Craterus was the son of a Macedonian nobleman named Alexander from Orestis and brother of admiral Amphoterus. Craterus commanded the phalanx and all infantry on the left wing in Battle of Issus in 333 BC. In Hyrcania he was sent on a mission against the Tapurians, his first independent command with the Macedonian army. At the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC, near modern Jhelum, he commanded the rearguard, which stayed on the western bank; his men crossed the river only during the final stages of the battle.
At the festivities in Susa, Craterus married princess Amastris, daughter of Oxyathres, the brother of Darius III. Craterus and Polyperchon were appointed to lead 11,500 veteran soldiers back to Macedonia. Craterus was in Cilicia, where he was building the fleet, when Alexander unexpectedly died in Babylon.
In 322 Craterus aided Antipater in the Lamian War against Athens. He sailed with his Cilician navy to Greece and led troops at the Battle of Crannon in 322. When Antigonus rose in rebellion against Perdiccas and Eumenes, Craterus joined him, alongside Antipater and Ptolemy. He married Antipater's daughter Phila, with whom he had a son, also called Craterus.