At the Court of Antigonus Gonatas, the Heir of two Dynasties

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the ancient erudite tradition, Antigonus emerges as the paradigm of the philosopher-king, thoughtfully intent upon his duties, utterly indifferent (or even hostile) to outward forms of sovereignty and very far from the stereotype of the autocrat vested with a power ‘absolutely irresponsible’ typical of many Hellenistic monarchs, the behaviour of whom is generally ferociously censured by Polybius. Also in modern historical memory Antigonus Gonatas embodies a model of sovereignty grounded in philosophy, and this especially since such a characterization is the fil rouge of the well-known monograph by W.W. Tarn (Antigonos Gonatas, Oxford 1913) which, exactly 100 years after its publication, still is the essential reference work for anyone wishing to approach the reign of Antigonus II. The two most famous (and quoted) chapters of Tarn's Antigonos are indeed those devoted, respectively, to the 'teachers' of the king and to the 'circle of intellectuals' gathered at the court of Pella. As has been justly emphasised, the hypothesis of a dependence of Gonatas's political activity on a philosophical framework was considered so concrete by Tarn as to lead him to compare Antigonus II with the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperorpar excellence. In fact, Antigonus Gonatas is believed to have used this 'circle of intellectuals' to present himself not only, and not as much, as the heir of two pre-existing dynasties, the Antipatrids and the Antigonids, but rather as the founder of a new dynasty that in the ideology of the 'philosopher-king' had its foundations and its firmest legitimacy in the eyes of both Macedonians and Greeks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAlexander the Great and Propaganda
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Hellenism
  • Macedonia


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