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Olympias

From Academic Kids

Olympias (Greek: Ολυμπιάς) (c. 376 BC - 316 BC) was an Epirote princess, a wife of Macedonian king Philip II of Macedon and the mother of Alexander the Great.

Olympias was daughter of Neoptolemus, king of Epirus. Her father claimed descent from Pyrrhus, son of Achilles. It is said that Philip II fell in love with her in Samothrace, where they were both being initiated into the mysteries. The marriage took place in 359 BC, shortly after Philip's accession, and Alexander was born in 356 BC.

The fickleness of Philip and the jealous temper of Olympias led to a growing estrangement, which ripened when Philip married a new wife, Cleopatra, in 337 BC. Alexander, who sided with his mother, withdrew, along with her, into Epirus, whence they both returned in the following year, after the assassination of Philip, which detractors of Olympias said she countenanced. During the absence of Alexander, with whom she regularly corresponded on public as well as domestic affairs, she had great influence, and by her arrogance and ambition caused such trouble to the regent Antipater.

On Alexander's death (323 BC) she found it prudent to withdraw again into Epirus. Olympias supported her grandson, the son of Alexander the Great, Alexander IV of Macedon, and allied with Polyperchon in 317 BC, by whom Antipater had been succeeded in 319 BC. She took the field with an Epirote army in an attempt to drive Cassander, Antipater's son, from power in Macedon. She was successful in killing the rival king Philip Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice. The opposing troops at once declared in her favor, and for a short period Olympias was mistress of Macedonia. Cassander hastened from Peloponnesus, and, after an obstinate siege, compelled the surrender of Pydna, where she had taken refuge. One of the terms of the capitulation had been that her life should be spared; but in spite of this she was brought to trial for the numerous and cruel executions of which she had been guilty during her short lease of power. Condemned without a hearing, she was put to death (316 BC) by the friends of those whom she had slain, and Cassander is said to have denied her remains the rites of burial.

According to several legends, Olympias was impregnated not by Philip, who was afraid of her and her affinity for sleeping in the company of snakes, but by Zeus. Alexander was himself aware of these legends, and would refer to Zeus as his father, rather than Philip.

By tradition Olympias was descended from another woman of the same name, daughter of Neoptolemus and Andromache and so grand-daughter of Achilles and Deidamea. This formed the basis of Alexander's claims to be a new Achilles.


External links

Further reading

de:Olympias von Epirus fr:Olympias pl:Olimpias es:Olimpia de Epiro it:Olimpia d'Epiro nl:Olympias no:Olympias ru:Олимпиада

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