Lecturer: Assoc Prof Pat Wheatley
Demetrius Poliorcetes, "The Besieger of Cities" is a scintillating figure, even among the high profile Diadochoi (Successors to Alexander). He was born in 336 BC, the year that Alexander became king, and eventually rose to become king of Macedonia himself by 294, only to be chased out in 287, and die in captivity in 282.
The sources state that he was a personage of extraordinary vigour and charisma, blending stature, beauty, energy, and attitude. There are two areas of Demetrius’ life which are of peculiar interest and serve to illustrate a dichotomy in his personality that was also perceived by the ancients.
We observe his great energy and ingenuity during his famous year-long siege of Rhodes in 305/04 BC, in the aftermath of which the Rhodians built their Colossus, one of the great wonders of the ancient world, and we may also note a corollary in his love life. Ironically the verb poliorkeo can also mean, metaphorically, ‘to pester’, and Demetrius was an inveterate pursuer of women and polygamist as well.
He was married at least 4 times, first to the 40 year-old Phila when he was aged only 15, and in love with a good many woman, and had numerous courtesans some of whose suggestive names are preserved: Lamia, Leaena, Mania, Chrysis. Demetrius’ life was rich in controversy, triumph, catastrophe, and pathos, played out against the backdrop of the most chaotic period of Hellenistic history.
Dr Pat Wheatley is Associate Professor of Ancient History in the Classics Department at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He received his PhD with Distinction from the University of Western Australia in 1998, and lectured at the University of Queensland until 2004. His research specialty is the history and historiography of the Successors to Alexander the Great, and he has published extensively on the chronology, coinage, and social aspects of this period.
His books include: Alexander and His Successors: Essays from the Antipodes (2009); Justin. Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, vol. 2 (Oxford University Press 2011); and East and West in the World Empire of Alexander the Great. Essays in Honour of Brian Bosworth, (Oxford University Press 2015).
In between riding his collection of Triumph and Indian motorcycles, and communing with his tortoiseshell cats, he is collaborating with Ms Charlotte Dunn in writing the first book in English on Alexander the Great’s most controversial Successor, Demetrius Poliorcetes, “The Besieger of Cities”.
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