The World of Christian Cameron

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Spitamenes (in old Persian Spitamaneh; born 370 BC and killed 328 BC) was a Persian courtier in the Persian province of Sogdiana, involved in the collapse of the Persian Empire under the forces of Alexander the Great. Spitamenes was killed as a result of his subsequent rebellion against Alexander.

A general and courtier in the Persian court, Spitamenes held an undefined position in the province of Sogdiana during the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 BC and the brief rule of Artaxerxes V. In 329 BC, Spitamenes betrayed his self-proclaimed sovereign, Bessus, handing him over to Ptolemy, Alexander the Great’s general, with the hope of appeasing the latter.

Shortly after in the same year, when Alexander was founding the new city of Alexandria Eschate on the Jaxartes River, news came that Spitamenes had roused Sogdiana against him and was besieging the Macedonian garrison in Marakanda. Too occupied at the moment to personally confront Spitamenes, Alexander sent an army under the command of Pharnuches which was promptly annihilated with a loss of no less than 2000 infantry and 300 cavalry.

The uprising now posed a direct threat to Alexander’s army, and he moved personally to relieve Marakanda — only to learn that Spitamenes had left Sogdiana and was now attacking Bactria, from where he was repulsed with great difficulty by the satrap of Bactria Artabazus (328 BC). The decisive point came in December when Spitamenes was badly defeated by Alexander’s general Coenus at the Battle of Gabai. Spitamenes’s allies killed their leader and sent his head to Alexander, suing for peace.

Spitamenes had a daughter, Apama, who was married to one of Alexander’s most important generals and an eventual Diadochi (successor), Seleucus I Nicator (February 324 BC). The couple had a son, Antiochus I Soter, eventually a ruler of the successor Seleucid Empire. Several towns were named Apamea in her honour.

It is probable that Spitamenes was a devout Zoroastrian. It has been speculated that he used perceived Macedonian religious offenses as a rallying point for his revolt.