1. Son of Simmias, a Macedonian of the province of Stymphaea, and a distinguished officer in the service of Alexander the Great. Of his earlier services we know nothing, but it is certain that he was already a veteran and experienced warrior in B. C. 332, when he was appointed to succeed Ptolemy the son of Seleucus in the command one of the divisions of the phalanx. We afterwards find him occupying the same post in the battle of Arbela, and lending the weight of his authority and experience to support the proposition of Parmenion hefore the action to attack the Persian camp by night. (Arr. Anab. 2.12
; Diod. 17.57
; Curt. 4.13
. §§ 7, 28, who inaccurately calls him "Dux peregrini militis.")
In the subsequent campaigns in the upper provinces of Asia and India, he bore an important part, and his name is frequentiy mentioned. Thus we find him associated with Coenus and Philotas at the passage of the Pylae Persicae, and afterwards detached under Craterus against the revolted chiefs in Paraetacen, accompanying Alexander
on his expedition against the Assaceni, and reducing with his own division only the strong fortress of Nora. His name occurs again at the passage of the Hydaspes, as well as in the descent of that river, on both which occasions he served under Craterus; and in B. C. 323 he was once more associated with that general as second in command of the army of invalids and veterans, which the latter was appointed to conduct home to Macedonia. (Arr. Anab. 5.16
; Curt. 5.4.20
; Just. 12.10
In consequence of his absence from Babylon on this service at the time of Alexander's
death, he appears to have been passed over in the arrangements which followed that event, nor do we find any mention of his name for some time afterwards, but it sees certain that he must have returned with Craterus to Europe, and probably took part with him and Antipater in the Lamian war. In B. C. 321, when the dissensions between Antipater and Perdiccas had broken out into actual hostilities, and the former was preparing to follow Craterus into Asia, he entrusted to Polysperchon the chief command in Macedonia and Greece during his absence.
The veteran general proved himself worthy of the charge; he repulsed the Aetolians who had invaded Thessaly, and cut to pieces a Macedonian force under Polycles, defeated Menon of Pharsalus, and recovered the whole of Thessaly. (Diod. 18.38
; Just. 13.6
.) Though we do not learn that he obtained any reward for these services during the lifetime of Antipater, it is evident that he enjoyed the highest place in the confidence of the regent, of which the latter gave a striking proof on his deathbed, B. C. 319, by appointing Polysperchon to succeed him as regent and guardian of the king, while he assigned to his own son Cassander the subordinate station of Chiliarch, (Id. ib. 48.)
Polysperchon was at this time one of the oldest of the surviving generals of Alexander
, and enjoyed in consequence the highest favour and popularity among the Macedonians; but he was aware that both Cassander and Antigonus were jealous of his elevation, and were beginning to form secret designs for the overthrow of his power.
In order to strengthen himself against them he now made overtures to Olympias, who had been driven from Macedonia by Antipater, as well as to Eumenes, whom he sought to raise up as a rival to Antigonus in Asia.
At the same time he endeavoured to conciliate the Greek cities by proclaiming them all free and independent, and abolishing the oligarchies which had been set up by Antipater. Nor were these measures unsuccessful : Olympias, though she still remained in Epeirus, lent all the support of her name and influence to Polysperchon, while Eumenes, who had escaped from his mountain fastness at Nora, and put himself at the head of the Argyraspids, prepared to contend with Antigonus for the possession of Asia. While his most formidable rival was thus occupied in the East, it remained for Polysperchon himself to contend with Cassander in Greece.
The restoration of the democracy at Athens had attached that city to the cause of the regent, but Nicanor held possession of the fortresses of Munychia and the Peiraeeus for Cassander, and refused to give them up notwithstanding the repeated orders of Olympias. Hereupon Polysperchon sent forward an army under his son Alexander
into Attica, while he himself followed with the royal family. They had already advanced into Phocis when they were met by deputies from Athens, as well as by Phocion and others of the oligarchical party who had fled from the city. Both parties obtained a public hearing in the presence of the king, which ended in Phocion and his companions being given up to the opposite party by the express order of Polysperchon, and sent to Athens to undergo the form of a trial. (Diod. 18.49
; Plut. Phoc. 31
. For a more detailed account of these transactions see PHOCION.）
By the destruction of Phocion and his friends, the regent hoped to have secured the adherence of the Athenians; but while he was still in Phocis with the king (B. C. 318), Cassander himself unexpectedly arrived in Attica with a considerable fleet and army, and established himself in the Peiraeeus. Hereupon Polysperchon advanced into Attica and laid siege to the Peiraeeus, but finding that he made little progress, he left his son Alexander
to continue the blockade, while he himself advanced into the Peloponnese with a large army. Here he at first met with little opposition : almost all the cities obeyed his mandates and expelled or put to death the leaders of their respective oligarchies : Megalopolis alone refused submission, and was immediately besieged by the regent him-self with his whole army. Polysperchon had apparently expected an easy victory, but the valour of the citizens frustrated his calculations : all his attacks were repulsed, and after some time he found himself compelled to raise the siege and withdraw from the Peloponnese. Shortly afterwards his admiral Cleitus, who had been despatched with a fleet to the Hellespont, was totally defeated by that of Cassander under Nicanor, and his forces utterly destroyed. (Diod. 18.68
These reverses quickly produced an unfavorable turn in the disposition of the Greek states towards Polysperchon : and Athens in particular again abandoned his alliance for that of Cassander, who established an oligarchical government in the city under the presidency of Demetrius of Phalerus. (Id. ib.
At the same time Eurydice, the active and intriguing wife of the unhappy king Arrhidaeus, conceived the project of throwing off the yoke of the regent, and concluded an alliance with Cassander, while she herself assembled an army with which she obtained for a time the complete possession of Macedonia.
But in the spring of 317 Polysperchon having united his forces with those of Aeacides king of Epeirus, invaded Macedonia, accompanied by Olympias, whose presence alone quickly determined the contest. [OLYMPIAS]. During the subsequent events Polysperchon plays but a subordinate part. We do not learn that he interposed to prevent the cruelties of Olympias, or to save the life of the unhappy king, of whom he was the nominal guardian : and though he afterwards occupied the passes of Perrhaebia with an army, he was unable to prevent the advance of Cassander into Macedonia, or to avert the fall of Pydna, which fell into the hands of the enemy, while Polysperchon was still shut up in Perrhaebia. Here he was reduced to great straits by Cassander's general Callas, and was besieged in the town of Azorus, when the news of the death of Olympias (B. C. 316) caused him to despair of recovering his footing in Macedonia, and he withdrew with a small force into Aetolia. (Diod. 19.11
From thence he appears to have joined his son Alexander
in the Peloponnese, where we find him in B. C. 315, when the altered position of affairs having united Cassander with Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus in a general coalition against Antigonus, the latter sought to attach the aged Polysperchon to his cause, by offering him the chief command in the Peloponnese.
The bribe was accepted, and for a short time Polysperchon and his son conjointly carried on the war in the Peloponnese against Cassander and the generals of Ptolemy.
But before the end of the same year Alexander
was gained over by Cassander; and Polysperchon. though he did not follow the example of his son, and coalesce with his old enemy, at least assumed a position hostile to Antigonus, as we find him in 313 defending Sicyon and Corinth against Telesphorus, the lieutenant of that general. (Id. ib.
60, 62, 64, 74.) From this time we lose sight of him till B. C. 310, when he again assumed an important part by reviving the long-forgotten pretensions of Heracles the son of Barsine (now the only surviving son of Alexander
) to the throne of Macedonia. Having induced the unhappy youth to quit his retirement at Pergamus, and join him in the Peloponnese, he persuaded the Aetolians to espouse his cause, and with their assistance raised a large army, with which he advanced towards Macedonia.
He was met at Trampyae in Stymphaea by Cassander, but the latter, distrusting the fidelity of his own troops, instead of risking an engagement, entered into secret negotiations with Polysperchon, and endeavoured by promises and flatteries to induce him to abandon the pretender whom he had himself set up. Polysperchon had the weakness to give way, and the meanness to serve the purposes of Cassander by the assassination of Heracles at a banquet. (Diod. 20.20
. For further details and authorities, see HERACLES.) It is satisfactory to know that Polysperchon did not reap the expected reward of his crime : Cassander had promised him the chief command of the Peloponnese, but this he certainly never obtained, though we find him at a later period possessing a certain footing in that country : he seems to have occupied a subordinate and inglorious position.
The last occasion on which his name occurs in history is in B. C. 303, when we find him co-operating with Cassander and Prepelaus against Demetrius (Diod. 20.103
), but no notice of his subsequent fortunes or the period of his death has been transmitted to us. 1
Polysperchon appears to have been a soldier of considerable merit, and to have been regarded by the Macedonians with favour as belonging to the older race of Alexander's
generals; but he was altogether unequal to the position in which he found himself placed on the death of Antipater, and his weakness degenerated into the basest villany in such instances as the surrender of Phocion, and the assassination of Heracles.