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