In This Chapter
Alexander Lyncestis’ Plot Against The King
Alexander Lyncestis was a man lucky to be alive. He and his two brothers, Heromenes and Arrhabaeus, had been implicated in the plot to kill Philip II but while they had been executed he had survived. Arrian says that Lyncestis had been,
… one of the first of [Alexander II’s] friends to rally round him after Philip’s death and had gone armed at his side when Alexander entered the palace.Arrian I.25.2
The fact that he was married to Antipater’s daughter could only have helped him as well. Not that he relied on this important connection to save himself. The potentially chaotic aftermath of Philip’s assassination and return to the palace where more assassins may have been laying in wait to complete what Pausanias started were acutely dangerous moments. No wonder he did well for himself, afterwards:
[King] Alexander held [Lyncestis] in an honoured position in his entourage, sent him to be his general in Thrace, and appointed him to the command of the Thessalian cavalry…Arrian I.25.2
Alexander the king certainly put a lot of trust in the man who for all his loyalty was still ‘implicated’ in Philip’s murder. It’s true that Alexander was far more prepared than we ever would be to take in men who had once been his enemies but I suspect that this implication was founded not on a suspicion of actual guilt but opportunism: Alexander Lyncestis was the son of Aëropus who was the cousin of Eurydice, Philip II’s mother; this gave him a claim to the Macedonian throne. The murder of Philip II gave Alexander an opportunity to eliminate potential rivals for that throne and escape criticism by claiming that the victims were involved in the plot to kill his father. Lyncestis must have known this, hence – whether or not he had anything to do with Philip’s murder – he went to great lengths to prove his loyalty.
So, Alexander Lyncestis had done well for himself, but now his career came to a sudden halt. In Arrian I.17 we read about Amyntas son of Antiochus who so disliked Alexander III he ran away from Macedon. He ended up in Ephesus only to be forced to flee again just before Alexander arrived there. Arrian says that Amyntas arrived at Darius’ court with a letter from Alexander Lyncestis. This inspired the Great King to send a man named Sisines to negotiate with him. Arrian doesn’t tell us what the letter said, but from what he does say we can infer that it contained an offer to kill the Alexander III because Sisines was authorised to inform that if he did so,
… Darius would install him as king of Macedonia and present him with a thousand talents of gold as well as the kingdom.Arrian I.25.3
But Sisines was captured, and (under torture?) spilled the beans to Parmenion.
Parmenion was either on his way to, or in, Phrygia at the time so sent the Persian under guard to Alexander. Sisines repeated his story. Alexander summoned his friends and discussed what he should do next.
Rather amusingly, and a sign of the closeness of the friends to their king, they rebuked him for having trusted Lyncestis in the first place. They also turned their minds to an incident that had occurred during the Siege of Halicarnassus when a swallow had settled on Alexander’s head and kept singing until he was fully awake. Alexander had asked Aristander to interpret what happened. The seer told him that ‘it signified a plot by one of his friends’ (Arr. I.25.8).
So it had proved, and now the loyal friends recommended that Lyncestis be executed. But the matter was a very delicate one: if Alexander executed Lyncestis, Antipater was in a position to do him a great deal of harm, perhaps even overthrow him. For that reason, therefore, he decided that Lyncestis should not be executed but simply put under house arrest. It appears that he was with Parmenion’s detachment at this time because agents were sent in disguise to the general to inform him verbally what Alexander had decided. Lyncestis was duly arrested and would continue to travel with the expedition until being put to death in Drangiana in late 330 BC.
A couple of things before I finish.
The notes to my copy of Arrian suggest that the story of the swallow may be apocryphal – Arrian tells it in ‘indirect speech’
Lastly, one can only wonder why – if Alexander Lyncestis was indeed guilty of plotting against Alexander III – he chose this moment to make his move. Alexander the king had just won his first major battle. He was extremely popular with his men. Anyone trying to overthrow him would have to contend with that afterwards. There’s a reason why the two other major plots against Alexander occurred in Bactria-Sogdia. I don’t know the answer to this question, but I would consider it more likely that either Lyncestis was set up or had indeed been plotting to kill Alexander in the future only for events unknown to force his hand so that he had to act now.
Hammond, Martin (tr.) Arrian: Alexander the Great (Oxford, OUP, 2013)