WHO ARE THE WOMEN IN SHADOW OF THE LION?

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Except for the imperial women, Persian princesses and daughters of the Regent of Macedon, the women in SHADOW were hardly the sort who wiled away their days at their weaving looms. For the most part, they were fierce, indomitable and conniving. Several of them were mountain women, brought up under harsh conditions unlike the women who lived in palace settings. One was known in history for being suspected of complicity in her husband’s assassination, another was a young warrior woman who styled herself after Penthesilea, the Amazon warrior who fought Achilles at Troy. One was the daughter of a war-lord who lived in the Hindu Kush mountains in what is now northern Afghanistan.

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Alexander and Roxana

Leader of this “pride” of lionesses was ROXANA, the Soghdian wife of Alexander and mother his only legal heir, Alexander IV (ISKANDER). Her Soghdian name was “Rukshana” meaning ‘Little Star’. She was the daughter of Oxyartes, a Soghdian tribal lord and grew up helping her brothers load arrows on the walls of her father’s mountain outpost on the Soghdian Rock. They say she was ‘the most beautiful woman in Asia’. While writing the story I was working with an Afghani woman and she really was a true beauty so it gave me an idea of what Roxana may have been like.  It is said that Alexander fell in love with her, possibly because she had many of the same attributes as his famous mother, the formidable Epirote, Queen Olympias.

dbb957b136df38037c724f6a53856e27Olympias

OLYMPIAS was the sixth wife of PHILIP II and mother of Alexander and a daughter, KLEOPATRA. She was the daughter of an Epirote king and Philip’s marriage to her was partly for political reasons. It was a stormy relationship. Olympias was a fiercely jealous woman who is alleged to have been part of the conspiracy to murder Philip.  She was known to do whatever needed to prevent anyone from stepping in the way of her precious son, Alexander, from inheriting his father’s throne. She is believed to have been behind the attempted poisoning of Alexander’s half-brother Arridaios when he was a small child, leaving him mentally deficient. There’s a story I read about Olympias. Whether it’s true or not, it fits her characters. When she was a child, she begged her mother to dip her into the Acheron River (the river symbolic of the Styx) just as Achilles’ mother Thetis had dipped him into the river to give him eternal life. When Olympias mother refused, she threw herself into the river. Her real name was Myrtali. She changed it to Olympias : “one who dwells with the gods.”

Her daughter KLEOPATRA (a Macedonian royal name), was not as foreboding or feared as he mother, but she was a schemer and unfortunately her plan to seize the throne for herself had a dismal outcome. Alexander’s half-sister THESSALONIKI, who had lived in the shadow of her imperious step-mother, had better results. The city of Thessaloniki is named after her.

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Stone tablet engraved with Thessaloniki’s name

One of the strongest females in the novel is ADEIA, who took the royal name ‘EURYDIKE”. She was the daughter of one of Philip’s off-spring from an Illyrian campaign wife. At the age of eighteen this feisty young warrior woman led a civil war in her attempt to claim the throne. I saw Adeia-Eurydike as an a-sexual, almost mannish creature who fashioned herself after her uncle, Alexander. She was often mistaken as a boy and became quite a rabble-rouser among the foot-soldiers who admired her.

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The historians give little information about these women, most of it unflattering, but the more I researched and read about them I realized they must have been extremely strong in order to have lived the lives they did, often traversing mountains and determined at all costs to get what they wanted.

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There are other strong women in SHADOW too, including the beautiful Corinthian courtesan THAIS, who followed Ptolemy across the world and bore him three children; The Persian, BARSINE, widow of Memnon of Rhodes, a childhood friend of Alexander’s and one of his first lovers. She was the mother of Alexander’s illegitimate son, Herakles. And the ‘bit players” all of whom add their charm to the story, such as the Persian princesses Stateira and Drypetis. Stateira was one of Alexander’s wives and Drypetis married his friend Hephaestion. I have a dear Persian friend in Athens who reminded me of what the princesses may have been like and I modeled them after her. (She earned the nick-name of “The Persian Princess”).

Although most of these women participate in Book One of SHADOW, (BLOOD ON THE MOON), in Book Two (THE FIELDS OF HADES) you will see how they come into their own against the Successors. Who survives and who doesn’t, and at what cost?