From early on in my collecting habit I decided to go for quality rather than quantity. At least to the degree I can afford, as quality is far from economical. I wanted to get a really special coin to mark my anniversary, so I picked one of my 'grail' coins, one that has been in my wish-list for a while. I spotted it on a seller's listings a few months back, and I have been saving for it ever since. To say that my saving effort was a success would be a blatant lie, but I had to finally get it as somebody else would spot it sooner or later and grab it from under my nose. You see good quality Demetrius Poliorketes tetradrachms with a 3-digit price tag are not exactly abundant. So, why this coin? I love Hellenistic portraits and this one is among the best of them. The coin shows some minor surface wear and some minimal loss of detail, but it is well-centered, the legends ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ are legible and overall it is a perfectly fine example to me. But the main attraction was always going to be the man depicted on the coin. Hands down, one of the most fascinating personalities of antiquity. And it is almost criminal that if you were to go out there and ask a hundred strangers if they know of Demetrius 'The Besieger' (that's what 'Poliorketes' means), you would struggle to get any positive responses. I am equally guilty to that, as prior to my coin collecting days I could not really tell you who this guy is. Everybody has heard of Alexander the Great or Antony and Cleopatra, but there are other historical figures of equal importance and a fascinating life worthy of a Hollywood adaptation. Yeap, you guessed it right, it is write-up time! Demetrius is one of the 'diadochi', a Greek word meaning 'Successors' that refers to the successors to the vast empire that Alexander the Great left upon his death. Even though he was not one of the original contenders, he is regarded as one of them due to his importance and to the fact that he interacted with all of them being the son of Antigonus I (the one-eyed). Alexander died on June the 10th of 323 BC. He did a right cock-up of a job naming his heir, thus ensuring a follow up of a series of unfortunate but fascinating historical events followed by equally fascinating coins from the personalities that tried to make his empire their own. The main starting candidates were Alexander's mentally challenged brother Philip Arrhideus and his unborn son Alexander IV, while an array of his former generals took turns in becoming regents or satraps to parts of his empire. As one can imagine, it did not take long to get to a full-on civil war where Alexander's former generals fought each other for supreme rule. I am not going to attempt to describe the wars of the diadochi as it would be pure madness. It would take a skilled writer great effort to convey such a complex story in an understandable and organised manner, and I am simply not such a thing. Let's just say that Demetrius's father Antigonus was one of the main protagonists, alas not one with a happy ending. The following Youtube channel has done a fine job describing the events in a series of videos. Here is the first one: Demetrius got to the front-line of the story when his father entrusted him with the command of the Antigonid army's cavalry. He participated in many of the battles of the diadochi wars learning from his mistakes, and when he was only 22 he was assigned to defend Syria from the advanced armies of Ptolemy I. He was a competent commander despite a mixed bag of defeats and successes. Some of those defeats though were quite important and led to losses of vast chunks of Antigonid territory to Seleukus I. His luck turned when he focused his efforts on the Greek mainland and led a powerful fleet to free Athens from the rule of Cassander and Ptolemy. He won his first nickname 'Soter' (savior) as the Athenians were quite happy to see him kick out their oppressors. He then used Athens as a base from where his fleet had some decisive victories against the forces of Ptolemy, with the conquest of Cyprus being the most important. Things were starting to look up for the Antigonids again. (The siege of Rhodes - Cassell's illustrated universal history / Wikimedia Commons) One of the defining chapters of his life, and the one that earned him the title 'Poliorketes', started in 305 BC. Earlier on his way to Cyprus he had asked for the assistance of the Rhodians, a request that was denied. After the conquest of Cyprus and a brief participation in his father's campaign against Ptolemy in Egypt, he decided that he had to teach Rhodes a lesson, but the real underlying reason was that he was worried of the possible naval assistance they might provide to Ptolemy. The prolonged and ultimately unsuccessful siege that followed earned its place in history as one of the most fascinating military engagements of its kind. Demetrius ingenuity was evident from a series of astonishing siege engines he created, including a 55 metre long battering ram and a 38 metre tall siege tower nicknamed 'The Taker of Cities'. The siege lasted over a year and eventually Demetrius was called back by his impatient father. A peace agreement was reached where the Rhodians promised that they would maintain neutrality and would not assist Ptolemy. Despite the positive outcome, it was still a resounding defeat for Demetrius. The Rhodians assembled the bronze, iron and other equipment the besieging army left behind and used it to construct a magnificent statue of the God Helios which became to be known as the 'Colossus of Rhodes' one of the seven wonders of antiquity. A very-well made animated video describing the siege in detail can be found in the same Youtube channel: Demetrius returned to Greece were his lavish lifestyle and overspending caused him great bother. He would party non-stop and engage in involuntary coitus with anyone and everyone regardless of age or sex, something that scandalized the Athenians who realized that Cassander wasn't such a bad ruler after all. There is a famous story of a young handsome Athenian that chose to throw himself in a cauldron of boiling water rather than succumb to Demetrius' advances. Luckily for the locals, the great moment of judgement arrived in 301 BC when Demetrius traveled to Asia to assist his father against the unified army of Cassander, Lysimachus and Seleukus in the decisive battle of Ipsus. It was a return to the earlier father/son tactics where Demetrius would lead the cavalry on the right flank of the Antigonid army. Unfortunately horses are not fond of elephants, and Seleukus had plenty of those, creating an impenetrable barrier that Demetrius was unable to cross, thus rendering his forces immobile. The Antigonid phalanx was left exposed and was battered by the allied forces including thousands of arrows and javelins that hid the sun from the sky. In one of the last tragic moments of the diadochi conflict, Antigonus perished in the middle of his phalanx while hoping and waiting for his son's assistance that never came. Demetrius escaped from the battle to Ephesos with a few thousand troops, but it was effectively the end of the Antigonid empire and the climax to the diadochi conflict. Demetrius returned to his Athenian stronghold, but the locals were not pleased to see him back and forbid him from entering the city. After a brief blockade, Demetrius gained access but he decided to spare Athens and the local populace. In another victorious twist he murdered the son of Cassander and declared himself King of Macedonia. He initially maintained good relations with his neighbor Pyrhus the King of Epirus and managed to remain King of Macedon for a few more years, but eventually Pyrhus allied himself with Ptolemy and Lysimachus who interfered in internal Macedonian disputes and Demetrius was ejected from the throne in 288 BC. Running out of allies and troop numbers, he resorted to a form of guerrilla warfare in Asia where he finally had to surrender to Seleukus when the last of his troops abandoned him. Despite his son's diplomatic efforts, he remained in captivity and died three years later. His legacy remained strong though, as his descendants held to the Macedonian throne for many years to come. This was a remarkable man with no shortage of failures and character shortcomings, but one that has nevertheless earned his place among the Pantheon of great generals. His coins are as interesting as him, having issued numerous types throughout his reign. Show me your Poliorketes coins, or any others associated with his times and the diadochi wars.