Monday, November 25, 2019

Biography of Olympias, Mother of Alexander the Great

Biography of Olympias, Mother of Alexander the Great Olympias (c. 375–316 BCE) was an ambitious and violent ruler of ancient Greece. She was the daughter of Neoptolemus I, the king of Epirus; the wife of Philip II, who ruled over Macedonia; and the mother of Alexander the Great, who conquered the territory from Greece to northwest India, establishing one of the largest kingdoms of his time. Olympias was also the mother of Cleopatra, the queen of Epirus. Fast Facts: Olympias Known For: Olympias was the queen of Macedonia and the mother of Alexander the Great.Also Known As: Polyxena, Myrtale,  StratoniceBorn: c. 375 BCE in Epirus, Ancient GreeceParents: Neoptolemus I of Epirus, mother unknownDied: c. 316 BCE in Macedonia, Ancient GreeceSpouse: Philip II of Macedonia (m. 357-336 BCE)Children: Alexander the Great, Cleopatra Early Life Olympias was born around 375 BCE, the daughter of Neoptolemus I of Epirus, a Greek king, and an unknown mother. Her family was a powerful one in ancient Greece; they claimed to be descended from the Greek hero Achilles, the main character in Homers Iliad. Olympias was also known by several other names: Polyxena, Myrtale,  and Stratonice. Historians believe she chose the name Olympias to celebrate her husbands victory in the Olympic Games. A follower of mystery religions, Olympias was famed- and feared- for her ability to handle snakes during religious ceremonies. Some scholars believe she belonged to the Cult of Dionysus, a group that worshipped the god of wine, fertility, and religious ecstasy. Reign In 357 BCE, Olympias was married to Philip II, the new king of Macedonia, as a political alliance arranged by her father Neoptolemus, who ruled the Greek kingdom of Epirus. After fighting with Philip- who already had three other wives- and angrily returning to Epirus, Olympias reconciled with Philip at Macedonias capital of Pella and then bore Philip two children, Alexander and Cleopatra, about two years apart. Olympias later claimed that Alexander was actually the son of Zeus. Olympias, as the father of Philips heir presumptive, dominated at court. When the two had been married for about 20 years, Philip married again, this time to a young noblewoman of Macedonia named Cleopatra. Philip seemed to disown Alexander. Olympias and Alexander went to Molossia, where her brother had assumed the kingship. Philip and Olympias publicly reconciled and Olympias and Alexander returned to Pella. But when a marriage of note was offered to Alexanders half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus, Olympias and Alexander may have assumed that Alexanders succession was in doubt. Philip Arrhidaeus, it had been assumed, was not in the line of succession, as he had some kind of mental impairment. Olympias and Alexander tried to substitute Alexander as the groom, alienating Philip. A marriage was eventually arranged between Cleopatra, daughter of Olympias and Philip, to a brother of Olympias. At that wedding, Philip was assassinated. Olympias and Alexander were rumored to have been behind her husbands murder, though whether this is true or not is disputed. Ascension of Alexander After Philips death and the ascension of their son, Alexander, as ruler of Macedonia, Olympias exercised considerable influence and power.  Olympias is alleged to also have had Philips wife (also named Cleopatra) and her young son and daughter killed- followed by Cleopatras powerful uncle and his relatives. Alexander was away frequently  and, during his absences, Olympias assumed a powerful role to protect her sons interests. Alexander left his general Antipater as regent in Macedonia, but Antipater and Olympias frequently clashed. She left and returned to Molossia, where her daughter was now the regent. But eventually Antipaters power weakened and she returned to Macedonia. During his reign, Alexander oversaw the expansion of the Macedonian kingdom, as he conquered the territory from Greece to northwest India. His military skills were unmatched; within a matter of years he was able to conquer the Persian Empire, and he still hoped to make further incursions into Asia when he became sick and died in 323 BCE. Although records indicate that he died of fever, some historians suspect foul play. Battle With Cassander After Alexanders death, Antipaters son Cassander tried to become the new ruler of Macedonia. Olympias married her daughter Cleopatra to a general who contended for the rulership, but he was soon killed in battle. Olympias then tried to marry Cleopatra to yet another possible contender to rule Macedonia. Olympias eventually became the regent for Alexander IV, her grandson (the posthumous son of Alexander the Great by Roxane), and tried to seize control of Macedonia from Cassanders forces. The Macedonian army surrendered without a fight; Olympias had the supporters of Cassander executed, but by then Cassander had escaped. Around this time, Olympias formed an alliance with Polyperchon, Antipaters successor, and Eurydice, the wife of Philip III. The latter provided soldiers for Olympias to command in battle. Cassander maneuvered a surprise attack and Olympias fled; he then besieged Pydna, she fled again, and she finally surrendered in 316 BCE. Cassander, who had promised not to kill Olympias, arranged instead to have Olympias murdered by relatives of the people whom she had executed. Death Following Cassanders orders, relatives of Olympiass victims stoned her to death in 316 BCE. Scholars are not certain whether or not the Macedonian queen was given a proper burial. Legacy Like many powerful figures from ancient history, Olympias lives on in the public imagination. She has been depicted in a variety of books, films, and television series, including the 1956 epic Alexander the Great, Mary Renaults Alexander trilogy, the Oliver Stone film Alexander, and Steven Pressfields The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great. Sources Bosworth, A. B.  Conquest and Empire: the Reign of Alexander the Great. Cambridge University Press, 2008.Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly, and Daniel Ogden.  Philip II and Alexander the Great: Father and Son, Lives and Afterlives. Oxford University Press, 2010.Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly.  Olympias: Mother of Alexander the Great. Routledge, 2006.Waterfield, Robin.  Dividing the Spoils: the War for Alexander the Greats Empire. Oxford University Press, 2013.

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