Nothing is known of Antipater’s early career until 342 BC, when he was appointed by Philip to govern Macedon as his regent while the former left for three years of hard and successful campaigning against Thracian and Scythian tribes, which extended Macedonian rule as far as the Hellespont. In 342 BC, when the Athenians tried to assume control of the Euboean towns and expel the pro-Macedonian rulers, he sent Macedonian troops to stop them. In the autumn of the same year, Antipater went to Delphi, as Philip’s representative in the Amphictyonic League, a religious organization to which Macedon had been admitted in 346 BC.
After the triumphal Macedonian victory at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, Antipater was sent as ambassador to Athens (337-336 BC) to negotiate a peace treaty and return the bones of the Athenians who had fallen in the battle.
He started as a great friend to both the young Alexander and the boy’s mother, Olympias; there were even rumours that he was Alexander’s father. He aided Alexander in the struggle to secure his succession after Philip’s death, in 336 BC.
He joined Parmenion in advising Alexander the Great not to set out on his Asiatic expedition until he had provided by marriage for the succession to the throne. On the king’s departure in 334 BC, he was left regent in Macedonia and made “general (strategos) of Europe,” positions he held until 323 BC. The European front was to prove initially quite agitated, and Antipater also had to send reinforcements to the king, as he did while the king was at Gordium in the winter of 334-333 BC.
The Persian fleet under Memnon of Rhodes and Pharnabazus was apparently a considerable danger for Antipater, bringing war in the Aegean Sea and threatening war in Europe. Luckily for the regent, Memnon died during the siege of Mytilene on the isle of Lesvos and the remaining fleet dispersed in 333 BC, after Alexander’s victory at the Battle of Issus.
More dangerous enemies were nearer home; tribes in Thrace rebelled in 332 BC, led by Memnon of Thrace, the Macedonian governor of the region. This was followed shortly by the revolt of Agis III, king of Sparta.
The Spartans, who were not members of the League of Corinth and had not participated in Alexander’s expedition, saw in the Asian campaign the long-awaited chance to take back control over the Peloponnese after the disastrous defeats at the Battle of Leuctra and Battle of Mantinea. The Persians generously funded Sparta’s ambitions, making possible the formation of an army 20,000 strong. After assuming virtual control of Crete, Agis tried to build an anti-Macedonian front. While Athens remained neutral, the Achaeans, Arcadians, and Elis became his allies, with the important exception of Megalopolis, the staunchly anti-Spartan capital of Arcadia. Agis started in 331 BC to besiege the city with his entire army, generating great alarm in Macedon.
So as to avoid having two enemies simultaneously, Antipater pardoned Memnon and even let him keep his office in Thrace, while great sums of money were sent him by Alexander. This helped to create, with Thessalian help and many mercenaries, a force double that of Agis, which Antipater in person led south in 330 BC to confront the Spartans. In the spring of that year, the two armies clashed near Megalopolis. Agis fell with many of his best soldiers, but not without inflicting heavy losses on the Macedonians.
Utterly defeated, the Spartans sued for peace; Antipater’s answer was to negotiate directly with the League of Corinth. However, the Spartan emissaries preferred to treat directly with Alexander, who imposed on Sparta’s allies a penalty of 120 talents and the entrance of Sparta in the league. Antipater also dispatched Zopryon in 332-329 BC to march against the city-states of the Euxine. Zopryon was utterly defeated by a coalition of Scythians and Euxine Greeks.
Alexander appears to have been quite jealous of Antipater’s victories; according to Plutarch, the king wrote in a letter to his viceroy:
“It seems, my friends that while we have been conquering Darius here, there has been a battle of mice in Arcadia.”
Antipater was disliked for supporting oligarchs and tyrants in Greece, but he also worked with the League of Corinth, built by Philip. In addition, his previously close relationship with the ambitious Olympias greatly deteriorated. Whether from jealousy or from the necessity of guarding against the evil consequences of the dissension between Olympias and Antipater, in 324 BC, Alexander ordered the latter to lead fresh troops into Asia; while Craterus, in charge of discharged veterans returning home, was appointed to take over the regency in Macedon. When Alexander suddenly died in Babylon in 323 BC, however, Antipater was able to forestall the transfer of power.
The new regent, Perdiccas, left Antipater in control of Greece. Antipater faced revolts in Athens, Aetolia, and Thessaly that made up the Lamian War, in which southern Greeks attempted to re-assert their independence. He defeated them at the Battle of Crannon in 322 BC, with Craterus’ help, and broke up the rebellion. As part of this he imposed oligarchy upon Athens and demanded the surrender of Demosthenes, who committed suicide to escape capture. Later in the same year Antipater and Craterus were engaged in a war against the Aetolians when he received the news from Antigonus in Asia Minor that Perdiccas contemplated making himself outright ruler of the empire. Antipater and Craterus accordingly concluded peace with the Aetolians and went to war against Perdiccas, allying themselves with Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt. Antipater crossed over to Asia in 321 BC. While still in Syria, he received information that Perdiccas had been murdered by his own soldiers. Craterus fell in battle against Eumenes (Diodorus xviii. 25-39).
In the treaty of Triparadisus (321 BC), Antipater participated in a new division of Alexander’s great kingdom. He appointed himself supreme regent of all Alexander’s empire and was left in control of Greece as guardian of Alexander’s son, Alexander IV, and brother of Philip III. Having quelled a mutiny of his troops and commissioned Antigonus to continue the war against Eumenes and the other partisans of Perdiccas, Antipater returned to Macedonia, arriving there in 320 BC (Justin xiii. 6). Soon after, he was seized by an illness which terminated his active career, and died, leaving the regency to the aged Polyperchon, passing over his son Cassander, a measure which gave rise to much confusion and ill-feeling.