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The death of Philip Arridaeus


Gold piece; obv. Athena, rev. Victory with the legend 'Philip'.
 Coin of Philip Arridaeus (©!!)
After the death of Alexander the Great, his half-witted brother Philip Arridaeus became king; a general named Perdiccas was made regent (323-320), and later succeeded by Antipater (320-319) and Polyperchon. King Philip was married to Eurydice, who tried to prevent that he was used by his regents, and played an important role to replace Polyperchon with Cassander.

One of Philip's enemies was his step-mother Olympias, who tried to make her grandson Alexander IV king, and sided with Cassander's enemy Polyperchon. Early in 318, war broke out between the two women. The story is told by Diodorus of Sicily (World history, 19.11). The translation was made by Russel Geer. 

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Olympias. Gold medaillon found at Abukir. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (Greece). Photo Marco Prins.
Olympias (Archaeological Museum, Thessaloniki)

In Macedonia, when Eurydice, who had assumed the administration of the regency, heard that Olympias was making preparations for a return, she sent a courier into the Peloponnese to Cassander, begging him to come to her aid as soon as possible; and, by plying the most active of the Macedonians with gifts and great promises, she was trying to make them personally loyal to herself.

But Polyperchon, with [king] Aeacides of Epirus as his ally, collected an army and restored Olympias and the son of Alexander to the throne. So, as soon as he heard that Eurydice was at Euia in Macedonia with her army, he hastened against her with the intention of deciding the campaign in a single battle. When, however, the armies were drawn up facing each other, the Macedonians, out of respect for the position of Olympias and remembering the benefits that they had received from Alexander, changed their allegiance. King Philip with his court was captured at once, while Eurydice was taken as she was making her way to Amphipolis with Polycles, one of her counselors.

But after Olympias had thus captured the royal persons and had seized the kingdom without a fight, she did not carry her good fortune as a human being should, but first she placed Eurydice and her husband Philip under guard and began to maltreat them. Indeed she walled them up in a small space and supplied them with what was necessary through a single narrow opening.

But after she had for many days unlawfully treated the unfortunate captives, since she was thereby losing favor with the Macedonians because of their pity for the sufferers, she ordered certain Thracians to stab Philip to death, who had been king for six years and four months [1]; but she judged that Eurydice, who was expressing herself without restraint and declaring that the kingdom belonged to herself rather than to Olympias, was worthy of greater punishment. She therefore sent to her a sword, a noose, and some hemlock, and ordered her to employ whichever of these she pleased as a means of death, neither displaying any respect whatever for the former dignity of the victim whom she was unlawfully treating, nor moved to pity for the fate that is common to all. Accordingly, when she herself met with a similar reversal, she experienced a death that was worthy of her cruelty.

Eurydice, indeed, in the presence of the attendant prayed that like gifts might fall to the lot of Olympias. She next laid out the body of her husband, cleansing its wounds as well as circumstances permitted, then ended her life by hanging herself with her girdle, neither weeping for her own fate nor humbled by the weight of her misfortunes.

After these two had been made away with, Olympias killed Nicanor, Cassander s brother, and overturned the tomb of Iolaus, avenging, as she said, the death of Alexander.[2] She also selected the hundred most prominent Macedonians from among the friends of Cassander and slaughtered them all. But by glutting her rage with such atrocities, she soon caused many of the Macedonians to hate her ruthlessness; for all of them remembered the words of Antipater, who, as if uttering a prophecy on his death bed, advised them never to permit a woman to hold first place in the kingdom.
 

 
Note 1:
Philip Arridaeus became king in June 323 and was killed on 25 December 317.

Note 2:
There was a rumor that Antipater had ordered his son Iolaus to poison Alexander.

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