkarahisar . Also as far as the total strength of the two opposing armies is concerned, Plutarch is the only one who has complete numbers for the battle. Diodorus only wrote that Seleucus had returned from the east with over 20,000 infantrymen, 12,000 cavalrymen, 480 elephants and more than 100 sickle chariots, and that Pleistarchus had lost more than half of his 12,000 infantrymen and 500 cavalrymen when crossing the Black Sea. Demetrios had an army of 8,000 Macedonian infantrymen, 15,000 mercenaries, 1,500 cavalrymen, as well as 25,000 men of the Greek allies and 8,000 lightly armed rioters at his disposal. From there he is likely to have at least brought his Macedonians, mercenaries and cavalrymen with him to Asia. Diodorus did not comment on the strength of the contingents of Antigonus and Lysimachus. If one takes into account, however, that the main forces of four of the most important warlords of that time came together at Ipsos, the dimensions of the battle must have been enormous by ancient standards. It is believed that up to 200,000 soldiers were involved.

From Plutarch's tradition it can be deduced that the two armies faced each other in almost identical formation. The infantry of both sides, following the example of Philip II and Alexander III. following, each set up in a long phalanx , which were flanked by cavalry formed as wedges. Antigonus positioned his comparatively few elephants in front of his phalanx, probably with the intention of using them to intercept the opposing chariots. They shouldn't prove crucial to the fight. On the other hand, however, Seleucus and Lysimachus kept most of their elephants behind their own phalanx, as a reserve for special use. On the part of the coalition, Seleucus will have had the de facto command, since the forces he provided surpassed those of Lysimachus in terms of security. That his son Antiochus was entrusted with the supreme command of the cavalry should have taken this into account. On the other hand, Antigonus, who was over eighty years old, was in command of the phalanx with the experience of a long warrior life at the side of Philip II and Alexander; He entrusted the leadership of the cavalry to his 35-year-old son Demetrios. According to Plutarch, Antigonus is said to have recognized the importance of the upcoming battle for his and the Alexander's fate when he fell out of his tent on the morning of the battle, which he interpreted as a bad omen . Thereupon he asked the gods on his knees for victory or for the mercy of a quick death. Because he was already senile, not only by ancient standards, he is said to have refrained from wearing heavy armor.

The strategy of both sides attached decisive importance to the use of the cavalry, as the cavalry formed into wedges should break through the closed phalanx of the other and thus dissolve the order of the battle. According to this plan, Demetrios and Antiochus rode against the slowly advancing ranks of the enemy. Before they reached it, however, their paths crossed and both got caught in a fight against each other. As Plutarch reports, Demetrios soon gained the upper hand, but at the same time made a decisive mistake when he pushed Antiochus further and further away from the battlefield. As a result of this pursuit he lost the position of his father, whose phalanx now, unprotected on its flank by the cavalry, collided with that of the enemy. Seleucus, in turn, was able to compensate for the loss of his cavalry by pulling his 400 elephants out of the reserve and with them embracing the open flank of Antigonos. When Demetrios finally broke off the pursuit of the enemy cavalry and turned back to attack the phalanx of the enemy in the rear, the elephants blocked his way. In fact, the animals now formed an almost insurmountable wall, which separated Antigonus from the strength of his son and now oppressed him from a second side. When Demetrios realized his mistake, the opponent's move was already complete, and he now had to set out on his part to bypass the elephant wall in order to save his father.

In the ranks of Antigonus, too, the warriors had recognized the inferior position of their side. Several units made up of mercenaries ran over to the enemy during the fight. Despite this development, Antigonus himself is said to have still firmly believed in a victorious outcome of the battle, which would be decided in his favor by the early return of his son to the battlefield, and held the position. But before Demetrios could go around the elephants with his riders, Antigonus was hit by several arrows and collapsed dead. Immediately his army disbanded to flee or surrendered to the enemy. Only one loyal warrior, Thorax from Larissa , stayed with his body and protected him with his shield. Demetrios gave up the fight and fled.


The Diadochian empires after the Battle of Ipsos in 301 BC Chr.
Seleucus (yellow), Lysimachus (orange), Cassander (green) and Ptolemy (blue).

The death of Antigonus at Ipsos sealed the end of the Alexander empire, which had been founded by the conqueror some thirty years earlier. His corpse was buried by the victors with all royal honors and his Asian dominion was divided among them. Seleucus took Syria and Phenicia as well as eastern Asia Minor to himself. Lysimachus took over western Asia Minor including the coastal cities; Pleistarchus, who did not stand out in battle, received Caria and Cilicia . Ptolemy had seized the strategically important province of Koilesyria , whereby he came into conflict with Seleucus, who was of the opinion that Ptolemy had lost the right to participate in the division of the territory by staying away from Ipsos. As a result, the long Syrian wars broke out between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties , which only began in 168 BC. BC found their end.

Demetrios had managed to escape from the battlefield to Ephesus with about 5,000 infantrymen and over 4,000 cavalrymen, from where he set sail. Thanks to his strong fleet, he was still a factor of power. But his rule in Greece also collapsed as a result of the defeat, when the Greek cities had passed over to Cassander, following the order of the day. In the following years Demetrios waged a relentless struggle to recapture Greece and the Macedonian throne, which he actually held for several years until he finally died in the captivity of Seleucus. Only his son Antigonus II Gonatas was able to establish a permanent rule of the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia .

The Diadochi coalition did not last long for Ipsos either. Seleucus and Lysimachus then faced each other as competitors for rule in Asia Minor, Lysimachus allied with Ptolemy and Seleucus soon with Demetrius. At the Battle of Kurupedion in 281 BC The two allies of Ipsos faced each other as the last diadochi; Lysimachus fell and Seleucus was murdered shortly afterwards. This ended the time of the Diadochi.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Diodorus 20, 107, 3-5.
  2. Diodorus 20, 109, 4.
  3. Strabon , Geographika 15, 2, 9; Plutarch, Alexander 62, 3. On his return from the east shortly before his union with Lysimachus, Seleukos carried 480 elephants with him, according to Diodorus , which he led over the snow-covered mountain passes in a logistical masterpiece. According to Plutarch, there were still over 400 available to him in the Battle of Ipsos , see Plutarch.
  4. Diodorus 20, 109, 5.
  5. Diodorus 20, 110, 1–111, 2.
  6. Diodorus 20, 112, 1-3.
  7. Diodorus 20, 113, 1-2.
  8. Diodorus 20, 113, 4.
  9. For the battle report, see Plutarch, Demetrius , 28, 3–29, 5.
  10. See Billows: Antigonos , p. 181
  11. Plutarch, Demetrius , 28, 3.
  12. Diodorus 20, 113, 4. and 20, 112, 4.
  13. Diodorus 20, 110, 4.
  14. Plutarch, Demetrius , 29, 5.
  15. Diodorus 21, 1, 4.
  16. ^ Diodorus 21, 1, 5.
  17. Polybios 5, 67, 4-8.
  18. Plutarch, Demetrius , 30, 1.