WTF Fun Fact 12984 – Demetrius The Besieger

Demetrius The Besieger was the son of one of Alexander the Great’s generals. And if you know much about ancient history, you know Alexander died young, leaving his enormous kingdom in the lurch when it came to a ruler. As a result, many men tried to step up and declare themselves king, splitting the empire into many parts.

It’s important to note, however, that most of what we know about Demetrius comes from the ancient biographer Plutarch, so it’s second-hand knowledge.

The story of Demetrius The Besieger

Dr. Charlotte Dunn from the University of Tasmania is an expert on Demetrius. In The Conversation (cited below), she explains how he came to power. Calling him “one of the more outrageous rulers of the time,” she notes that:

“…Demetrius was never supposed to be king. But he and his father Antigonus the One-Eyed didn’t let a lack of royal blood get in the way of ambition. The two of them spent many years fighting, stealing territory, and eliminating rivals. In 306 BCE, they both claimed the title King. They were trendsetters in this area, and soon self-made kings popped up all over the place, dividing Alexander’s empire into smaller kingdoms of their own. But even during this time of royally bad behavior and a multitude of rival kings, Demetrius still managed to gain a standout reputation.”

Demetrius became known as the Besieger after commissioning a giant machine called the Helepolis (or “city-taker”). It besieged cities with catapults and battering rams non-stop. In fact, even the citizens of the besieged cities were impressed by it. One city asked if they could keep it.

Dunn describes many more stories from Plutarch about the outrageous king. This includes one about his obsession with being admitted to the Athenian Mystery cult. Since admission only happened at specific times of the year, Demetrius changed the calendar to make it possible.

Making money with Demetrius

And while there are coins that appear to represent his predecessor Alexander the Great, it’s more likely that all coins made before Demetrius depicted divine beings (who may have had a resemblance to contemporary leaders, many of whom claimed to be descended from gods and goddesses).

Demetrius purposely ensured his image was on coins (though he sometimes bore a striking resemblance to Poseidon as well). He was likely the first ruler to do so in the Western world. He claimed to be the son of Poseidon and Aphrodite.

More “fun facts” about Demetrius the Besieger

Demetrius was also a partier, a polygamist, and a pretty poor leader.

He cavorted with wives and mistresses inside of temples, taxed his people in order to procure beauty products for his lovers, and dumped the petitions of his citizens into the river instead of reading them.

Eventually, he was chased out of Macedonia and captured by his enemies. However, he still maintained his bad behavior, even in captivity.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Siege warfare, polygamy and sacrilege: meet history’s most outrageous king, Demetrius the Besieger” — The Conversation

WTF Fun Fact 12655 – Alexander the Great and His Horse

King Alexander the Great spent his entire adult life trying to conquer the world on behalf of Macedonia, and by his side, nearly the entire time was his horse, Bucephalus.

The ancient writer Plutarch wrote much of what we know about the life of Alexander, including the story about how the 12-year-old future king won his noble steed.

A horse dealer tried charging Alexander’s father a very high sum for the horse (to be fair, his father was King Philip II of Macedon). No one had seemed it a good deal since the horse could not be tamed. But young Alexander saw some potential and made a deal with the horse seller – if he could tame it, he could keep it. If not, he would pay the high sum.

Of course, we know where this story goes – Alexander subdued the horse and then rode it into nearly every battle for decades until the horse died during a campaign in India.

As someone who felt he had the right to conquer the world, Alexander left his name all over it, including over 70 cities named Alexandria.

But he loved his horse Bucephalus so much that when it died in 326 BCE, he named a city Bucephala.

The ancient writer Pliny the Elder also wrote about the event:

King Alexander had also a very remarkable horse; it was called Bucephalus, either on account of the fierceness of its aspect, or because it had the figure of a bull’s head marked on its shoulder. It is said, that he was struck with its beauty when he was only a boy, and that it was purchased from the stud of Philonicus, the Pharsalian, for thirteen talents. When it was equipped with the royal trappings, it would suffer no one except Alexander to mount it, although at other times it would allow anyone to do so. A memorable circumstance connected with it in battle is recorded of this horse; it is said that when it was wounded in the attack upon Thebes, it would not allow Alexander to mount any other horse. Many other circumstances, also, of a similar nature, occurred respecting it; so that when it died, the king duly performed its obsequies, and built around its tomb a city, which he named after it” The Natural History of Pliny, Volume 2, translation by John Bostock, Henry Thomas Riley.

– WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Bucephalus: The Horse of Alexander the Great” — ThoughtCo.