Alexander was surrounded and supported by his highly skilled and efficient Bodyguards or Companions, who after his death in 323 BC had to take charge and rule his vast empire. They definitely were not prepared for this task as Alexander obviously had not expected to die at such a young age.
The ensuing war that lasted for almost forty years and went into history as the War of the Diadochi was inevitable. Time and again the commanders took sides and changed sides, made peace treaties but coveted each other’s possessions soon after. Their lust for power and innate Greek competitiveness led them at the head of their seasoned armies to conquer ever more land. In the process, they eliminated each other systematically till around 280 BC only four dynasties remained: the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Asia, the Lysimachids in Thrace and the Antipatrids in Macedonia.
At the time of Alexander’s death, all his Bodyguards were in Babylon: Aristonous, Leonnatus, Lysimachus, Peithon, Perdiccas, Peucestas, and Ptolemy. Other powerful men were also present like Seleucos, one of his principal commanders over the past seven years; Nearchus, the admiral of his fleet; and Eumenes, his secretary and archivist. However, Craterus was still in Cilicia on his way to Macedonia and Antipater, as regent was in Pella. Sooner or later all these leaders got involved in the Succession War and died while defending their rights or in their increasing ambition to expand their territory.
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Here is what became of them:
The first to die was Leonnatus who relieved Antipater during the siege of Lamia in 322 BC and was killed by the Athenian enemy.
Next victim was Craterus in 321 BC, as his horse stumbled during a fierce confrontation with Eumenes on the borders of Cappadocia. He was trampled to death.
Perdiccas followed in 320 BC after failing to lead his troops safely across the Nile when he invaded Egypt held by Ptolemy. He was killed by his own officers.
Antipater died of old age in the late summer of 319 BC, nominating Polyperchon as his successor instead of his own son, Cassander.
Later that year (319 BC) the generals Arrhideus, Nicanor and Cleitus were eliminated.
Eumenes, after desperate and repeated attempts to win the confidence of his troops, was killed by Antigonus, the rising star in 317 BC. At the same time, Antigenes was burnt alive by Antigonus.
Under false pretexts, Peithon was summoned to Ecbatana by Antigonus some time later where he was accused of treachery and executed.
Aristonous became general of Olympias in her war against Cassander, but when the queen was taken prisoner in 316 BC he was put to death by Cassander.
Nearchus disappeared from history around 300 BC, after he had joined Antigonus and acted as adviser to his son, Demetrios-Poliorketes.
Lysimachus had the difficult task of ruling Thracia that served as a buffer zone between east and west. He was killed in 281 BC after crossing the Hellespont into Lydia.
Peucestas had a less glamorous end of his career. He surrendered to Antigonus after acting as an unwilling ally of Eumenes and was kept as Antigonus’ close advisor and afterwards for his son Demetrios-Poliorketes. The last time we hear from him is in 290 BC.
Ptolemy seems to have made a better choice with Egypt which he ruled successfully, starting a dynasty that lasted for three hundred years. Ptolemy I Soter died in his mid-eighties in 283 BC.
The same applies to Seleucos who, after many fights on different sides gained protection from Ptolemy and managed to establish himself as ruler of Alexander’s eastern provinces (311-302 BC). In his ambition to conquer Macedonia and Thrace as well, he was assassinated in 281 BC by Ptolemy Keraunos, son of Ptolemy I. He was the last of the great men that once rode by Alexander’s side to the end of the world.