“Why did Alexander the Great’s kingdom become divided after hisdeath?”

Alexander’s kingdom became divided following his death because thekingdom did not have an obvious or justifiable successor. “Hissudden death in Babylon left Macedon in an unprecedented situation”.1His legitimate heir was yet to be born. The outcome was an indefinitebattle for power by Alexander’s successors, resulting in thedivision of the kingdom.

According to Shipley, when asked whom he wanted to succeed him, hesaid “to the strongest”.2However, it is also alleged that Alexander gave his signet ring toone of his high ranking cavalry commander, Perdiccas. Hence, thecommander was selected as the official successor. Perdicass tookcharge of the kingdom, but declared that Alexander’s unborn childwould become the king, in case he was male. On the other hand, wasPhilip III Arrhidaios. He was “Alexander’s half brother, but hewas allegedly mentally deficient, actually, perhaps epileptic”.3As a result, some commanders did not view Philip III as fit to becomea king. At the same time, Alexander’s wife gave birth to a son,Alexander IV. Both heirs became kings and successors to the kingdom.They were known as joint kings.

Another reason for the division of the empire was because of thedisagreements concerning the allocation of satrapies as well as theauthority of Perdikkas. The decision to have Philip III and AlexanderIV as joint kings was not accepted by all Macedonians. Perdicassacted as regent and managed to hold the kingdom together. Heappointed Satraps, referring to regional governors of Macedonia, tobe in control of different territories. Perdikkas, acted as thecommander in charge of the entire kingdom of Macedonia. The othersatrapies were Antipater who was chosen to be in charge of Europeanterritories Antigonos controlled west Asia Minor Ptolemy wasappointed as Egypt’s commander Lysimachos was appointed to controlThrace and Krateros was elected as the kings’ representative.4 Some satraps felt that the allocations were unfair, and as a resultallied against Perdikkas eventually assassinating him. He wasmurdered in 321 BCE in Egypt, after which the kingdom was dividedinto four Hellenistic kingdoms.5

The kingdom continued to be divided despite formation of the fourHellenistic kingdoms. This is because the generals to the territorialstates engaged in intensified conflict, each wanting to control theentire kingdom. In the process, Philip III and Alexander IV weremurdered. The objective of their assassinations was to eliminate anyjustifiable heirs to the kingdom. The four kingdoms comprised ofEgypt, which was under the rule of Ptolemy Antigonids ruledMacedonia the Seleucid dynasty ruled Syria as well as easternregions of the kingdom and Pergamum, a region in Asia Minor, whichwas under the rule of Attalids. However, as the generals continued tofight, the kingdom further divided into three territorial states.Ptolemy continued to be the commander in charge of Egypt, Seleukostook over Asiatic regions, while Cassander controlled Macedonia.6

“What are some major failures of the empire?”

The empire failed in nurturing and preparing a successor, who wouldtake the place of Alexander. The kingdom was large, and all of it wasgoverned by one individual. None of Alexander’s generals had thesame intelligence and charisma as Alexander. Hence, there was noindividual or successor that had the ability to maintaininstantaneous control of the kingdom. The absence of a royal heiralso meant that none of the generals was a legitimate successor tothe kingdom. A legitimate successor was yet to be born, while theempire’s generals held different positions that gave them power toact as successors. Hence, it was impossible for the empire to arriveat a decision on the most suitable heir. As such, each general feltthat they were entitled to become rulers to the kingdom, causingconflict and the split of the empire.

Another failure is that Macedon did not have a functioningadministrative structure. Alexander left his kingdom without properdirection.7The empire followed the commands of their ruler, Alexander. It was asociety, where monarch was the source of power. As such, most of thedecisions concerning how to govern the empire were made by Alexander.The empire should have formed an administrative structure ofgovernance, which directed on what actions to take, laws to followamong other issues affecting the empire. An administrative structureis very important in every society. It ensures that power is evenlydistributed between all members of the administration thus, reducingconflict. Such a structure would have ensured that the empirecontinued to run its activities peacefully without conflicts andcontests for power among the commanders.


Austin Michel. The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the RomanConquest: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Erskine, Andrew. A Companion to the Hellenistic World. Malden,MA Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

Shipley, Graham. The Greek World after Alexander 323-30 BC.New York: Routledge, 2014.

1 Michel Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest: A Selection of Ancien Sources in Translation. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 62.

2 Graham Shipley, The Greek World after Alexander 323-30 BC. (New York: Routledge), 40.

3 Graham Shipley, 40-41.

4 Graham Shipley, 42.

5 Graham Shipley, 41.

6 Graham Shipley, 42.

7 Andrew Erskine, A Companion to the Hellenistic World. (Malden, MA Oxford: Blackwell), 19.