Posts Tagged With: Drypetis

Alexander, Slicer of Knots

Justin’s Alexander
Book XI Chapters 6-9
Part Two
Other posts in this series

For this post I am using this translation of Justin’s Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus

Chapter Six
When deciding upon a title for the first post in this series, I considered ‘Alexander the Pragmatist’ as that seemed to be a key feature of his early kingship. I eventually decided against it as I didn’t think Alexander could be fully described by one word alone.

Nevertheless, his pragmatism was an important element of his rule, and we shall see it more than once today. For example, Justin reports that as the Macedonian army advanced through Asia, Alexander exhorted his men not to destroy the land – as it was their property.

Having mentioned this, Justin allows himself for a brief moment to be in awe of his subject. The Macedonian army was a small force consisting of just 32,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry. Justin remarks,

Whether, with this small force, it is more wonderful that he conquered the world, or that he dared to attempt its conquest, is difficult to determine.

Another example of Alexander’s pragmatism then follows. He entered Asia not with an army comprised of ‘robust young men, or men in the flower of their age’ but veterans, ‘masters of war’. Further to this, Justin says that none of the officers were under sixty.

He is exaggerating the age of Alexander’s army. But why would he do so? I wonder if it is an attempt to rationalise the magnitude of Alexander’s achievement, one that – in his opinion – was surely beyond the power of young men to attain.

Having said that, it’s true that Alexander began his expedition with much older men riding alongside him – Parmenion, for example, and perhaps Erygius? He knew the value of experience.

In his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it account of the Battle of the Granicus River, Justin notes that Alexander’s ‘conduct’ – his bravery – was as much responsible for the Persian defeat as ‘the valour of the Macedonians’. And again, ‘the terror of his name’ is said to have played as large a part in defeating Darius’ lieutenants as his weapons did.

Chapter Seven
A further example of Alexander’s pragmatism begins this chapter. On hearing of Alexander Lyncestes’ alleged treachery, the king doesn’t have him executed but put under arrest. He knows that he is still close to Macedon to avoid trouble from the pro-Lyncestian faction there.

Another feature of Alexander’s character that we saw in the first post was his respect for history, albeit when it suited him. Here, he is not so much selective about what he says but particular in his interpretation.

Justin reports that Alexander took Gordium,

… not so much for the sake of plunder, as because he had heard that in that city, in the temple of Jupiter, was deposited the yoke of Gordius’s car; the knot of which, if anyone should loose, the oracles of old had predicted that he should rule all Asia.

Alexander searched for the ends of the knot but was unable to find them. Unwilling to give up (and risk his army being unsettled by the bad omen), he simply cut the through the knot and announced that he had undone it. He had certainly put, as Justin puts it ‘a forced interpretation on the oracle’. Most importantly, though, it was accepted.

Chapter Eight
Justin says that Alexander ‘crossed Mount Taurus’ (to reach Cilicia) because he feared its defiles. This is certainly not the witness of Curtius.

We move on to the severe illness that afflicted Alexander after he went to bathe in the Cydnus River, and which left him gravely ill.

With a little kindness, we might say that having been warned by Parmenion that Philip of Arcanania meant to poison him, the king was very brave to trust his doctor’s medicine. I suspect Justin is right, though, when he says that ‘Alexander, however, thought it better to trust the doubtful faith of the physician, than to perish of certain disease.’

Chapter Nine
Issus. As the Macedonian and Persian armies approached each other, Justin reports Alexander as being concerned by the small size of his force versus the huge one opposite him. He calmed his nerves by recalling the ‘powerful people he had overthrown’ and marched on.

That was fine for Alexander, but what about his men? Justin notes that to stop them worrying, the king decided a. not to avoid giving battle (so as to not give the men time to panic), and b. to stop and start as they marched towards the Persians to enable his men to get used to what lay before them.

As you might expect, he also encouraged his men with a stirring speech, or rather, several – one tailored for each nationality represented.

He excited the Illyrians and Thracians by describing the enemy’s wealth and treasures, and the Greeks by putting them in mind of their wars of old, and their deadly hatred towards the Persians. He reminded the Macedonians at one time of their conquests in Europe, and at another of their desire to subdue Asia, boasting that no troops in the world had been found a match for them, and assuring them that this battle would put an end to their labours and crown their glory.

Alexander the manipulator at his finest.

One thing that is on my mind though is, did he really intend to stop his eastward expedition after Issus (presuming he thought that there would be no further fighting between it and Babylon?) or was he simply lying?

Following the Battle of Issus, Justin takes us into the Persian royal women’s tent where he describes Alexander as being ‘touched with the respectful concern of the princesses for Darius’. His sympathy for, and the help he subsequently gave to, Sisygambis, Stateira I, Stateira II and Drypetis is undoubtedly a high point in Justin’s treatment of him.

Again, I come away from the book with a sense of Justin’s being on the whole positive towards Alexander. He does describe the Macedonian king as doing some negative actions but they are not dwelt upon. I rather feel at the moment that the real story of Justin’s attitude is to be found between the lines rather than it what he says upfront.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Seven Day Party

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 106, 107 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Macedonian Army Arrives in Carmania
Macedonians Enjoy A Seven Day Road Party
Caranus: Was he Right To Kill Himself?
A Royal Wedding in Susa!

The Story
Chapter 106
Whatever the state of Alexander’s mental health, he made it through the Cedrosian desert. The Macedonian army arrived in Carmania, a ‘well-populated country’ and one that contained ‘everything needful’ for a good time. Which is exactly what the Macedonians proceeded to have as they passed through it.

First of all, though, Alexander let his army rest. That should probably be in inverted commas. When they resumed their march, the men walked ‘in festive dress’. As for Alexander, he ‘led a Dionysiac comus, feasting and drinking as he travelled’. Happy days.

But all good parties must come to an end, and when you wake up the next day, you are liable to do so with a headache. Alexander’s was a particularly bad one – he discovered that ‘many of his [satrapal and military] officials’ whom he had left in charge of various cities and regions had been abusing their power.

Alexander began punishing the offenders. Word of this got around. Some of the guilty ‘revolted against the king’s authority’, others stole money and fled. Hearing of this, Alexander ‘wrote to all his generals and satraps in Asia, ordering them… to disband all their mercenaries immediately’.

Alexander’s next stop was a seaside city named Salmus. There, he rested. One day, while he watched ‘a dramatic contest in the theatre’, Nearchus’ fleet put in to port. The sailors came straight to the theatre where they received a rapturous welcome from the audience.

They gave a report of their voyage to Alexander. The sailors spoke of ‘astonishing ebbings and flowings in the Ocean’, of ‘many large and unsuspected islands… along the coast’ and – most spectacularly of all – ‘an encounter with a large school of incredibly large whales’. The Cedrosians would have been very jealous.

The sailors were enamoured towards the animals. They spoke of their fear that their ships would smash against them, and of how they shouted, blew their trumpets, and beat their shields to make such a loud noise that the whales took fright and dived to deeper water.

Chapter 107
Having received the report, and – hopefully – after giving the sailors a little time to rest, Alexander ordered them to continue their journey to the Euphrates. He and the army left Salmus on foot and started the long trek to Susianê.

They reached it without incident. On the border, an Indian philosopher named Caranus (aka Calanus), who had travelled west with Alexander, fell ill. He was 73 years old and had never been ill before. Knowing that ‘he had received the utmost limit of happiness both from nature and from Fortune’, and – perhaps – perceiving that his illness was terminal, Caranus decided to end his life.

He asked Alexander to build a pyre for him. The king tried to talk him out of killing himself but Caranus’ mind was set. When pyre was finished, he ‘cheerfully’ climbed onto it. The pyre was then lit, and he died.

Diodorus reports that while some who watched him die ‘marvelled at his fortitude and contempt for death’, others ‘thought him mad’, while others still regarded him as ‘vainglorious about his ability to bear pain’.

Caranus was given ‘a magnificent funeral’. When that was done, Alexander resumed his journey and in due course arrived in Susa. There, ‘he married Stateira’ and had Hephaestion marry Drypetis. Diodorus concludes the chapter by saying that Alexander ‘prevailed upon the most prominent of his Friends to take wives also, and gave them in marriage the noblest Persian ladies’. And that is all Diodorus has to say about the famous Susa Weddings.

Did Alexander really hold a seven day party? The Footnotes say that neither Ptolemy or Aristobulos refer to it. On the other hand, both Alexander and his father ‘were fond of the comus in general’.

One of my images of Alexander is of a great general but, frankly, rubbish administrator. He simply wasn’t interested in that sort of thing. The corrupt satraps and generals seem to bear that out. However, upon learning of their deeds he did punish them rather than leave them in place. Having said that, he should never have given Harpalus any position of authority or reinstated him when he abused Alexander’s trust.

And who was the official to whom Alexander said, after Hephaestion died, he would not punish him for any wrong-doing he might do in the future if he honoured Hephaestion? Was that Harpalus? I can’t remember and can’t find it on the ‘net. I don’t know if that is a true story so will have to try and find out.

It seems to me that what we have with Caranus is an early example of a very topical issue – assisted suicide. Plus ça change. Alexander’s initial opposition to Caranus’ request makes sense in terms of his outlook on life. He lived for glory, something that he could never attain enough of. Life, for him, would never reach a point where he could say ‘I have had my fill’. Caranus’ outlook was, by contrast, rather less ambitious.

Of course, there is the story (told by Arrian) that when close to death, Alexander tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the Euphrates river (only to be dissuaded from doing so by Roxane). But Alexander only wanted to kill himself in order to make it appear that he was the son of Ammon. Only Alexander could turn suicide – the ultimate act of self-abnegation – into an act that confirmed his greatness.

Inevitably, along with the debate between those for and against the assisted suicide there were the unhelpful opinions of no few people regarding Caranus, which they should really have kept to themselves.

Diodorus’ representation of the Susa Weddings joins the list of important events that he writes all too briefly about.

Somewhere in the crowd,
Thaïs had to admit she was really quite


This picture can be bought on (German) eBay

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Across the Pasitigris and into the land of the Uxii

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 67 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander Leaves Susa
Royal Family Left Behind – Will Learn Greek
Madetes Puts Up Brief Fight in Uxiane

The Story
We are not told when exactly Alexander left Susa (just that it happened ‘after’ the throne incident) but he must have done so in a timely fashion as Diodorus makes no mention of the king having been distracted by Susa’s riches. So much for Darius’ plan.

Something that Diodorus does mention, however, is that when the Macedonians left Susa, the Persian royal family stayed behind. Alexander may have thought that the road ahead would be too difficult and too dangerous for them. At the same time, he certainly had an eye on the family’s political future as he appointed teachers to teach the family Greek.

Upon leaving Susa, the Macedonian army marched towards the Tigris River, reaching it four days later. By crossing it, the army came into the territory of the Uxii. There, Alexander was confronted by ‘passages guarded by Madetes, a cousin of Dareius’.

As the cliffs were sheer, it appeared that Alexander had no choice but to attack Madetes directly. Just then, a ‘Uxian native’ – perhaps a guide who had been hired/forced to take them through Uxiane – stepped forward and said he knew a way up the cliff ‘to a position above the enemy’.

Alexander sent a detachment with the guide while he lead a direct assault on Madetes’ position. The Macedonians attacked in waves and the battle was in full flow when, to the Persians’ surprise, they saw the ‘flying column of Macedonians’ above them. Rather than wait to be attacked on two fronts, the Persians fled. The pass was taken and the cities of Uxiane soon followed.

As the title of this post indicates, for Tigris we should read Pasitigris, which today is the Karun River. That information comes from the Footnotes and Livius. Wikipedia also adds that the Pasitigris – under its older name of Pishon – was also one of the four rivers that flowed through the Biblical paradise of Eden, which, whether one takes the story of Adam and Eve literally or not, is quite a thought.

There seems no question to me that the assault on Madetes’ pass was a battle well won. I have to admit, though, I have little enthusiasm for the episode. I think that is one part the result of Diodorus not spending much time on the incident and one part the fact that Madetes runs away really quickly. At least Darius stood and fought for a while.

Persian Royal Family’s End of Term Report Card

‘Tries hard in her language studies. One day, I hope to persuade her to stop saying ‘Alpha is for Alexandros’ in a wistful fashion and move on to beta…’
Stateira II
‘Spends too much time arguing with her sister as to whether Alexander is better than Hephaestion.’
‘Winds her sister up by saying ‘if Alexander and Hephaestion are one person then so are we and you can’t disagree with yourself’. A one woman logic free zone.’
‘Refuses to leant Lambda until Sparta joins Alexander’s Hellenic League. Like the Spartans, must try harder.’

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“He too is Alexander”

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 37, 38 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Darius Escapes Alexander’s Pursuit
Sisygambis Mistakes Hephaestion for Alexander
Alexander Restores Royal Family’s Dignity

The Story

Chapter 37
Alexander kept up his pursuit of Darius until late into the night. Diodorus says that the Macedonian king and his cavalrymen rode for two hundred furlongs before turning back to his camp.

Unfortunately, the Footnotes do not say how long a Greek furlong is so it is hard to put Alexander’s ride into context. Google tells me that one furlong today is 201 metres. This website gives two hundred furlongs as the equivalent of twenty-five miles. If that is how far Alexander travelled, it is quite a distance given their earlier exertions. I realise, though, that this is a big if.

Alexander arrived back at his tent around midnight. After a bath to wash off the day’s blood and grime, he sat down to dinner.

As he ate, the Persian royal family were informed that Alexander had returned to camp ‘after stripping Dareius of his arms’. The women broke down in tears at this news. They were joined by the other captives, and the noise became so loud that Alexander had to send Leonnatus to the royal family’s tent ‘to quiet the uproar’.

Leonnatus assured the women that their lord was still alive ‘and that Alexander would show them… proper consideration’. The queens were calmed by this news. In their relief, they ‘hailed Alexander as a god’.

By the time he had bathed and finished eating, Alexander could only have had time for a few hours rest for at daybreak he was up again and on his way to see the royal family.

Alexander entered the queens’ tent with several of his Friends, including Hephaestion. Diodorus states that both he and Alexander ‘were dressed alike’ but that ‘Hephaestion was taller and more handsome’.

This lead Sisygambis, Darius’ mother, to assume that Hephaestion was Alexander and so ‘did him obeisance’. Some of Alexander’s Friends ‘made signs to her and pointed to Alexander’. Realising her mistake, and no doubt blushing with embarrassment, Sisygambis turned to the king.

I am quite certain that another king – in fact, many other kings – would have punished Sisygambis for her error but Alexander was cut from a different cloth. “Never mind, Mother,” he said, “For actually he too is Alexander.”

What did Alexander mean by this? The Footnotes say that his response ‘recalls the proverbial Greek definition of a friend as a “Second Self”‘. This makes ‘he too is Alexander’ seem hardly more than a poetic way of saying ‘he is my friend’.

We would not be doing the two men justice, however, if we did not qualify the nature of their friendship. An opportunity to do that will come in Chapter 47. If you have a copy of Diodorus to hand, you might also look at Chapter 114.

I shall leave of discussing either until the appropriate post. For now, I would say that when Alexander called Hephaestion by his own name he was indicating that theirs was a very personal friendship (for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think he was indicating that they were lovers).

Chapter 38
Diodorus now provides a list of what Alexander did for Sisygambis. He…

  • ‘[D]ecked her with her royal jewelry’
  • ‘Restored her to her previous dignity, with its proper honours’
  • Returned her servants to her, giving her even more
  • Promised to provide (I presume) dowries for Stateira II’s and Drypetis’ marriages
  • Promised to treat her grandson (Ochus) as his own son and ‘show him royal honour’

Alexander called Ochus to him and kissed him. Ochus ‘was fearless in [his] countenance’. Turning to Hephaestion, Alexander ‘remarked… that at the age of six years the boy… was much braver than his father’.

Ochus’ mother, Stateira I was not forgotten about.  Alexander promised her ‘that she would experience nothing inconsistent with her former happiness’.

The royal women cried with joy for Alexander’s kindness towards them. Diodorus says that the king ‘won universal recognition throughout his own army for his exceeding propriety of conduct’. I wonder if this included the men who had dragged the other Persian women by their hair or stripped them naked and hit them with their spear butts.

Diodorus concludes the chapter by applauding Alexander’s actions. ‘Most people are made proud by their successes… and becoming arrogant in their success, are forgetful of the common weakness of mankind’. Alexander, however, had wisdom. ‘[L]et him continue to receive in future ages… the just and proper praise for his good qualities’. Amen to that.

As facetious as it is, I am glad that even Alexander knew what it was like to have a noisy neighbour. If only ours could be as easily dealt with!

I am not sure what ‘stripping Dareius of his arms’ means. It isn’t literally true – Darius escaped Issus with his own weaponry and had access to more. It isn’t true in terms of the Persian army: whether or not Darius escaped by riding over the bodies of his men, as Ptolemy fancifully states, many Persians escaped. Perhaps it is simply a metaphor for the Persian army’s defeat?

I note that when Alexander visits the queens’ tent he speaks first to Sisygambis, and it is she who does obeisance to him. I wonder if this means that in the Persian hierarchy the Queen Mother was more senior to the Queen herself?

Diodorus says that Alexander assured Sisygambis ‘that she would be his second mother’. Surely she is his third after Olympias and Ada!

Ten Reasons Why Hephaestion Could Not Be Alexander Today

  1. He’d get done for credit card fraud
  2. Hephaestion’s size makes him a natural defender, Alexander’s clearly a striker
  3. Their clothes wouldn’t fit
  4. Their girlfriends wouldn’t understand
  5. One Man One Vote
  6. iTunes doesn’t have joint accounts
  7. Arguments would lead to an existential crisis
  8. Inadvertent minesweeping in the pub
  9. Hephaestion would say tomato
  10. They would have an extra man advantage in tag team wrestling
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Plutarch’s Women: The Susa Weddings, Olympias, Roxane & Philinna (Chapts. 70 and 77)

For the other posts in this series click here

The Susa Weddings
Chapter 70 of Plutarch’s Life of Alexander opens with Alexander hosting a drinking contest. Sadly for the winner he was only able to enjoy his prize – more wine – for three days before dying. Plutarch doesn’t give his cause of death but if he had said it was alcohol poisoning I would not have been surprised. It certainly seems to have been the cause-of-death of the other forty one (forty one!) people who are said to have died following the contest.

Immediately after his account of this deadly party, Plutarch gives a brief account of the famous Susa Weddings. On this occasion, we are told, Alexander married Stateira ‘the [eldest] daughter of Darius’ and assigned ‘the noblest of the Persian women to the bravest of his men’. Furthermore, he ‘also invited to a collective wedding-banquet the Macedonians who had already married Persian wives’. It was a very great feast with 9,000 in attendance.

Plutarch does not have anything else to say about the weddings but if you would like to know more, Arrian contains further details. He states that Alexander also married Parysatis, the daughter of Ochus, while Hephaestion married Stateira’s sister, Drypetis; Craterus married Amastrine, daughter of Oxyatres; Perdiccas married an unnamed daughter of Atropates; Ptolemy married Artacama, daughter of Artabazus, and Eumenes married Artacama’s sister, Artonis.

As a result of reading Arrian, what becomes clear to me is that Plutarch’s assertion that Alexander married the noblest women to the bravest men is not all of the story. Let’s take a quick look at the fathers of the brides mentioned above.

  • Darius – Darius III the former Great King.
  • Ochus – Artaxerxes III Ochus, who was Great King between 358 – 338 B.C. Diodorus says Bagoas the eunuch (not the Bagoas whom Alexander was fond of) poisoned him, but according to Wikipedia there is a cuneiform tablet at the British Museum which says Ochus died of natural causes.
  • Oxyatres – Darius III’s brother.
  • Atropates – Governor of Media so a nobleman who remained in Alexander’s service after (?) Darius’ death and performed good service for him.
  • Artabazus – grandson of Artaxerxes II (who reigned 405/4 – 359/8 B.C.). I presume, therefore, that he was a senior member of the Persian nobility?

While I have no doubt that Alexander’s officers were all brave men, Eumenes’ presence in Arrian’s list makes me think that politics was an important factor in Alexander’s decision making regarding which woman was given to which man. After all, as far as I am aware, Eumenes played no significant role in any of the great battles.

One final point – I am surprised that Arrian does not name Perdiccas’ wife. I presume her name was not known to him? Perhaps this is an example of Ptolemy’s alleged bias against Perdiccas?

We now jump forward to the final chapter of Plutarch’s Life – Chapter 77. Alexander has just died following an illness that lasted ten days. Plutarch says that,

[n]obody had any suspicion at the time that Alexander had been poisoned, but it is said that five years afterwards some information was given, on the strength of which Olympias put many men to death…

Now, it’s perfectly possible that in 318 B.C., the truth about what happened to Alexander finally came out.

Or maybe…

In 319 B.C. Antipater died. Before his death, he appointed Polyperchon – rather than his son, Cassander – his successor as Alexander IV’s guardian. This was ‘… to avoid giving the impression that he was trying to set up an Antipatrid dynasty’ (Waterfield Dividing the Spoils p. 73).

This move led to war between Cassander and Polyperchon. For his part, Cassander soon won the support of Antigonus, and (though to a lesser extent) Ptolemy and Lysimachus. Polyperchon, however, was short of friends. He kept going, though, and by 317 B.C. had convinced Olympias to back him.

Could it be possible that this alliance was rooted in a message sent by Polyperchon to Olympias the previous year in which he intimated that Antipater had ordered his sons, Cassander and Iollas, to assassinate Alexander? It would certainly explain why Olympias very vindictively ordered Iollas’ ashes (he died on an unknown occasion between 323 – 317 B.C.) to be scattered.

If Polyperchon did make this allegation ‘five years afterwards’ we can be sure that Olympias would soon connect the dots and fear that just as he had killed her son Cassander would, if he had the chance, kill her grandson. Which is precisely what did, in the end, happen.

For his part, though, Plutarch is sceptical that Alexander was poisoned. He cites the lack of corruption in the king’s body in the day’s following his death as proof of this.

Moving on, at the time of Alexander’s death,

… Roxane was expecting a child and she was therefore held in special honour by the Macedonians. But she was jealous of Alexander’s second wife, Stateira, whom she tricked into visiting her… [w]hen she… got her into her power, she had her murdered, together with her sister, threw the bodies into a well and filled it up with earth. In this crime her accomplice was Perdiccas…

Roxane’s actions are altogether horrible but before we condemn her out of hand we have to ask ourselves what would have happened had Stateira (and Drypetis) lived? Given half a chance, would they have let Roxane alone? Perhaps Stateira and Drypetis were in a weak position as they were Persian and – in the former’s case – had not had time to bear Alexander any children but given their family connections I can’t believe that had Roxane and Perdiccas not murdered them they would have been allowed to slip into obscurity like Bagoas.

Philinna and Olympias
The penultimate reference to a woman is Philinna who Plutarch describes as being ‘obscure and humbly born’. She is mentioned here because she was also Philip III Arrhidaeus’ mother. Plutarch has no more to say about Philinna but one more allegation to make against Olympias. He says that she,

… was believed to have given [Philip III Arrhidaeus] drugs which impaired the functions of his body and irreparably injured his brain.

And that is the end of the book. Plutarch has ended it on a bit of gossip. It should come, I suppose, as no surprise – he has not liked Olympias since the start. Perhaps she really was an unlikable person but I’m not sure she was worse than any of the men.

I have enjoyed reading Plutarch’s Life of Alexander. Thinking about what I have read, I shall always be a little disappointed that he did not deepen his narrative to allow us a little more insight into the character of the women he mentions. I understand that his focus is Alexander and not anyone else – male or female – but it is a shame that they both really just have walk on-walk off parts. I shall always appreciate the Life for reminding me of the existence of obscure people like Philinna, above, and Telesippus but the one thing that has really struck me about the narrative is Plutarch’s deficient treatment of Olympias in the early chapters. He could have treated her better.

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

For the other posts in this series, click here

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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Plutarch’s Women: Stateira I, her daughters; Persian women and a wolf’s mother; the Pythia (Chapts. 30 and 37)

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Stateira I
Welcome back Plutarch’s Women. We begin this post at the start of Chapter 30. There, Plutarch records some sad news – the death of Stateira I, Darius III’s wife. Stateira’s death is all the more tragic because she died in child birth (although, see below). What would have become of the child had he or she lived? I suspect the eventual fate of Alexander IV, and indeed the baby’s siblings, answers that question. RIP.
Stateira I died in September 331. Alexander’s reaction to her death was to regret writing to Darius telling him to give himself up because it meant that he had lost the opportunity ‘to show… magnanimity’ towards him. What I find difficult about this passage is that Alexander did not think of Stateira herself first. But I have to remind myself that perhaps he did and Plutarch did not record it. He is not so much writing what happened as trying to make sense of it. There is a difference.

According to Plutarch, Alexander made up for this lost opportunity by giving ‘the queen a magnificent funeral’. The queen. Not, the queen and her unborn child. Plutarch does not mention him or her. Why? I am wondering if it is because up until a child was recognised by its father it had no status, but do not know for sure. If you have another idea do leave a comment below.
Going back to Stateira’s baby – who was his or her father? Stateira I was taken prisoner after the Battle of Issus, which took place in November 333. She died sometime in 331. The father, then, could not have been Darius. Did Alexander allow her to be taken by one of his officers? I would agree that this is most unlikely given her status. Perhaps Alexander himself slept with her? Plutarch’s protestations that Alexander had nothing to do with women notwithstanding, I suspect this is the case. If so, the child would be the first of Alexander’s children to die young (Roxane miscarried). However, we do not know for sure, either way. There is a great deal of uncertainty about Stateira’s death: the sources even disagree right down to the time and cause of it (See this article on Pothos for more information).
While Stateira was being laid to rest, one of her her attendants – a eunuch named Tireos – escaped  from (or could he have been allowed to leave…?) the Macedonian camp and made his way to Darius’ where he told the Great King what had happened. Darius was, unsurprisingly, distraught.
Stateira I, Stateira II and Drypetis; also, Persian Women
And yet, Darius did not grieve because his wife was dead but because Alexander, he assumed, had denied her a royal funeral. He also feared that Alexander must have taken advantage of his wife. Tireos allayed all of Darius’ worries and then some. Not only had Stateira been given a royal funeral but, while alive, she – and his mother and children – were treated according to their station. And not only  them but all the Persian women whom Alexander had captured. Upon hearing this, Darius made his great prayer to the gods, that ‘no other man but Alexander… sit upon the throne of Cyrus’.
A Wolf with a Persian Mother
We now jump forward, over the Battle of Gaugamela and Alexander’s arrival in Babylon, to Chapter 37 and his advance through Persis. The mountainous territory proved tough going for the Macedonians. Fortunately, a guide was on hand to help them on their way. This man, we are told, had ‘a Lycian father and a Persian mother’ and was the subject of a prophecy by no less than the Delphic oracle.
The Pythia’s Prophecy
As Plutarch relates it, when Alexander was a boy, the Pythia prophesied that he would one day be guided by a wolf (lycos – lycian) against the Persians. And so it happened. Plutarch doesn’t mention it but it appears that this wolf showed him the way round the Persian Gates, which Alexander proceeded to attack from behind and gain control of. If nothing else, it is a nice story.

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Plutarch’s Women: Athena, the Persian Royal Family, Barsine & Callixeina (Chapts. 15, 19 & 21)

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We pick up Plutarch’s narrative again in chapter 15 of his Life of Alexander when, upon his arrival at Troy, the Macedonian king ‘sacrificed to Athena’. Unfortunately, that’s all Plutarch has to say about her. Understandably, he is more interested in Alexander’s acts of homage to his great hero, Achilles.
By-the-bye, I could not help but note Alexander’s remark that ‘Achilles was happy in having found a faithful friend while he lived and a great poet to sing of his deeds after his death.’ This comment appears to suggest that Alexander considered that – in contrast to Achilles – he had neither a faithful friend nor a great poet. The latter is true; Callisthenes was no Homer; but where does that leave Hephaestion?
Going back to Athena, I wish Plutarch had given a context for Alexander’s act of worship. I suppose he assumed, no doubt rightly, that his audience would be aware of why the sacrifice was carried out. We who come to the text so many years later, however, may need a little help. Theoi reminds me that Athena supported the Greeks during the Trojan War (you can read more about her here) so perhaps that is why Alexander sacrificed to her.
After Athena, no more women are mentioned until chapter 19 when (in 333 B.C.), as he lay seriously ill in bed, Alexander was given a note from Parmenion warning him that his doctor, Philip, meant to poison him. According to Parmenion Darius had ‘… promised [Philip] large sums of money and even the hand of his daughter if he would kill Alexander’.
When I wrote about this incident a few weeks ago (here) I mentioned my suspicion that Parmenion was using Alexander’s illness to carry out a coup. If we pretend for a moment, however, that the threat was real, who might Darius have married Philip to in the event that the latter did successfully  assassinate Alexander? Darius married twice and had at least three daughters – an unnamed one from an unnamed wife (who was the daughter of a Persian nobleman named Pharnaces) and two by his sister-wife Stateira, namely, Stateira II and Drypetis.
We don’t know when Stateira II was born, but because Alexander took her as his wife at the Susa Weddings (in February 324 B.C.) she is believed to be Drypetis’ elder sister. As for the ‘younger’ sister, depending on when she was born, Drypetis could have been as young as 12 when Alexander fell ill, or as old as 16. Either way, she would go on to make a good match at Susa in that she became Hephaestion’s wife.
Sadly, their marriage only lasted a few months as Hephaestion later the same year. After Alexander died the following June, the sisters’ days were numbered and indeed they were both soon killed by Perdiccas and Roxane as part of the dynastic struggle.
We move on now to chapter 21 of Plutarch’s Life but stay with Stateira II and Drypetis as Plutarch relates how, following Alexander’s capture of the Persian camp after the Battle of Issus,

… word was brought to him that the mother, the wife and the two unmarried daughters of Darius were among the prisoners…

Darius’ mother was named Sisygambis; the wife being referred to here is Stateira I. Upon being taken prisoner by the Macedonians and seeing Darius’ bow and chariot they beat their breasts and cried in the belief that their lord was dead. This is the only insight into their character that Plutarch gives us before detailing Alexander’s most gentlemanly response to the news that his army had captured them. It isn’t much of an insight – perhaps ‘just’ a ritual response? Although even if it is it tells us something about their fidelity to Persian mourning traditions.
Either way, and in fairness to him, Plutarch does add that the women were ‘chaste and noble’ (Plutarch adds that Stateira I was regarded as being ‘the most beautiful princess of her time’ and that Stateira II and Drypetis ‘resembled their parents’. It’s interesting that propaganda of this nature survived even though the daughters fell victim to more powerful interests after Alexander’s death).
Chapter 21, and this post, ends with a delineation of Alexander’s moral character, which references a few women. Plutarch tells us that,

… Alexander… thought it more worthy of a king to subdue his own passions than to conquer his enemies…

To this end he avoided meeting the Persian queens and princesses. In fact, Plutarch explains that until his marriage (i.e. to Roxane), he avoided women altogether… almost: Barsine, Memnon’s widow, and daughter of Artabazus ‘who had married one of the Persian king’s daughters’, became his mistress. Citing Aristobulos as his authority, Plutarch adds,

Alexander slept with [Barsine], as… Parmenion had encouraged him to have relations with a woman of beauty and noble lineage.

This reminds me of the story of Callixeina ‘[a]n exceptionally attractive Thessalian heteira‘*. Philip and Olympias were worried that Alexander was showing no interest in women. So, his mother entreated her son to sleep with one. Eventually, Alexander did, with Callixeina being the lucky lady. According to Waldemar Heckel, however, this story is suspect as it comes from a hostile tradition. I’d like to think that Alexander did not sleep with Barsine at Parmenion’s suggestion but why would Aristobulos lie about something like that? Let’s hope his information was just, plain wrong.
The final reference to women in chapter 21 is an aside that Alexander makes after seeing the other female Persian prisoners. We are told that Alexander,

… took no… notice of them than to say jokingly, ‘These Persian women are a torment for the eyes’ He was determined to make such a show of his chastity and self-control as to eclipse the beauty of their appearance, and so he passed them by as if they had been so many lifeless images cut out of stone.

Timothy E. Duff, in the Notes, compares Alexander’s words to the actions of the Persian ambassadors to Macedonia in Book 5:18 of Herodotus’ Histories. They describe the Macedonian women as a torment to their eyes but, unlike Alexander, are unable to control themselves. We end, then, with women becoming a means by which Alexander may prove his superiority to the Persians. It wasn’t enough to defeat them twice on the battlefield, he had to do it in love as well.
* Waldemar Heckel Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

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