In antiquity, women had no say at all. They had absolutely no rights and were treated as common goods, to be sold or bought, negotiated or given in marriage at will. I always have dreams of living in antiquity but definitely not as a woman!
But here I am confronted with Philip II of Macedonia, the womanizer – or that is how history likes to present him. I’m still under the fascination of Ian Worthington’s book, presently reading the chapter about Philip’s Marriages as Policy. It starts with Philip’s wedding plans with Eurydice, previously called Cleopatra. I didn’t know that Cleopatra’s father and brother had died, and that her guardian was Attalus (a Macedonian nobleman), who adopted the girl as his niece. She thus was an adoptive niece and not a true relative, although from pure Macedonian blood. And then there is the plausible fact that this marriage of Philip with Eurydice for once was not a political move, but one of true love – at least as far as Philip is concerned, of course.
The only source to mention all of Philip’s wives and the reason for the marriages are fragments from a biography written in the 3rd century B.C. by a certain Satyrus, a philosopher from Aristotle’s school, which was quoted much later by Athenaeus, a writer who lived in the 2nd century A.D. According to Worthington, the list/sequence is not entirely correct, but generally speaking all of Philip’s marriage can be tied to his wars and Worthington feels that this should be the correct order. The names and sequence given by Satyrus are as follows:- a)Audata (2), an Illyrian, who gave him a daughter Cynna;
- b) Phila of Elimea (1), sister of Derdas and Machatas, meant to secure control over Amphaxitis;
- c) Nicesipolis (5) of Pherae (when he wanted to appropriate Thessaly), by whom he fathered a daughter Thessalonike; and
- d) Philinna of Larisa (3) (also while when he wanted to appropriate Thessaly), who gave birth to Arrhidaeus;
- e) Olympias (4) served to acquire the kingdom of the Molossians (Epirus), the mother of Alexander;
- f) Cleopatra (7) sister of Hippostratus and niece of Attalus, with whom Philip had fallen in love and who bore him a daughter, Europa.
Yet, this list is missing Meda of the Getae tribe, wife number (6). The figure between parentheses corresponds to the chronology which Ian Worthington (see: Philip II of Macedonia) feels is correct as based on Philip’s military campaigns.
After a good twenty years of ruling and fighting, Philip managed to bring peace and unity in Greece and he is getting ready to cross to Asia. Worthington’s theory is that Philip wants to have one or more successors to secure Macedonian kingship before leaving. The simple minded Arrhidaeus is of no use and there is too much at stake to rely only on Alexander – even if he leaves him behind in Macedonia to look after his interests and to keep a close eye on the newly signed Corinthian League. So much could go wrong while he is away!
Aside from Olympias, little or nothing is known about the other wives. They supposedly all lived at The Royal Palace of Pella, probably each in their own quarters to avoid possible (and probable) conflicts and quarreling with one another. Nicesipolis seems to have died shortly after giving birth to her daughter, and as far as the other wives are concerned, your guess is as good as mine. Justin however tells us that Philip had many children, of whom some died in battle and others by accident or of natural causes, but it is strange that we have so little information about them – hardly a name. As to Philip’s marriage with Eurydice, who was much younger than him, Worthington assumes that the other women may no longer were able to produce a healthy heir or were simply too old already. And yes, let’s not forget that Eurydice was a full-blood Macedonian! We all know how Alexander reacted to this wedding!
The story becomes even more interesting when I learn that Attalus, just to be closer to King Philip, decides to adopt Eurydice as his own daughter just before the wedding takes place. To have the King as father-in-law makes him much more important, doesn’t it?
When it comes to marriages, they were a high staked game in those days! Not only was Attalus himself married to a daughter of Parmenion, but so was Coenus, another of Philip’s generals (Parmenion’s three sons, Nicanor, Philotas and Hector all fought later on in Alexander’s army). Attalus and Parmenion left together at the head of the shock-troops which Philip sent to Asia ahead of his own planned invasion. All these events lead us to believe that Philip pulled the strings of an entire network arranging inter-marriages among his generals. In fact, it was a whole clique, of which Alexander was unfortunately excluded – to his greatest sorrow, I dare say. Although he obviously was recognized as the official heir to the Macedonian throne – probably so since he was fourteen and Aristotle was brought to Macedonia and certainly since he carried the seal of Macedonia at sixteen while his father was fighting on the eastern front; and again later on when he successfully led his cavalry against the Theban Sacred Band at Chaeronea – he had no place in Philip’s closest entourage of which he was excluded. This may have been reason enough for Olympias and Alexander to consider murdering Philip…?
A lot of stuff to think about! So many intrigues at the court! Enough for Louis XIV to find some inspiration here and Henry VIII with his six wives could be looked at mildly, although Philip never divorced any of his wives or chopped their heads off. What an incredible mess!
As a side note, the huge and extravagant wedding party in Susa comes to my mind, where Alexander arranged in 324 BC for about one hundred of his generals and friends to marry girls from the widespread Persian aristocracy. The idea was not exactly a new one, was it?