Posts Tagged With: Adea Euridike

The Haunted Empire

Several months ago, I bought a copy of Ghost on the Throne by James Romm. The sub-title to the book explains what it is about: The Death of Alexander the Great and the Bloody Fight for His Empire.

To date, the only other book dedicated to the wars of the Successors that I have read has been Robin Waterfield’s Dividing the Spoils. As I write these words I am 170 pages into the 322 page long book, and I have to say I am not enjoying it as much as I did Dividing the Spoils. Not because I think Romm is a bad historian but because Waterfield is simply a better write. He has the rare gift of making his text flow easily off the page.

Having said that, Ghost on the Throne is a well written book; it is also very well laid out. Romm not only sub-divides his chapters but gives the latter their own titles so that you know exactly where and when you are in the story.

As for me, I have seen the death of Leonnatus in the Lamian War, and the death of Alexander’s half-sister, Cynnane, as she travelled east to marry her daughter, Adea, to Philip III. Coming up is Ptolemy’s theft of Alexander’s body and the death of the most popular living Macedonian at this time, Craterus.


Out of what I have read so far, two facts mentioned by Romm have really jumped out at me. I think I knew them already but for whatever reason they have made a strong impression on me now.

The first is that only Macedonian kings could marry more than one woman at a time. This was a big shame for Perdiccas – if noblemen could have practiced polygamy, he could have married Nicaea, Antipater’s daughter, and Cleopatra, Alexander’s only full-sister, and put himself in an all but unassailable position if he wished – as he surely did – to make a bid for the Macedonian throne. As it was, he had to pick one with the inevitable result that he would insult the parent of the other.

The second is how – between the cavalry and infantry – utterly divided the Macedonian army was. Even though I know very well what happened after Alexander died – how the infantry demanded that Arrhidaeos be made king while the cavalry decided on Roxane’s as yet unborn child, and the way in which the infantry more or less ran the cavalry out of town before a reconciliation was reached – reading about it again is still astonishing.

The fault line between infantry and cavalry seems to have been absolute. No cavalry or infantrymen joined the other side. How could they have been so opposed to each other? Had the rebellions at the Hyphasis river or at Opis divided them? Or would they have still turned on each other if Alexander had died without ever going to Asia? Whatever the answer, the fact that he managed to hold the two sides together and make sure a brilliant fighting force out of them speaks many volumes for his charisma and intelligence.

Credit Where It’s Due
Front cover of Ghost on the Throne: Goodreads

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Arrian and Cynnane

23rd – 30th November

As of today I am up to Book III, Chapter 6 of Arrian’s Anabasis. If you would like to read the latest posts, click here.  For my list of past posts, click here.


Ancient History Encyclopedia has a very interesting article on Cynnane, Alexander’s half-sister. She was as strong a woman as her brother was a man and came close to seizing the Macedonian throne through her daughter, Adea and Philip III Arrhidaeus, after Alexander’s death.
Read her story here. If you would like to read more about Alexander’s other siblings, I wrote about them as part of my bullet-point series here.

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Plutarch’s Women: Antigone, Frenzied Women, Olympias & Cleopatra, Women of Persis (Chapts. 48, 49, 67 – 69)

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We start this post with the effective beginning of the Philotas Affair. In Chapter 48 of his Life of Alexander, Plutarch tells us how Philotas, while being an extremely generous man was also a proud one; so much so that even his father, Parmenion, was obliged to ask him to tone his behaviour down.
Unfortunately, the warning didn’t work. Perhaps it was too late. For, as Plutarch says,

… accusations against Philotas had been reaching Alexander for many years.

The beginning of the end came after Parmenion captured Darius III’s treasure in Damascus. He brought numerous prisoners to the Macedonian camp, one of whom was a ‘beautiful girl’ named Antigone. She became Philotas’ lover.
Over time, Philotas boasted to Antigone that Alexander’s achievements were actually due to Parmenion and himself. According to Plutarch, Philotas,

[spoke] of Alexander as a mere boy who owed his title of ruler to their efforts.

Plutarch says that Philotas’ boastings were fuelled by alcohol. However much Antigone had drunk, she remembered what he said and shared it with a friend. Who then told another friend. Before long, Philotas’ indiscreet words reached the ear of Alexander. He had Antigone brought before him and ordered her to spy on Philotas for him.
There is no indication in the text that Antigone was acting maliciously when she repeated Philotas’ words to her friend. I imagine they were friends simply catching up with each other’s news and the latest gossip. If so, being hauled before Alexander must have been a big shock for her. According to Heckel*, Plutarch describes Antigone as a gynaion, which means a ‘weak, little woman’**. If indeed she was, meeting Alexander would have been terrifying.
Antigone appears one more time, at the start of Chapter 49, when Plutarch records that

… in his conversations with Antigone he uttered many indiscretions and often spoke slightingly of the king, sometimes through anger and sometimes through boastfulness…

It is a great shame we don’t know anything more solid about Antigone’s character or her relationship with Philotas other than what Plutarch tells us. Whether or not Philotas was a means to an end for her, spying on him could not have been easy. Who knows what stresses it caused. Such information is now, it seems, lost to history.
Frenzied Women
After Antigone, there are no further references to any women until Chapter 67. Alexander is now on his way back to Babylon, reclining on a couch set on a large wheeled platform at the head of a ‘Bacchanalian procession’. As Alexander sat with his companions, feasting day and night, the Macedonian soldiers behind him ambled along,

… dipping their cups, drinking-horns or earthenware goblets into huge casks and misxinf bowls… as they marched…

… except, that is, for those who had given up walking and were now ‘sprawled by the wayside’!
Drinking was not the only order of the day, though,

… the whole landscape resounded with the music of pipes and flutes, with harping and singing and the cries of women rapt with the divine frenzy…

This puts me in mind of Olympias’ ‘Orphic religion’, which Plutarch describes in Chapter 2 (and which I wrote about in this post), the rites of which she celebrated with such wild abandon.
Olympias and Cleopatra
Speaking of Olympias, she is referenced again – along with Alexander’s sister Cleopatra – in Chapter 68. Unsurprisingly, given Plutarch’s view of the queen, we find her ‘intriguing against Antipater’. In fact, according to Plutarch, she and Cleopatra had done no less than taken Epirus (Olympias) and Macedon (Cleopatra) for themselves.

When Alexander heard of this, he remarked that his mother had made the wiser choice, since the Macedonians would never tolerate being governed by a woman.

This, of course, is not wholly true. Macedonians were happy to be led into war by Adea Euridike in 317 B.C. And who knows, if the soldiers hadn’t realised that the army opposite was being led by Olympias, Euridike might have won and had a chance at ruling Macedon properly.
Women of Persis
In Chapter 69, Plutarch gives an account of how Alexander ‘distributed money to the women’ of Persis, which was a ‘custom of the Persian kings’. Or most of them, anyway; Plutarch names and shames Ochus who ‘never set foot’ in Persis despite it being his native country. ‘[h]e was mean enough to exile himself from his native land’. Alexander’s actions again recall how Plutarch says he avoided meeting the Persian Royal family or indeed women in general in order to prove himself better (i.e. more chaste) than the Persians.

* Waldemar Heckel Who’s Who in the World of Alexander the Great (2009)
** I am indebted to a kind friend, EY, for this information. Further to the above, when used by a husband/lover, gynaion becomes a term of endearment, meaning simply ‘little woman’

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Plutarch’s Women: The Persian Royal Family, Barbarian Women, the Amazonian Queen, General Ref. & Roxane (Chapts. 43, 44, 46 & 47)

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The Persian Royal Family
We pick up the story of Plutarch’s women in Chapter 43 of his Life of Alexander. In July 330 BC Alexander finally caught up with Darius III. The Great King had been on the run since losing the Battle of Gaugamela the previous October.
Plutarch tells us that Alexander ‘burst into’ Darius’ camp. He met no opposition there, however, only ‘great heaps of gold and silver vessels’ and ‘wagons full of women and children that were moving aimlessly about’.
How empty these remnants of his riches must have seemed to Darius; how broken his people.
Today, however, the Great King wasn’t in the camp but further up the road. He was found by a Macedonian named Polystratus, lying in a wagon, ‘riddled with javelins’. At Darius’ request, Polystratus gave him some water to drink.
By-the-bye, could we compare this incident to the moment, during his pursuit of the Great King when Alexander refused water because there was not enough for his men? If so, perhaps Darius’ request could be said to demonstrate his weakness in comparison to Alexander.
Sipping the water, Darius regretted that he would not be able to repay Polystratus’ act of kindness. ‘[b]ut,’ he said to the Macedonian, ‘Alexander will reward you… and the gods will repay him for his courtesy towards my mother, and my wife and my children.’ Darius then placed his hand in Polystratus’ and died. Afterwards, Alexander sent his body to Sisygambis, Darius’ mother, ‘to be laid out in royal state’.
It might be stretching things to say that Darius died happy but it does seem to me that we can’t overestimate how important it was to him that his family were treated with ‘courtesy’. As to weather this was because of their political value or because he genuinely loved them, I cannot say. I imagine it was a combination of the two.
Barbarian Women
In Chapter 44, Plutarch tells how Hyrcanian tribesmen kidnapped Bucephalas. Could you imagine a worse thing for anyone to do? No wonder, then, that Alexander warned the tribe that if Bucephalas was not returned, ‘he would exterminate the whole tribe, together with their women and children.’ Naturally, Bucephalas was returned – unharmed.
This episode has an ending that is typical of Alexander. Once Bucephalas had been returned, the king gave a ransom (Plutarch calls it that) to his kidnappers. Perhaps the king was just relieved to have his beloved horse again, but when I think of people like Porus, Oxyartes and Artabazus, to name but three, I feel I could write a book titled

Resist Then Submit
A Guide to Surviving being Alexander the Great’s Enemy

The next reference to a woman comes in Chapter 46; and what a reference it is, for it is here that Plutarch tells us that, while in Parthia, Alexander met the queen of the legendary Amazons.
Well, kind of.
Firstly, Plutarch acknowledges that while several historians provide an account of this meeting, others – including Ptolemy – ‘maintain that [it] is a fiction’.
Secondly, he records a letter sent by Alexander to Antipater in which Alexander describes the occasion when he is supposed to have met the Amazonian queen. He does not mention her at all – only that a Scythian king had offered him his daughter in marriage.
Finally, he also relates how, years later, Lysimachus smiled at Onesicritus’ account of the incident and said, ‘I wonder where I was then.’

For Plutarch’s sake, it is probably just as well that Alexander never met the queen of the Amazons. He has already undermined his view that Alexander was chaste once (read here – Who was the father of Stateira’s baby?); goodness knows how he would deal with a woman who is supposed to have kept Alexander in bed for two weeks in order to make her pregnant.
General Reference
To tell another man that he is doing X ‘like a woman’ is an age old insult. In Chapter 47 we see that it goes back to at least 330 BC. In Hyrcania, Alexander became ‘anxious’ – for reasons not precisely explained – that his men would refuse to follow him any further. Standing before the Macedonian army, he explained to them that,

… up to now the barbarians had watched them as if they were in a dream, but that if they merely threw the whole country into disorder, and then retired, the Persians would fall upon them as if they were so many women.

Presumably, the Persians had never fought the Amazonians.
As for the toughness of women – Olympias was already showing that she was no feeble female, Thaïs had shown her credentials in Persepolis, and in a few years time, Adea Euridike would give an equally good account of herself.
To end this post, we stay in a Chapter 47 for a quick reference to Roxane. Plutarch says the Alexander fell in love with her after seeing her dance. He admits, though, that the marriage was politically convenient. Despite Stateira I’s pregnancy, he persists with the idea that Alexander was wholly chaste. He records that,

… the barbarians were encouraged by the feeling of partnership which [the] marriage created, and they were completely won over by Alexander’s moderation and courtesy and by the fact that without the sanction of marriage he would not approach the only woman who had ever conquered him.

It is interesting that Plutarch speaks of the barbarians as seeing the marriage in terms of being a ‘partnership’ whereas for him it was a victory for Roxanne. It seems to suggest that the barbarians were reconciled to Alexander’s kingship. As for Plutarch, I suppose it is in the nature of those who have, or in Plutarch’s case, take the side of those in power, to always fear its loss.

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