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Erigyius, son of Larichus

Erigyius was a Greek, rather than a Macedonian, originally from Mitylene on Lesbos. His brother, Laomedon, was described as a Macedonian of Amphipolis, however; so it is likely that the family was settled there by Philip after he took the city, and became naturalised.

Erigyius was certainly a ‘boyhood friend’ of Alexander; but, rather than being one of those educed with the prince he was more likely given charge of Alexander as an older mentor. Heckel (“Marshals”) reckons he was born around 380BC – he was described by Curtius as being ‘white-haired’ in 330. He was also one of the five banished over the Pixodarus affair in 336, all of whom were older than Alexander (Ptolemy, Nearchus, Laomedon and Harpalus being the others - and interestingly, only two of them were Macedonian).

We can’t be sure whether Erigyius held any command at the start of the campaign, but after the arrest of Alexander of Lyncestis in the winter of 334/3 he took command of the Greek allies of the Peloponnese (their previous captain was promoted to lead the Thessalians, hitherto commanded by the Lyncestian). At Issus and Gaugamela he led the Greek allied cavalry; in the intervening time he remained in Syria, as one of the military peace-keepers there; so he didn’t take part in the sieges of Tyre or Gaza, and never went to Egypt.

Erigyius went with Alexander on the hair-raising pursuit of Darius through Media and Parthia, and he took charge of the baggage train during the three-pronged move into Hyrcania; so he was clearly trusted with independent command – and an important one, at that.

During the Philotas affair Erigyius appears to have been firmly in the anti-Philotas camp. He is specifically named as one of the companions who carried out the clandestine operation to arrest Philotas and the ‘other conspirators’. So, despite his age, he did not belong to the Macedonian ‘old guard’; rather he was counted as one of Alexander’s new men, which seems obvious enough, as his promotion and prominence were due solely to his relationship with the king.

As the army moved on towards Bactria from Drangiana, Erigyius was one of the commanders left to march back into Aria to deal with the revolt of Satibarzanes. During the ensuing battle he accepted the Persian’s challenge to single combat. In properly Homeric style he slew Satibarzanes – Curtius describes him dodging the Persian’s spear, then shoving his own spear through the barbarian’s neck (and then repeatedly stabbing him until he expired. When Satibarzanes was dead Erigyius cut off his head as a trophy (See QC VII.4.32-40 for a graphic and very Homeric account of the duel).

After this feat, Erigyius is only mentioned twice more. At the Jaxartes he attempted to dissuade Alexander from crossing the river to fight the Scythians – although his advice was ignored, to Alexander’s cost. Then, unfortunately, he died of illness in the winter of 328/7, and was given funeral honours in Sogdia.

In some ways Erigyius was fortunate, for he died while he was at the height of his fame, his duel with Satibarzanes still on everyone’s mind. On the other hand he was clearly a respected and important commander, and Alexander might have felt his loss keenly. We can only speculate what he might have done, and how far he might have risen, had he survived.

Written by marcus