by James Romm
A portrait of one of the ancient world’s first political celebrities, who veered from failure to success and back again
The life of Demetrius (337–283 BCE) serves as a through-line to the forty years following the death of Alexander the Great (323–282 BCE), a time of unparalleled turbulence and instability in the ancient world. With no monarch able to take Alexander’s place, his empire fragmented into five pieces.
Capitalizing on good looks, youth, and sexual prowess, Demetrius sought to weld those pieces together and recover the dream of a single world state, with a new Alexander—himself—at its head. He succeeded temporarily, but in crucial, colossal engagements—a massive invasion of Egypt, a siege of Rhodes that went on a full year, and the Battle of Ipsus—he came up just short. He ended his career in a rash invasion of Asia and became the target of a desperate manhunt only to be captured and destroyed by his own son-in-law.