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The history of Antigonos II Gonatas

Antigonos II Gonatas
(c. 319 BCE – 239 BCE) was a powerful ruler who
solidified the position of the Antigonid dynasty in
Macedonia after a long period defined by anarchy
and chaos and acquired fame for his victory over
the Gauls who had invaded the Balkans.


He was the first-born son of Demetrius Poliorcetes,
son of Antigonus Monophthalmos, Alexander the
Great’s general and later governor of Phrygia by the
Hellespont, and Phila, daughter of Antipater,
governor of Macedonia. He was also related to all
the contemporary prominent monarchs. He was
brother-in-law and son-in-law of Seleucus I Nicator,
brother-in-law of Antiochus I Soter, nephew of
Ptolemy I Soter, Pyrrhus, Lysimachus and
Cassander, and cousin of Ptolemy II Philadelphus.


His first political-military presence is related with
the siege of Athens by Demetrius I Poliorcetes in
294/293 BCE, and the elevation of the young
Antigonus to governor of Boeotia. Soon afterwards
he assumed command of the few Antigonid
possessions in Greece, due to his father’s hurried
departure for Asia Minor (288 BCE). After the death
of Demetrius he received the royal title, in 284/283
BCE, albeit as a “king without a kingdom”.

Gonatas’
final establishment on the Macedonian throne,
which for long was the bone of contention between
the would-be continuators of the Argead/Temenid
dynasty, can be dated to somewhere between the
final repulsion of the Celtic invaders at Lysimachia
in 277/276 BCE and the death of Pyrrhus, his
Epirote opponent, in 272 BCE. By making Pella his
capital and cultivating the Temenid era traditions,
Gonatas obviously gave priority to the stabilization
of the Macedonian state before laying claims to the
lands further south.
His overall strategy may be understood as an
extension of the Argead Phillip II’s Greek policy, as
well as a productive and realistic adjustment of the
Aegean policy implemented –with Asia Minor as
their basis– by his ancestors Antigonus
Monophthalmos and Demetrios Poliorcetes. In order
to become international players, the Antigonids
needed to control continental Greece, so their
opponents, the Seleucids in the East and, mainly,
the Ptolemies of Egypt took measures to undermine
the Antigonid dominance in mainland Greece.
Shortly before (or soon after) the end of the
Chremonidean War, the Antigonid fleet won its first
important victory over the Ptolemaic Navy, close to
the island of Cos (sometime between 262/261 and
255 BCE); this victory allowed Gonatas to renew the
Aegean policy introduced by his ancestors
Antigonus Monophthalmos and Demetrius I
Poliorcetes.
Looking into Antigonus Gonatas’ personality, we are
forced to differentiate between contemporary and
later judgements on his person. His military genius
is indicated by the victorious outcome of important
battles,

*like his personal victory over the Celtic
invaders in Thracian Lysimachia *and the two naval
victories over the mighty Ptolemaic fleet near Cos
and Andros.

His leadership and mental fortitude in
the field of battle is echoed in the reply he
delivered upon being informed about the superior
number of the Ptolemaic ships on the eve of the
naval battle of Andros: “…how many ships do you
think my personal presence is worth?”. He replied
with wit and readiness when challenged by his
adversaries. When, probably during a period when
the conflict between them was becoming more
intense, Patroclus, the commander of the Ptolemaic
fleet sent him a fish and some figs (symbols of
prosperity and financial decline respectively) as
gifts, Gonatas poignantly interpreted this move as
an open challenge by his opponents to establish a
thalassocracy in the Aegean.
In consolidating the Antigonid dynasty he sought to
carefully promote it as a continuation of its
predecessors, the Temenid/Argeads and he missed
no opportunity to express his devotion to them,
as when,

for example,

*he covered the royal tombs
of Vergina after the Celtic incursions,

*or when he
erected a stoa to house the statues of his ancestors
in Delos after the naval battle of Cos.

On the basis
of his monetary policy we can also argue that
Gonatas promoted his international political
standing via two notions, the Macedonians’
contribution in the struggle to save Greece from the
Celtic invaders in 279 BCE, and their claims to an
Aegean thalassocracy. By organizing celebrations in
pan-Hellenic sanctuaries, like the Antigoneia and
the Stratoniceia and the Paneia and Soteria in Delos
later (following the naval battle of Andros), as well
as by connecting the iconography of his personal
coinage with the history of two other pan-Hellenic
sanctuaries (Delphi and Delos), the Macedonian
king sought to underscore his piety and his Greek
identity.
The outcomes of his adroit political manoeuvres
had already become apparent by the end of his
long reign. The weakened and leaderless
Macedonia of the period of the Celtic invasions had
been reformed becoming a tenacious political
power, equivalent to its other Hellenistic
counterparts; the Temenid legacy found a worthy
successor in this new dynasty, whose members
were united by genuine solidarity and devotion.

By Victor Aluede G.y

Aluede G.y Victory is a history
enthusiast an a mediapreneur living in Aboru,
Lagos. He studied arts at skills click foundation, he is an alumni of Rehoboth college Aboru, Lagos.

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