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Leonnatus, son of Anteas

Leonnatus, son of Anteas, plays a minor part in the early part of Alexander’s history, emerging as a character of note only after 328BC. However, he served with distinction as one of Alexander’s bodyguards, so earns his place as one of the king’s closest companions.

We don’t have a date for Leonnatus’ birth, but it is generally accepted that he was coeval with Alexander. We don’t know anything about Anteas, his father, although it appears that he was noble, possibly even from the ruling house of Lynkestis and a relative of Philip II’s mother (Heckel, ‘Marshals’, p.91).

Leonnatus’ first appearance in Alexander’s history is as one of the men who apprehended and killed Pausanias, Philip’s assassin (Diod. 16.94.4); and so it is most likely that he was already serving in the hypaspists. Although he is possibly mentioned in an inscription dated to around 335/334 (Heckel, pp.91-2), there is no certain record of him after Philip’s death until 333BC. Now he appears in the sources as the envoy Alexander sent in the first place to the royal ladies who fell into Alexander’s hands after Issus (Arrian 2.12.5; QC 3.12.7-12; Diod. 17.37.3). However, it is likely that it was in fact Laomedon, the son of Larichos, who performed this function (because he was bilingual), and that Leonnatus’ name was substituted by Ptolemy when he wrote his history (due to fall-out with Laomedon - Heckel, p.93).

At some point in 332/1 Leonnatus was made a somatophylax, one of the seven personal bodyguards of the king, following the death in Egypt of Arybbas (Arrian 3.5.5). It is probable that he was the first of Alexander’s friends to be appointed to this select group, the start of the gradual replacement of Philip’s appointees. After his appointment he all but disappears from the sources until the campaign in Sogdia, when he achieves some independent military commands (for example, at the siege of Chorienes’ Rock – Arrian 4.21.4; 4.23.3; 4.24.9-10).

During the campaign in Bactria and Sogdia, however, he appears in four key episodes. First, he is mentioned by Curtius as being one of those involved in the arrest of Philotas – in his role as somatophylax, rather than as one of the cabal that ganged up on Philotas (QC 6.8.17). He plays a greater role in the Cleitus incident, as he is described as being one of those who attempted to restrain Alexander – unsuccessfully, as it turned out – when the argument became nasty (QC 8.1.45-46). Curtius also mentions him as one of the two men who receive information about the Pages’ Conspiracy (along with Ptolemy), who alert Alexander to the plot (QC 8.6.22).

The fourth incident puts him in a more infamous light – it is he, according to Arrian, who mocks the Persians when they perform proskynesis (Arrian 4.12.2). Although Arrian is the only writer who says that it was him – Curtius names Polyperchon, while Plutarch mentions the story much later, with reference to Cassander – it seems clear that Arrian’s is the more likely story (see Heckel, p.97).

Although Alexander was angry with Leonnatus at the time, his anger was brief (possibly because of Leonnatus’ noble blood); and it is not much later that he is given the first of his military commands. As the Pages’ Conspiracy occurred after the proskynesis episode, it is probably his loyal action then, as much as anything else, that put him back into the king’s good books.

Thereafter, Leonnatus was rewarded with a succession of military commands. His most notable military action, however, was his participation in the siege of the Mallian town where Alexander was wounded. Leonnatus followed Alexander down from the wall, with Peucestas (and one or two others, variously attested by the sources), and helped to protect the wounded king until the rest of the army burst in to massacre the townsfolk (Arrian.6.9-10; QC 9.5.14-17 says that he was also badly wounded; Plut. ‘Moralia’ 344C-E).

Once the army reached the mouth of the Indus, and the king and Leonnatus were presumably fully recovered from their wounds, Leonnatus was ordered to remain in the land of the Oretai while the rest of the army set of into Gedrosia (Arrian 6.22.3). There he quelled an insurrection by the inhabitants (QC 9.10.19; ref. Arrian 7.5.5), victualled Nearchus’ fleet, and set things in order in the land of the Oretai before setting off after Alexander. When they were reunited in Susa, Alexander awarded him a crown for his bravery – in saving Alexander’s life at the Mallian town, and for his victory over the Oretai (Arrian 7.5.4-5).

Leonnatus was clearly brave, but he was also obviously arrogant and self-serving – a charge that could indeed be levelled at almost all Alexander’s marshals, particularly in the period following the king’s death. He was well known for his love of luxury – Plutarch tells how he had sand for his exercises brought by camel train from Egypt (‘Life of Alexander’, 40.1; also Pliny, ‘Natural History’, 35.167-169), while Aelian and Athenaeus, clearly following the same source, say he employed massive hunting nets (Aelian, ‘Varia Historia’, 9.3; Athenaeus, ‘Deipnosophists’, 12.537d–540a).

Leonnatus’ actions after Alexander’s death were, like those of the other officers, contrary and self-serving. Supporting Perdiccas to begin with, he took command of the cavalry, and was appointed co-regent with his colleague (QC 10.7.8). That didn’t last for long, and Leonnatus was sidelined in the final settlement at Babylon, and awarded the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia (Arrian ‘Events After Alexander’ 4-6; QC 10.10.2). Intending to overthrow Perdiccas, Leonnatus attempted to suborn Eumenes, cross the Hellespont with him and wrest control of Macedonia. Eumenes refused, and went off to join Perdiccas (see, for example, Plutarch, ‘Life of Eumenes’, 3.6). Leonnatus crossed to Europe anyway, and marched off to join Antipater in Lamia. He was brought to battle by the Athenian Antiphilos, and was mortally wounded after being cut off from his troops. His military career had only picked up in early 327BC, and within five years he was dead.

(With thanks to Linda Ann for help with references.)