When Demetrios was captured by Seleukid forces in 286 BC, Antigonos was left to defend the remnants of his father's kingdom. Amid the chaos, Pyrrhos of Epeiros, the current king of Macedonia, seized much of Thessaly from Antigonos. The son of Demetrios was forced to make peace with him in 285 in order to hold onto what territory he had left.
Upon learning that his father had drunk himself to death in the following year Antigonos took up the diadem although he did not have much of a kingdom to rule. In 280 BC he tried to remedy the situation by invading Macedonia, but was repelled by the forces of Lysimachos. At this time the Spartans also added to his problems by fomenting revolt in Antigonos' Greek territories.
Two years later he made an important non-aggression pact
with Antiochos I that permitted
him to continue to make his bid for the Macedonian throne without fear
of external intervention. In 277 BC, triumph finally came to Antigonos
when he routed a force of
20, 000 Galatians at Lysimacheia. With such an impressive victory in hand, it was relatively easy for the king to take the reins of power in Macedonia.
Unfortunately this was not entirely the happy ending that Antigonos might have hoped for. In 274 Pyrrhos returned to Greece from his disastrous military adventures in Italy and tried to reclaim his old authority in Macedonia. The flamboyant Epeirote appealed to the sensibilities of many of the Macedonian nobles causing an outbreak of desertions from the Antigonid army. The ensuing war went badly for Antigonos at first, but when Pyrrhos turned against insurgents in the Peloponnesos he allied himself with the Spartans to destroy Pyrrhos once and for all. The Epeirote king was ultimately killed by a brick thrown by a woman during street-to-street-fighting in Argos.
With Pyrrhos out of the way there was still no relief for Antigonos. Almost as soon as he had restored his power in Greece as far as Korinth, the Athenians and Spartans were instigating revolt with the help of Ptolemaic money. This new conflict, known as the Chremonidean War (c. 267-263/2 BC), after the name of the statesman who brought Athens into the anti-Macedonian alliance, ended with the defeat of the allies and the complete surrender of Athens. Antigonos did not forget the role that Ptolemaic Egypt had played in his troubles and pushed the power of Egypt out of the Aegean during the course of the 250s.
In 250/49 BC Antigonos was again made a victim of Ptolemaic intrigue when Alexander, his governor of Korinth was induced to claim independence and maintain control of Chalkis. Upon his death in 245 the Macedonian king was briefly able to restore some of his fortunes in the area by tricking Alexander's widow into giving him control of the Akrokorinth. Unfortunately, within two years it was lost again, this time to Aratos of Sikyon and the Achaian League.
In order to solve this new problem Antigonos allied himself with the Aitolian League and attempted to force the issue at the Battle of Pellene (241 BC). This war resulted in failure and a truce between the Achaian League and Macedonia. Two years later Antigonos died, an old man who had spent his whole life bearing the same sorts of misfortunes that had afflicted his father.
When he was not absorbed in staving off disaster or prosecuting war against his enemies Antigonos was concerned with the development of culture at his Macedonian court. He surrounded himself with some of the finest artists and philosophers of the day and even fancied himself to be a Stoic.
It is uncertain why he received the epithet, Gonatas,
which has been translated by some philologists as 'Knock-Knees'.
See a coin of Antigonos II Gonatas. All coins are shown actual size and are fully described. For an enlargement and a brief discussion of each coin's historical and iconographic importance please click on the appropriate coin picture.
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