), 1. Son of Orontes, a Macedonian of the province of Orestis, was one of the most distinguished of the generals of Alexander the Great. We are told that he was descended from a royal house (Curt. 10.7.8
) probably that of the independent princes of Orestis, and it appears that in consequence of his noble birth he early held a distinguished place at the court of Philip of Macedon. We find him mentioned as one of the select officers who, under the title of σωματοφύλακες
, were immediately about the king's person at the time of his death; and he was one of the first to avenge that crime upon the assassin Pausanias. (Diod. 16.94
It is probable that he continued to hold the same honourable post under the youthful Alexander
, though he is not distinctly mentioned as doing so until a later period (see Arr. Anab. iv.
21.7, 5.13.1, 6.11.3, 28.6); but besides this he had the separate command of one of the divisions of the phalanx, at the head of which we find him accompanying the young king in the campaign against the Illyrians, and again at the siege of Thebes. On this last occasion he greatly distinguished himself, but was severely wounded, and narrowly escaped with his life. (Arr. ib.
1.6, 8 ; Diod. 17.12
.) During the earlier campaigns in Asia we likewise find him commanding one of the divisions of the phalanx, which was composed of his own countrymen the Orestians, together with the neighbouring tribe of the Lyncestians.
This post he held in all the three great battles of th Granicus, Issus, and Arbela; in the last of which he was again severely wounded : and his name is also mentioned with distinction at the sieges of Halicarnassus and of Tyre. (Arr. Anab. 1.14
; Curt. 3.9.7
; Diod. 17.57
In the subsequent operations in Persia, Sogdiana, and India, his name occurs still more frequently; and he appears to have borne a continually increasing share in the confidence and favour of Alexander
At this time he was transferred from the infantry to the cavalry, where he commanded one of the hipparchies, or divisions of the horseguards (ἑταῖροι
); but in addition to this we find him repeatedly charged with separate commands of importance, sometimes in conjunction with Ptolemy, Craterus, or Hephaestion, sometimes as sole general.
He appears to have especially distinguished himself in the battle against Porus. and shortly after we find him commanding the whole left wing of the army in the action with the Cathaeans. Again, in the attack of the chief city of the Malli it was Perdiccas who was appointed to conduct the assault on one side of the fortress, while Alexander
himself led that on the other. (Arr. Anab. 3.18
18; Curt. 7.6.19
. §§ 5, 15, 9.1.19.) Nor was he forgotten in the distribution of honours at Susa, where he received a crown of gold for his services in common with the other Somatophylaces, and the daughter of Atropates, the satrap of Media, in marriage. (Arr. 7.4.7, 5.9.)
In virtue of his office as Somatophylax, he was one of those in constant attendance upon the king's person when not employed on other military services (see Curt. 6.8.17
. §§ 45, 48), and thus was naturally one of the officers who were gathered around the bed of the dying Alexander
. who is said in his last moments to have taken the royal signet ring from his finger and given it to Perdiccas (Diod. 17.117
; Curt. 10.5.4
; Just. 12.15
; it is remarkable that Arrian does not even allude to this circumstance.)
In the deliberations which followed the death of the king (B. C. 323), Perdiccas assumed a leading part.
In the general council of the officers he was the first to propose that the crown should be reserved for the child of which Roxana was then pregnant, supposing it to prove a male : and it was immediately suggested by Aristonous that the regency in the mean time should be confined to Perdicca This proposal--with the modification put forward by Pithon, that Leonnatus should be associated with him in the supreme authority,--obtained the concurrence of almost all the chief officers, supported by the whole body of the Macedonian cavalry.
But the infantry, at the head of whom Meleager had placed himself [MELEAGER], refused to acquiesce in this decision, and clamorously demanded that Arrhidaeus, the bastard brother of Alexander, should be at once proclaimed king. Matters soon came to an open rupture between the two parties, and the cavalry, with most of the leading men in the army, withdrew from Babylon, and encamped without the city. Perdiccas at first remained behind, but an attempt made upon his life by his rival, which was frustrated only by his own intrepidity, soon compelled him to follow the example of the seceders.
The cavalry now threatened to cut off the supplies, and reduce Babylon to a state of famine; but after repeated embassies a compromise was at length effected, by which it was agreed that Arrhidaeus should be declared king, reserving however to the son of Roxana a share of the sovereignty, as soon as he should be born, while Perdiccas, under the honorary title of chiliarch of the ἑταῖροι
, should hold the chief command under the new monarch, Meleager taking rank immediately under him. (Curt. 10.6
; Just. 13.2
; Arrian. apud Phot.
p. 69a; Dexipp. ibid.
p. 64b.; Diod. 18.2
But this arrangement, though sanctioned by a solemn treaty, was not destined to be of long duration. Perdiccas took advantage of his new position to establish his influence over the feeble mind of the nominal king Arrhidaeus, while he lulled his rival Meleager into security by the profoundest dissimulation, until his schemes were ripe for execution, and he was able to crush at one blow Meleager himself with all his leading partisans. [MELEAGER].
By this decisive stroke he freed himself from one of his most formidable adversaries, but at the same time he necessarily aroused the fears of all others who felt themselves to be either his rivals or his enemies. For a time, however, he thought himself secure in the possession of the supreme power; the king was a mere puppet in his hands, and the birth of Alexander
, the expected son of Roxana, appeared greatly to strengthen his authority, while the partition of the several satrapies or governments of Asia and Europe among the generals of Alexander
, removed to a distance and separated from one another all his more formidable competitors.
An alarming revolt of the Greek soldiers who had been settled in the provinces of Upper Asia, was successfully put down through the agency of Pithon, and the whole of those who had submitted were barbarously massacred by the express orders of the regent. (Diod. 18.7
Perdiccas now deemed himself at leisure (B. C. 322) to undertake the reduction of Cappadocia, which had been neglected by Alexander
, and continued in virtual independence under its satrap, Ariarathes.
The campaign was quickly decided; Ariarathes was defeated in two successive battles, taken prisoner, and put to death by order of the regent, who handed over the government of Cappadocia to his friend and partisan Eumenes. From thence he narched into Pisidia, where he reduced the important cities of Laranda and Isaura. Meanwhile the jealousies and apprehensions of his principal adversaries had been long secretly at work, to combine them into a league against his power. Ptolemy appears to have been from the first regarded by the regent with especial suspicion and distrust, and Perdiccas was only waiting for a plausible pretext to dispossess him of his important government of Egypt.
But the regent knew that Antipater also was scarcely less hostile to him, and had already entered into secret engagements with Ptolemy, from which he now sought to detach him by requesting his daughter Nicaea in marriage. Antipater could not refuse so splendid an ofer, and immediately sent Nicaea to Perdiccas in Asia, But just about the same time the regent received overtures from Olympias, who offered him the hand of her daughter Cleopatra in return for his support against Antipater.
He did not, however, deem the moment yet come for an open rupture with the latter, and consequently married Nicaea, but with the secret purpose of divorcing her and espousing Cleopatra in her stead at a subsequent period. From this time, if not before, it appears certain that he began to look forward to establishing himself eventually on the throne of Macedonia, and regarded the proposed alliance with Cleopatra merely as a stepping-stone to that object. (Arrian, apud Phot.
p. 69b. 70, a.; Diod. 18.14
; Just. 13.6
It was at this juncture that the daring enterprise of Cynane [CYNANE] threatened to disconcert all the plans of Perdiccas; and though he succeeded in frustrating her ambitious schemes, his cruelty in putting her to death excited such general dissatisfaction, that he found himself compelled, in order to appease the murmurs of the soldiery, to give her daughter Eurydice in marriage to the king Arrhidaeus. (Arr. apud Phot.
p. 70a. b.) Shortly after, his attempt to bring Antigonus to trial for some alleged offences in the government of his satrapy, brought on the crisis which had been so long impending.
That general made his escape to Macedonia, where he revealed to Antipater the fill extent of the ambitious schemes of Perdiccas, and thus at once induced Antipater and Craterus to unite in a league with Ptolemy, and openly declare war against the regent. Thus assailed on all sides, Perdiccas determined to leave Eumenes in Asia Minor, to make head against their common enemies in that quarter, while he himself directed his efforts in the first instance against Ptolemy.
In the spring of B. C. 321 accordingly, he set out on his march against Egypt, at the head of a formidable army, and accompanied by the king Arrhidaeus, with his bride Eurydice, as well as by Roxana and her infant son.
He advanced without opposition as far as Pelusium, but found the banks of the Nile strongly fortified and guarded by Ptolemy, and was repulsed in repeated attempts to force the passage of the river; in the last of which, near Memphis, he lost great numbers of men, by the depth and rapidity of the current.
This disaster caused the discontent among his troops which had been long gathering in secret, and had been exasperated rather than repressed by the severity with which he had punished the first symptoms of disaffection, to break out into open mutiny; the infantry of the phalanx were the first to declare themselves, but their example was soon followed by the cavalry, and a band of officers headed by Selencus and Antigenes hastened to the tent of Perdiccas. and despatched him with many wounds. (Diod. 18.23
; Arrian, apud Ihot.
p. 70b. 71, a; Just. 13.6
; Plut. EIuls.
5, 8; Corn. Nep. Eum.
3, 5; Strab. xvii. p.794
We know little or nothing of the character of Perdiccas beyond what may be gathered from the part he took in the events above related, but in these he certainly appears in the darkest colours. His only redeeming qualities were his great personal courage (see on this point an anecdote related by Ael. V.H.
12.39), and his talents as a general. His selfish and grasping ambition was wholly unrelieved by any of the generosity and magnanimous spirit which had adorned that of Alexander
At once crafty and cruel, he arrayed against himself, by his dark and designing policy, all the other leaders in the Macedonian empire, while he alienated the minds of his soldiers and followers by the arrogance of his demeanour, as well as by unsparing and needless severity, and he ultimately fell a victim not to the arms of his adversaries, but to the general discontent which he had himself excited.