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Eumenes of Cardia – The Greek among the Macedonians

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Eumenes of Kardia

Eumenes of Cardia represents a small piece of the puzzle in the never ending discussion “whether ancient Macedonians were Greeks or not”.

As a Greek, Eumenes did not had it easy among the Macedonians. Would ancient historiography itself have handed down such legacies if the Macedonians had actually been Greeks? …

Who was “the Greek among the Macedonians” Eumenes of Cardia?

Eumenes of Cardia (Ancient Greek: Εὐμένης: born 362 BC or 361 BC; died 316 BC) was a secretary to Alexander the Great and one of his successors. He was the only non-Macedonian and non-military among the Diadochi, and for that reason alone he was an outsider. Nevertheless, he is considered one of the most capable generals of the Diadochi wars.

Before he participated in the Wars of Alexander the Great, serving as both Alexander’s personal secretary and as a battlefield commander.

He was a native of Cardia in the Thracian Chersonese (Gallipoli peninsula, modern day Turkey).

According to Plutarch, Antigonus starved Eumenes for three days. He finally sent an executioner to finish Eumenes. The body of the “Greek among the Macedonians” was given to his friends to be burnt with honor. His ashes were conveyed in a silver urn to his wife and children.

What do some historians say about Eumenes?

Let’s get a quick picture of the “Greek among the Macedonians”. Here are a few quotes from historians, in no particular order.

Christoph Schäfer, Eumenes von Kardia und der Kampf um die Macht im Alexanderreich, 2002:

“Eumenes of Cardia was one of the few Greeks who played a prominent role in the disputes over the succession of Alexander.”

From the History of War website:

…He very quickly changed sides. Eumenes was generally a supporter of the idea of a unified empire and of the legitimate kings, partly because as a Greek he had a limited claim on the loyalty of his Macedonia troops. In an attempt to preserve that loyalty, Eumenes encouraged a cult of Alexander, holding councils in the presence of Alexander’s regalia… A surprisingly able general, Eumenes was never particularly popular with his Macedonian troops, who did not like being commanded by a Greek.

The historian Edward M. Anson, of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, writes in his work Eumenes of Cardia – A Greek among Macedonians, page 248:

“Eumenes had been given land in Lower Macedonia by Philip, but that monarch could not manufacture blood ties for him”

From “The Royal Macedonian Tombs and the Paraphernalia of Alexander the Great” by Eugene N. Borza, page 110:

Eumenes of Cardia was Alexander’s secretary and one of the few Greeks on the king’s staff. Following Alexander’s death Eumenes emerging as one of the contending Successors, but not for the sake of the throne; our sources make clear, that, as an ethnic Greek, he had no claim to power in a struggle among Macedonians. Eumenes, who had served both Philip and Alexander, remained an Argead loyalist, and, during the confusion of Alexander’s succession, pledged his services to the surviving members of the royal family.

Pierre Jouguet (French Historian) wrote in his work Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World (1928):

He [Eumenes] knew from experience that in the eyes of the Macedonians he was still a Greek, a foreigner. Plutarch praised his charming and refined manners, which were very unlike the haughty airs of the noble Macedonian officer.

Conclusion:

Ancient historiography undoubtedly tells us about the problems in the interaction between Greeks and Macedonians in the area of the Macedonian court and the administrative areas.

The Greeks, who were involved in administration or leadership positions by the Macedonian nobility, struggled with the loyalty of their Macedonian subordinates – because they “didn’t like being commanded by Greeks”.

This supports the traditions and the view of historians that Macedonians and Greeks did not regarded each other as related or as one people.

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