previous next



1. Son of Philotas, a distinguished Macedonian general in the service of Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Notwithstanding the prominent place that he holds in history we know nothing either of his family and origin, or of the services by which he had attained the high reputation of which we find him possessed when his name first appears. As he was considerably older than Philip, having been born about B. C. 400 (see Curt. 7.2.33) it is probable that he had already distinguished himself during the reign of Amyntas II., but the first mention of his name occurs in the year 356, when we find him entrusted with the chief command in the war against the Illyrians, whom he defeated in a great battle (Plut. Alex. 3). Throughout the reign of Philip he enjoyed the highest place in the confidence of that monarch, both as his friend and counsellor, and as a general: the king's estimation of his merits in the latter capacity may be gathered from his well known remark, that he had never been able to find more than one general, and that was Parmenion. (Plut. Apophth. p. 177c.) Yet the occasions on which his name is specially mentioned during the reign of Philip are not numerous. In B. C. 346 we find him engaged in the siege of Halus in Thessaly (Dem. de F. L. p. 392), and shortly after he was sent by Philip, together with Antipater and Eurylochus, as ambassador to Athens, to obtain the ratification of the proposed peace from the Atienians and their allies. (Id. ib. p. 362; Arg. ad Or. de. F. L. p. 336.) In B. C. 342, while Philip was in Thrace, Parmenion carried on operations in Euboea, where he supported the Macedonian party at Eretria, and subsequently besieged and took the city of Oreus, and put to death Euphraeus, the leader of the opposite faction. (Dem. Phil. iii. p. 126; Athen. 11.508.) When Philip at length began to turn his views seriously towards the conquest of Asia B. C. 336, he sent forward Parmenion and Attalus with an army, to carry on preliminary operations in that country, and secure a firm footing there by liberating some of the Greek cities. (Diod. 16.91, 17.2; Just. 9.5.) They had, however, little time to accomplish anything before the assassination of Philip himself entirely changed the aspect of affairs: Attalus was bitterly hostile to the young king, but Parmenion was favourably disposed towards him, and readily joined with Hecataeus, who was sent by Alexander to Asia, in effecting the removal of Attalus by assassination. By this means he secured the attachment of the army in Asia to the young king: he afterwards carried on sone military operations of little importance in the Troad, but must have returned to Europe before the commencement of the year 334, as we find him taking part in the deliberations of Alexander previous to his setting out on the expedition into Asia. (Diod. 17.2, 5, 7, 16; Curt. 7.1.3.)

Throughout the course of that expedition the services rendered by Parmenion to the young king were of the most important kind. His age and long established reputation as a military commander naturally gave great weight to his advice and opinion; and though his counsels, leaning generally to the side of caution, were frequently overruled by the impetuosity of the youthful monarch, they were always listened to with de ference, and sometimes followed even in opposition to the opinion of Alexander himself. (Arrian. 3.9.) His special post appears to have been that of commander-in-chief of the Macedonian infantry (Diod. 17.17), but it is evident that he acted, and was generally regarded as second in command to Alexander himself. Thus, at the three great battles of the Granicus, Issus and Arbela, while the king in person commanded the right wing of the army, Parmenion was placed at the head of the left, and contributed essentially to the victory on all those memorable occasions. (Arr. Anab 1.14, 2.8, 3.11, 14, 15; Curt. 3.9.8, 4.13.35, 15.6, 16.1-7; Diod. 17.19, 60.) Again, whenever Alexander divided his forces, and either hastened forward in person with the light-armed troops, or on the contrary, despatched a part of his army in advance, to occupy some important post, it was always Parmenion that was selected to command the division where the king was not present in person. (Arr. Anab. 1.11, 17, 18, 24, 2.4, 5, 11, 3.18; Curt. 3.7.6, 5.3.16; Diod. 17.32.) The confidence reposed in him by Alexander appears to have been unbounded, and he is continually spoken of as the most attached of the king's friends, and as holding, beyond all question, the second place in the state. Among other important employments we find him selected, after the battle of Issus, to take possession of the treasures deposited by Dareius at Damascus (Arr. 2.11, 15; Curt. 3.12, 13): and again at a later period when Alexander himself determined to push on into the wilds of Parthia and Hyrcania in pursuit of Dareius, he left Parmenion in Media with a large force, with instructions to see the royal treasures taken in Persia safely deposited in the citadel of Ecbatana, under the charge of Harpalus, and then to rejoin Alexander and the main army in Hyrcania. (Arr. 3.19; Just. 12.1.)

But before the end of the year 330, while Parmenion still remained in Media in pursuance of these orders, the discovery took place in Drangiana of the plot against the king's life, in which Philotas, the only surviving son of Parmenion, was supposed to be implicated [PHILOTAS] : and the confession wrung from the latter by the torture not only admitted his own guilt, but involved his father also in the charge of treasonable designs against the life of Alexander. (Curt. 6.11.21-30.) Whether the king really believed in the guilt of Parmenion, or deemed his life a necessary sacrifice to policy after the execution of his son, it is impossible for us to decide, but the sentence of the aged general was pronounced by the assembled Macedonian troops, and Polydamas was despatched in all haste into Media with orders to the officers next in command under Parmenion to carry it into execution before he could receive the tidings of his son's death. The mandate was quickly obeyed, and Parmenion was assassinated by Cleander with his own hand. (Arr. Anab. iii 26; Curt. 7.2.11-33; Diod. 17.80; Plut. Alex. 49; Just. 12.5; Strab. xv. p.724.)

The death of Parmenion, at the age of seventy years, almost the whole of which period had been spent in the service of the king himself or of his father, will ever remain one of the darkest stains upon the character of Alexapder. Nothing can be less probable than that the veteran general who, on two occasions, had been the first to warn the king against the real or supposed designs of his enemies (Arr. Anab. 1.25, 2.4; Curt. 3.6.4, 6.10.33; Plut. Alex. 19), should have now himself engaged in a plot against the life of his sovereign. Indeed it is certain even if we admit the very questionable evidence that Philotas was really concerned in the conspiracy of Dimnus, that with that plot at leat Parmenion had no connection. (Curt. 6.11.33.) The confessions extorted from Philotas on the rack amounted only to some vague and indefinite projects said to have been entertained by his father at the suggestion of Hegelochus, and which, if they were not altogether a fiction, had probably been no more than a temporary ebullition of discontent. (Id. ib. § 22-29.) Yet on this evidence not only was Parmenion condemned unheard, but the mode of his execution, or rather assassination, was marked by the basest treachery.

But however unjust was the condemnation of Parmenion, and great as were the services really rendered by him to Alexander, it is certain that his merits are unduly extolled by Quintus Curtius, as well as by some modern writers; and the assertion of that author that the king had done nothing great without his assistance (multa sine rege prospcre, rex sine illo nihil magnae rei yesserat, 7.2.33) is altogether false. On the contrary, many of the king's greatest successes were achieved in direct opposition to the advice of Parmenion; and it is evident that the prudent and cautions character of the old general rendered him incapable of appreciating the daring genius of his young leader, which carried with it the assurance of its own success. Had Alexander uniformly followed the advice of Parmenion, it is clear that he would never have conquered Asia. (See Arrian, Arr. Anab. 1.13, 2.25; Plut. Alex. 16, 29, Apophth. p. 110b.; Diod. 17.16, 54.)

Three sons of Parmenion had accompanied their father to Asia; of these the youngest, Hector, was accidentally drowned in the Nile, B. C. 331. (Curt. 4.8.7.) Nicanor was carried off by a sudden illness on the march into Hyrcania, and Philotas was put to death just before his father. We find also two of his daughters mentioned as married, the one to Attalus, the uncle of Cleopatra, the other to the Macedonian officer, Coenus. (Curt. 6.9. §§ 17, 30.)

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
400 BC (1)
346 BC (1)
342 BC (1)
336 BC (1)
331 BC (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: