Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Philippeon at Olympia

After his victory at Chaeronea in 338 BC, King Philip of Macedonia ordered the construction of the Philippeon at Olympia. This temple took the shape of a tholos with 18 slender Ionic columns on the outside and 9 half Corinthian ones on the inside. It was enhanced with five statues representing Philip himself, his parents (Eurydice and Amyntas), his wife Olympias and his son Alexander. The architect was Leochares of Athens, who had also been working at the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus – a detail that cannot be lost to the attentive observer. For Philip, only the best was good enough, it seems! This temple stood inside the sacred temenos, an indication that it was dedicated to Zeus in thanks for his recent victory over Athens and Thebe, the ultimate goal to consolidate his power and that of his successors over all Greek cities. Besides, this was the place where the Olympic Games were held every four years and this Philippeon would stand there for everyone to see!

What strikes me is the round shape of the temple, hence the name tholos, of course. You don’t find too many of those and I’m wondering in how far Philip’s idea is related to the Tholos of Delphi, dedicated to the goddess Athena and which he must have seen since it was built somewhere between 380 and 360 BC. From what I understand, Philip liked the pomp and splendor and didn’t mind spending his money lavishly to achieve such purposes. Building a Tholos in the very center of the sacred area of Olympia was something that couldn’t be overlooked, neither by his friends nor by his enemies. 

The Philippeon must have been quite something! There are rumors that the statues were made of ivory covered with gold leaf, but detailed research has revealed that this could not have been the case, so they must have been carved in heavy gilded stone. So far, Worthington’s remarks (Philip II of Macedonia).

Olympias’ presence here, however, has been a source for many discussions (women didn’t fit into the Greeks’ concept) in spite of her being the spouse of Philip and the mother of Alexander, the future heir to the throne. Ian Worthington reminds us here of the five small ivory heads that were found in the Vergina Tomb thought to belong to King Philip, representing Philip, Alexander, Olympias and two unknown portraits, that of a man and a woman, who might well be Eurydice and Amyntas. In this context, it is not so strange to see Olympias here after all. 

This temple was not finished yet at the time of Philip’s murder and some skeptics claim that when Alexander completed this construction he added the statue of his mother Olympias. But then archaeological investigations have clearly proven that the five pedestals were cut and placed at the same time. This means that Olympias was indeed included in Philip’s original plans. Olympias’ presence here at a time when Philip was planning his wedding with Eurydice, his seventh bride, does raise some questions though. Why would he show a preference for Olympias among all his wives, were it not to show her as the mother of the pretender to the throne, Alexander? We must make an effort to look at this through the eyes of Philip’s days, where any form of recognition for a woman was unheard of. Philip, as we know, had no sympathy left for Olympias, certainly not at this time of his career and he certainly couldn’t afford to push Olympias to the foreground when he just managed to unite Greece under his wings – he couldn’t risk losing his face, could he? My own assumption is that Olympias was represented here just like Mausolos on top of his famous Mausoleum in Halicarnassus with his wife beside him. Leochares previously working there may add credibility to this theory. It’s logical, isn’t it? 

Another remarkable fact is that here at the Philippeon of Olympia, the city of the Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Alexander is beyond doubt being presented as Philip’s legitimate heir, while there were and still are so many theories against Alexander being the successor of his father when he was murdered. Why are there so many discussions contesting Alexander’s evident succession to the throne of Macedonia? Should we ignore this proof at Olympia and take it as a trivial detail of no importance? The shortsighted critics and writers keep surprising me time and again whenever they have the need to push their own vision and theory forward! There is no proof for any of this. We only can speculate – that’s all. 

Well, so much for Philip II and Alexander III of Macedonia

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