OLYMPIAS, the mother of Alexander the Great, was the orphaned daughter of Neoptolemus, King of the Molossians, one of the greatest tribes in Epirus (the area of north east Greece). She claimed kinship with the Troy Hero Achilles and thought she could achieve her own immortality by dipping herself into the River Acheron (symbolic of the Styx), as Achilles mother had dipped him.
PHILLIP II OF MACEDON
PHILLIP II of Macedon already had several wives when he first met 15 year old Olympias (whose birth name was Myrtale) at the Temple of the Great Gods on the island of Samothraki. It was love (or lust) at first sight although the relationship was one of love/hate from the beginning. Olympias did not appreciate the fact her new husband, “a barbarian iron-wielder” as she referred to him, had wives for every conquest and she was determined to be the sole Queen of Macedon. She changed her name to “Olympias” relating to being from Mt Olympus where the gods dwelled. and she set out to rule the roost in Pella as best she could.
During the early part of their marriage, an Egyptian pharoah/shaman named Nectanabo came to Macedon to appeal to Philip to assist in driving the Persians out of Egypt. Olympias, who had always been associated with the cults of Dodoni in Epirus and Samothraki was intrigued by this man and formed a relationship with him that soon had the gossip’s tongues wagging.
In antiquity, people believed that the birth of a great man was accompanied by portents. And the story went that the night before the consummation of their marriage, Olympias dreamed that a thunderbolt fell upon her body which kindled a great fire whose divided flames dispersed themselves all about and then were extinguished. And Philip dreamed that he seald up his wife’s body with a seal whose impression was the figure of a lion.
Privately, Olympias had been consulting with the pharoah/shaman who convinced her that ‘the golden snake of Ammon would come down and enter her body and she would give birth to a miraculous child.’ Was that ‘golden snake’ in fact attached to the body of Nectanabo? This is part of the gossip that always surrounded Alexander after his birth, especially when he adopted the horns of Ammon on his helmet, made a visit to Siwah in the Egyptian desert to ask the oracles about his birthright, and later paid homage to Nectanabo at his sarcophagus in Memphis.
OLYMPIAS adored her son and was determined that he would one day inherit the crown. She and Philip also had a daughter, Kleopatra, who was generally ignored by her mother though in later years played an important role after the death of Alexander.
Known and feared by many as a ‘witch’ and ‘sorceress’, Olympias held sway in Pella until August 338 when Philip defeated the Greeks and formed the Corinthian league. At that time he married a much younger woman who was the relative of a Macedonian aristocrat. This caused tensions between Philip and Olympias so she took her son, Alexander and went into voluntary exile at the Molossian court of her brother (also named Alexander). She was further insulted when Philip married their daughter Kleopatra to Alexander of Molossia. However, during the wedding, Philip was assassinated. A lot of talk went around that Olympias had something to do with the killing. This suspicion increased after she returned to Macedon and her Philip’s new wife and infant child murdered.
The sacred oak tree in Dodoni where Olympias worshipped
Olympias had now achieved her goal, to see her son ALEXANDER on the throne of Macedon. She had also been suspected of having one of Philip’s older boys, Arridaios, poisoned when he was a small child, leaving him mentally incompetent. She was a fierce, determined woman, and at all costs would clear the way for her dearest child Alexander.She domineered everyone who met up with her. Even the soldiers were terrified of her.
While Alexander was away on campaigns Olympias clashed with Antipater, the Regent of Macedon, and once again went into exile back to Molossia, this time taking over for her daughter, Kleopatra, who had been left a widow after her husband was killed in battle. Even there, Olympias ruled with an iron fist.
The Theatre at Aigai where Philip II was assasinated
Although Alexander’s relationship with his mother were always cordial, he stayed far away from her and often made comments about how she had tried to influence and control him. When Alexander died in Babylon, Olympias was heartbroken but determined to keep a firm hold on the throne. Once the old Regent died she firmly placed her self in control. And it is from this time that Volume Two SHADOW OF THE LION: THE FIELDS OF HADES picks up the story.
Mount Olympus, where the gods dwell
The last years of Olympias life were filled with bloodshed, conspiracy and intrigue as she sought to keep control of the throne and nurtured her grandson Alexander IV (Iskander) to make sure that he would succeed as king, just as she had wished for her own son Alexander the Great.