Spitamenes (Old Persian Spitamana; Greek Σπιταμένης; 370 BC – 328 BC) was a Sogdian warlord[1][2] and the leader of the uprising in Sogdiana and Bactria against Alexander the Great, King of Macedon, in 329 BC. He has been credited by modern historians as one of the most tenacious adversaries of Alexander.[3]


Spitamenes was an ally of Bessus.[4][5] In 329, Bessus stirred a revolt in the eastern satrapies, and the same year his allies began to be uncertain about supporting him.[6] Alexander went with his army to Drapsaca, outflanked Bessus and sent him fleeing. Bessus was then removed from power by Spitamenes, and Ptolemy was sent to catch him.[7][8][9][10]

While Alexander was founding the new city of Alexandria Eschate on the Jaxartes river, news came that Spitamenes had roused Sogdiana against him and was besieging the Macedonian garrison in Markanda. Too occupied at that time to personally lead an army against Spitamenes, Alexander sent an army under the command of Pharnuches which was promptly annihilated with a loss of no less than 2000[5] infantry and 300 cavalry.[11]

The uprising now posed a direct threat to his army, and Alexander moved personally to relieve Markanda, only to learn that Spitamenes had left Sogdiana and was attacking Bactria, from where he was repulsed with great difficulty by the satrap of Bactria, Artabazos II (328 BC).

The decisive point came in December 328 BC when Spitamenes was defeated by Alexander's general Coenus at the Battle of Gabai. Spitamenes was killed by some treacherous nomadic tribes' leaders and they sent his head to Alexander, suing for peace.

Spitamenes had a daughter, Apama, who was married to one of Alexander's most important generals and an eventual Diadochi, Seleucus I Nicator (February 324 BC). The couple had a son, Antiochus I Soter, a future ruler of the Seleucid Empire.[12][13] Several towns were named Apamea in her honour.

In fictionEdit

Spitamenes is a character in Steven Pressfield's novel The Afghan Campaign.


  1. ^ Magill, Frank N. et al. (1998), The Ancient World: Dictionary of World Biography, Volume 1, Pasadena, Chicago, London,: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, Salem Press, p. 1010, ISBN 0-89356-313-7.
  2. ^ Holt, Frank L. (1989), Alexander the Great and Bactria: the Formation of a Greek Frontier in Central Asia, Leiden, New York, Copenhagen, Cologne: E. J. Brill, pp 64–65 (see footnote #63 for a discussion on Spitamenes and Apama), ISBN 90-04-08612-9.
  3. ^ Mairs, Rachel (2020). The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781351610278. Interest in 'great men' was no longer limited to Alexander, but also to Central Asian figures, in particular the Sogdian Spitamenes, one of Alexander's most tenacious adversaries, connected to Samarkand, whose satrap he had been [...]
  4. ^ Rice, E. E. (1997). Alexander the Great. History Press. p. 39. ISBN 9780752468389. Alexander crossed the Tanais, again with hide rafts, in pursuit of the Scythians but turned back at the news of successful actions by Spitamenes, a Sogdian nobleman and former ally of Bessus, who had attacked the Macedonian garrison at [...]
  5. ^ a b Tolstoy, Alexandra (2003). The Last Secrets of the Silk Road In the Footsteps of Marco Polo by Horse and Camel. Globe Pequot Press. p. 39. ISBN 9781592282012.
  6. ^ Debra Skelton, Pamela Dell (2005). Empire of Alexander the Great. Chelsea House. p. 39. ISBN 9781604131628. Bessus's allies were no longer certain they wanted to back him. In June of 329 B.C. about a year after Alexander began chasing Bessus, the Sogdian leader, Spitamenes, arrested his former ally.
  7. ^ Walbank, Frank W. "Alexander the Great". Britannica. Archived from the original on 11 September 2021. Retrieved 11 September 2021. Crossing the Oxus, he sent his general Ptolemy in pursuit of Bessus, who had meanwhile been overthrown by the Sogdian Spitamenes.
  8. ^ Falk, Avner (1996). A psychoanalytic history of the Jews. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 210. ISBN 9780838636602.
  9. ^ Geller, Kevin (2016). The 100 Most Influential Military Leaders of All Time. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 39. ISBN 9781508100447. [...] he sent his general Ptolemy in pursuit of Bessus, who had meanwhile been overthrown by the Sogdian Spitamenes.
  10. ^ Runion, Meredith L. (2017). The History of Afghanistan, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. p. 49. ISBN 9781610697781. After passing over the Oxus River, Alexander sent his general Ptolemy to track down Bessus, who at this point was removed from power by the Sogdian Spitamenes.
  11. ^ Debra Skelton, Pamela Dell (2009). Empire of Alexander the Great. Chelsea House. p. 48. ISBN 9781604131628.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ Erica Marat, Rico Isaacs, ed. (2021). Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Central Asia. Taylor & Francis. p. 49. ISBN 9780429603594. The dynasty that survived Seleucus through his son Antiochus (by his wife Apama, daughter of the Sogdian Spitamenes) has not attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, but historians know ...
  13. ^ Christelle Fischer-Bovet, Sitta von Reden (2021). Comparing the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires: Integration, Communication, and Resistance. Cambridge University Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780429603594. Apama, wife of Seleucus I, was the daughter of the Sogdian Spitamenes (Arr. Anab. 7.4.6). She was the mother of Antiochus I and also of Achaios{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)