Friday, July 23, 2010

Tôi Kratistôi (And Good Riddance)


Retired emperor Bill Gates

1: Microsoft sank at least a quarter of a billion dollars into the Kin, its recently canceled cellphone. This is on top of its $500m acquisition of Danger, absorbed in order to develop it. Notwithstanding Kin's shortcomings as a product, the most entertaining aspect of the cock-up is that it appears to be the result of ego battles in Redmond: rumor has it that Kin was throttled in its billion-dollar crib by an executive who saw it as a threat to Windows Mobile. According to the Daily Beast, in-fighting among the brass now threatens CEO Steve Ballmer himself.

2: Division of the Empire


Deceased emperor Alexander the Great

Alexander had no obvious or legitimate heir, his son Alexander IV by Roxane being born after Alexander's death. This left the huge question as to who would rule the newly conquered and barely pacified Empire. According to Diodorus, Alexander's companions asked him when he was on his deathbed to whom he bequeathed his kingdom; his laconic reply was "tôi kratistôi"—"to the strongest". Given that Arrian and Plutarch have Alexander speechless by this point, it is possible that this is an apocryphal story. Diodorus, Curtius and Justin also have the more plausible story of Alexander passing his signet ring to Perdiccas, one of his bodyguard and leader of the companion cavalry, in front of witnesses, thereby possibly nominating Perdiccas as his successor.

In any event, Perdiccas initially avoided explicitly claiming power, instead suggesting that Roxane's baby would be king, if male; with himself, Craterus, Leonnatus and Antipater as guardians. However, the infantry, under the command of Meleager, rejected this arrangement since they had been excluded from the discussion. Instead, they supported Alexander's half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus. Eventually, the two sides reconciled, and after the birth of Alexander IV, he and Philip III were appointed joint kings of the Empire—albeit in name only.

It was not long, however, before dissension and rivalry began to afflict the Macedonians. The satrapies handed out by Perdiccas at the Partition of Babylon became power bases each general could use to launch his own bid for power. After the assassination of Perdiccas in 321 BC, all semblance of Macedonian unity collapsed, and 40 years of war between "The Successors" (Diadochi) ensued before the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocks: the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the Kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor, and Macedon. In the process, both Alexander IV and Philip III were murdered.