Lysimachos was born around 360 BC to Thessalian Greek parents who had migrated to Macedonia. He served in the army of Philip II and was appointed to the select somatophylakes (royal bodyguards) under Alexander the Great.
After the death of Alexander he was given a satrapy consisting of Thrace and parts of north-western Asia Minor. He supported the various coalitions that included Seleukos, Ptolemy and Kassandros against the growing power of Antigonos Monophthalmos.
Like the other major successor generals, he proclaimed himself king in 305/4 BC. He already acted as an independent dynast in Thrace where four years earlier he destroyed Kardia in the Thracian Chersonesos so that he could replace it with his own capital named Lysimacheia.
Lysimachos was instrumental in the final destruction of Antigonos at the battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. It fell to him and his army to hold the Antigonid forces in Asia Minor until Seleukos could arrive from the east with his war elephants and deliver the coup de grace. Because of the great risks that he undertook Lysimachos received the majority of Antigonos' old possessions in Asia Minor.
Despite some difficulties with native Thracian tribal chiefs (he was briefly held hostage by one in 292 BC) as well as an alliance of Skythian nomads and Greek cities, Lysimachos wrested the very throne of Macedonia from Demetrios Poliorketes in 285.
Unfortunately, Lysimachos had difficulty conciliating his subjects to himself. He had a reputation for harshness and over-taxation, which earned him the derogatory nickname, gazophylax, 'the Banker'. He did, however, have one major asset in the person of his son, Agathokles, who was popular as a local governor in Asia Minor.
Nevertheless, at the request of Arsinoe, the second and more ambitious wife of Lysimachos, convinced him to execute Agathokles (the son of his first marriage to Lysandra). This senseless act horrified the people of Asia Minor to such an extent that they invited Seleukos to save them from what was perceived as Lysimachos' unstable violence. The contest was decided on the field of Koroupedion in 281 BC when Lysimachos fell to the forces of Seleukos.
According to some archaeologists the body of the king may have been laid to rest in this monumental tomb cut out of the living rock near the modern Turkish town of Belevi, several kilometers from the ancient city of Ephesos.
Whether Lysimachos truly rested in peace here is somewhat debateable. The tomb itself appears to have been left incomplete at the time of its use for burial, and the sarcophagus associated with the Belevi Mausoleum has been described by at least one art historian as depicting the reclining figure of Antiochos II, who used Ephesus as a royal residence in the 250s and 240s. Even if Lysimachos was interred here, one wonders whether he could have lain unmolested by the local people. It is said that in order to populate a new city nearby and named Arsinoea, after his deadly second wife, Lysimachos sabotaged the sewer system of Ephesos, thereby causing the city to flood. The homeless Ephesians were forcibly relocated to the new city, which minted coins depicting Arsinoe on the obverse and the traditional Ephesian reverse depicting the stag of Artemis. This trick must have made the memory of Lysimachos particularly hateful to the Ephesians, especially after they returned to their original home in 281/0.
See an ancient bronze coin of Lysimachos
See a modern forgery of a silver drachm of Lysimachos
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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