Ptolemy was born in 367, allegedly the illegitimate son of Philip II and a woman named Arsinoe who later married a nobleman named Lagos. In later years he took the name Ptolemy Soter (Savior or Preserver) and also Lagos. He was one of Alexander’s companions, serving as one of those who guarded the king’s person. He was four years older than Alexander. Like Alexander he studied under Aristotle at Mieza.

He took part in Alexander’s Persian campaigns from the very beginning, in 334 and was one of Alexander’s most trusted generals. During this time he was accompanied by his mistress, Thais, who he had first met when she was only 15, a temple maiden (hetaera) from Corinth. She later bore him two sons, Lagos and Leontiscus and a daughter named Irene (‘Peace’) but he never married legally so their offspring were considered illegitimate. He was given a Persian princess for a bride at the great marriage fete in Susan (324 BC) but like many of those other ‘token’ wives, she ssems to have vanished from his life.  It was at Persepolis that Ptolemy’s mistress, Thais, was blamed for urging the men to set the Persian’s palace on fire which burned all their holy books.


Ptolemy rose to prominence in the army and held important commands during most of the campaigns. At one battle at the Indus he was wounded by a poison arrow but survived because Alexander knew the antidote.

When Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC General Perdikkas took control of the army and Ptolemy was opposed to this. He also objected to Alexander’s mentally deficient half-brother Arridaios being named joint king along with Alexander’s newborn son, Alexander IV (Iskander) by his Soghdian wife, Roxana.


Ptolemy left Babylon to return to Egypt and became satrap there. He was well liked by the Egyptians and supported by the Diadochi (Alexander’s Successors). When Alexander’s body was being taken back to Macedon, he hijacked the funeral carriage and took it back to Egypt (Memphis) because he said Alexander wanted to buried there. Perdikkas pursued him but ended up being assassinated by his men after a tactical disaster at the Nile River in which many of the soldiers were killed by crocodiles or drowned.

Ptolemy wanted to build the city that Alexander had dreamed of at the Nile delta, so he oversaw the building of Alexandria and later moved Alexander’s body there. He formed a strong alliance with the Macedonian regent, Antipater, and later married one of his daughters, Eurydike (Dika) in order to legitimize his connection with the royalty.

He is remembered not only as a king and general but as a distinguished historian and founder of the Library of Alexandria and the cult of Serapis, an Egyptian god who was recreated in such a way that it was acceptable to both Greeks and Macedonians. During his rule as Pharaoh, Ptolemy kept a journal to record the exploits of Alexander and the Successors. He abdicated at the age of 82 after a 38 year reign that founded a dynasty which would continue to rule until 321 BC. He was succeeded by his son, age 24, who ruled as Ptolemy II Philadelphus until 246 BC. Ptolemy died in 283 BC. His line ended with Kleopatra XIV, the so-called “Queen of the Nile” of Antony and Cleopatra fame.





1-alexander   Perdikkas was the son of an Orestian nobleman from the mountainous lake district between Macedonia and Illyria (today’s Albania). His exact age isn’t known but he is believed to have been about the same age as Alexander. He served as a cadet and young officer under Philip II and was one of Alexander’s chosen Companions.dekor-okno


His first known military action was in 334 BC with Alexander when they attacked a group of rebels in Illyria. At that time he was a phalanx commander. When a rumor circulated that Alexander had died during the Illyrian campaign it stirred up a rebellion in Thebes and they killed the Macedonian garrison officers stationed there. Alexander went south. After a short siege, Perdikkas’ men stormed the city, breaking the official line of command. The assault had not been planned and it was reported that his men had been drunk.  In this attack Perdikkas was severely wounded. Ptolemy wrote later that the attack was due to the lack of discipline in Perdikkas’ phalanx, however it was well-known that Perdikkas and Ptolemy were at odds with each other. In retaliation for the rebellion, Thebes was razed to the ground, the male population killed, and women taken into slavery all except the family of Pindar the poet, a favorite of Alexander, was saved by Alexander.

When Alexander, now in his early 20’s, launched his long-planned campaign against Persia the following year (May 334 BC) Perdikkas was again in command of the heavy phalanx infantry. That summer there was an attack on a Persian naval base which suffered a big defeat, Ptolemy cited that Perdikkas’s soldiers were drunk, though this may have been an attempt by Ptolemy to again discredit Perdikkas.


At the time of the Battle of Issus later that year, Perdikkas was in command of the army when Alexander was occupied with the siege of Tyre. Again, a year later, he was in command of a phalanx battalion at Guagemela.

During Alexander’s pursuit of the Persian king Darius III, Perdikkas disappears from records as the phalanx wasn’t involved. But later, when the army reached the Hindu Kush, Perdikkas took part in one of the sieges.


When Alexander invaded the Punjab in 327/326 BC, Perdikkas, along with Alexander’s closest Companion, Hephaestion, captured an important city. During the Indian campaign, Perdikkas was a cavalry commander. Eventually, when Alexander was seriously wounded at the siege of Mallia, Perdikkas was said to have been the only one who dared help rescue him.

After the army returned to Susa, Alexander married the Persian princess, Stateira, and insisted his soldiers marry Persian wives. Perdikkas had married the daughter of the satrap of Media, a Persian woman named Atrophates.  Not long afterwards, Hephaestion unexpectedly died and Perdikkas was appointed commander of the Companion Cavalry and made Chiliarch (vizier), the highest ranking officer in the army.


Shortly after this when Alexander lay dying in Babylon (323 BC) after being ill for several days, he gave his royal signet ring to Perdikkas sayng that he was giving his empire kratistoi “to the strongest”. It could have also meant “to Krateros” who was Alexander’s supreme commander who had been sent back to Macedon in an important mission.  When Alexander died, Perdikkas proposed that they way until Alexander’s pregnant first wife, Roxana, give birth. If it were a son, he’d be chosen as the new king. This proposal meant that Perdikkas would have command of the boy until he grew up.

At the time of Alexander’s death, both Roxana and Stateira were pregnant. It is alleged that Perdikkas aided Roxana in having the princess and her sister murdered to make sure no Persian royalty would be in line for the throne.


Roxana gave birth to her son Alexander IV (who she named Iskander) a month later. The commander of the phalanx, Meleager, argued that Alexander’s half-brother, Philip Arridaios, should be first in line of succession in spite of the fact that Arridaios was mentally unfit. Meleager attemped a coup and a rebellion ensued. The instigators including Meleager were killed and Perdikkas was named guardian and regent of the two joint kings.

Now Perdikkas was in charge of Alexander’s army and in control of Babylonia, but he sought to command the two centres of the empire _ Macedonia and Babylon. So he set out on conquests of Asia Minor. During this time he became engaged to Nikaia, the daughter of Macedon’s regent, Antipater. But Perdikkas broke off the engagement when he was offered the opportunity to marry Alexander’s sister Kleopatra. This would make him a member of the Macedonian royal house and as Arridaios was a misfit and the other child, Alexander IV still too young,  Perdikkas would stand to claim the regency and the crown.

Perdikkas unfortunately didn’t live to see his aspirations realized. When Ptolemy hijacked Alexander’s funeral carriage and had it diverted to Egypt, Perdikkas decided to invade Egypt. By the time his army reached the Nile, his soldiers, were ready to revolt, resenting his harsh discipline and the fool-hardy commands that had left many of them dead in the Nile.  Perdikkas was assassinated by several of his commanders. His once dazzling career was finished

herodotus4_mapHe died near Pelusium at the Nile.




As I step into the narrow room, dimly lit by a shaft of light, my Egyptologist guide, Hanan Eldeeb, beckons me forward.

“Here, on this wall in hieroglyphics, is the story of Alexander the Great’s visit to Luxor.” She points out the ancient drawings on the wall. “Here he is dressed as a pharaoh making sacrifices to the gods Ammon Re and Ammon Min. And here is his cartouche.”



Cartouche showing Alexander’s name

I can hardly believe what I am looking at. After all my years of research and writing, I am finally in Egypt visiting some of the sites where Alexander once had been.

From the moment of his birth in 356 BC Alexander was connected in a mystical way to Egypt.   At that time, Egypt was occupied by the Persians who had dealt a deadly blow to the Egyptian people in their religious life by inaugurating Persian rules and plundering their temples. The last pharaoh, Nectenabo II, had been expelled and had made his way to Macedonia where he appealed to King Philip to send aid to his besieged country.

Greek Graffiti

Greek Graffiti

At the time, Philip was newlywed to his fifth wife, a beautiful young Epirote princess, Olympias. She was a devoted Bacchant, a worshipper of Dionysos who kept a pet snake and indulged in cult practices. It was said that when Nectenabo went to Pella, he convinced Olympias that she would be visited by the ‘golden snake of Ammon’ and give birth to a remarkable son. Rumours abounded later that in fact he had persuaded Olympias to make love to him, impressing her with his skill of astrology, and disguising himself in the robes of Ammon so as to seem like Alexander’s divine father. The story goes that the night Alexander was born, the great temple of the goddess Artemis at Ephesus burned down. This was taken as an omen denoting the child’s divinity.  Olympias brought Alexander up believing he was god-blessed and divine and this caused a rift between the boy and his father. Philip even stated once that Alexander was not his son.  All his life Alexander clung to this mystic belief that he was the son of Zeus Ammon and dismissed Philip as merely his ‘earthly’ father.

Philip was assassinated in 336 BC just before he was to set off on a campaign to oust the Persians from Asia Minor. The young king, Alexander, took up his father’s quest a year later, at the age of 20.  After crossing the Hellespont and routing the Persians from the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, he marched south and besieged the city of Tyre.  Because the Persians occupied Egypt, he then marched south and met with resistance at the Philistine city of Gaza, the last great coastal town before the Egyptian frontier. Using heavy siege engines brought from Tyre, they took the city after a two month battle. Alexander was wounded in the shoulder during this time. The people of Gaza were killed or enslaved and the city was made into a Macedonian fortress.

From Gaza Alexander marched along the coast to the frontier of Egypt where his fleet waited. It was necessary to occupy Egypt before launching into his campaign to penetrate the interior of Asia because of hostile elements who were established there. Egypt fell without fighting. The Persian satrap, Mazaces surrendered at the citadel of Memphis and the Egyptian people welcomed Alexander with joy. Since their last pharaoh, Nectanabo, had been expelled, they had lived under the yoke of the Persians and they looked to Alexander as a redeemer from this oppression. Alexander had complete tolerance for their gods and for the Egyptian people. Greeks had always identified foreign divinities with their own gods. In Egypt in particular, the principal gods of the Greeks were equal: Ammon with Zeus, Osiris with Dionysus, Isis with Demeter, Horus with Apollo, so it was natural for Alexander to show his reverence to the Egyptian gods.  His special obligation was to recognize the Egyptian priesthood and he offered royal sacrifices to their gods. At Memphis he was placed on the throne in the temple of Ptah and invested as pharaoh.

As the Egyptologist explained to me, these hieroglyphics carved on the wall at Luxor testify to the royal titles given to him: “Horus, the strong prince” and “the protector of Egypt.”  As King of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt Alexander was called “beloved of Ammon” and finally “son of Ra”.  To the Egyptians, Alexander became their special king.  As part of his religious obligations, Alexander ordered the rebuilding of both the sanctuary in the Temple of Thothmes III at Karnak and the Temple of Amenhotep III at Luxor. From that time on, Alexander chose to adorn his helmet with the horns of Ammon.



Since the 7th century, Greeks had been enlisted as mercenaries in the service of the Egyptian rulers and some had settled in the country. There was a Greek polis, Naucrates, in the Nile Delta, a Greco-Egyptian trade centre. Even in Memphis there was a Greek community, Politeuma. While the Naucratites were legally barred from marrying native wives in order to keep their race pure, in Memphis mixed marriages existed. When Alexander entered their city, it marked a new era of Greek influence in Egypt.


There’s not much left of Memphis today but it was interesting to wander the avenue and imagine how it might have been back in the days of Egypt’s ancient glory when Alexander came to visit.


Statue of Alexander at Alexandria

Alexander never intended to change the Egyptian cultures, but introduced the culture of the Greeks in order to make a future home in Egypt.  His greatest contribution was the founding of Alexandria. At the beginning of 331 BC Alexander started out from Memphis down the Nile and stopped on the strip of ground between Lake Mareotis and the island of Pharos where he laid out a city that to this day bears his name. Alexander meant it to be a trade centre and no better place could be found on the whole of the Mediterranean coast.

What a thrill it was for me to be allowed the privilege of a visit to this magnificent city! I spent two days there, shown around the sites by a knowledgeable young tourist guide, Sarah.  Alexander is very much remembered in his city. As we drove in, I spotted a beautiful statue of him riding his famous horse, Bucephalus. And throughout the city there are posters and monuments in Alexander’s honour. It is easy to see, with its long vista of coastline, how Alexander was impressed with the site and made it an important port city.


My first visit was to the Roman theatre ruins.  From there Sarah took me to see the site of where the famous lighthouse used to stand. Since the 1400 it has been an Arab fortress, but some of the original lighthouse bricks were said to have been used in its construction.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

Lighthouse of Alexandria


Arab fortress built on site of ancient lighthouse

On my second day there we visited the Museum and viewed many of the artifacts taken from the sea, relics of the original city and palaces.  Then we visited the magnificent new library of Alexandria.  In the courtyard there was a bust of Alexander, and just outside the entrance gate a mega statue of Ptolemy rescued from the ocean floor. It was Ptolemy, Alexander’s illegitimate half-brother and companion, who supervised the building of this great city after Alexander’s death in Babylon in 323 BC. He became the first Ptolemaic pharaoh of Egypt and his lineage carried on until the reign of Cleopatra.

Ancient Library of Alexandria

Ancient Library of Alexandria

Bust of Alexander, Library of Alexandria

Bust of Alexander, Library of Alexandria

DSC01171New Library of Alexandria

While still on the coast Alexander had decided to consult the oracle in the oasis of Ammon at Siwa. This mysterious excursion was one of the most remarkable in his life. He made the pilgrimage because the oracle of Ammon was regarded as infallible in the Greek world. According to his court scribe Callisthenes, Alexander went to Ammon because he had an ambition to rival Perseus and Herakles who had also consulted the god. But it is also suggested he went there to consult the oracle about his birthright.

He marched along the coast then went south west on an old caravan road. A sand storm obliterated the road and for some time the party was lost in the desert until two ravens began to caw and fly overhead. Alexander was sure the god had sent them to lead the way. Ptolemy also reported that snakes had slithered ahead of them as guides. Finally they reached the oasis, lush with groves of date palms, olives and abundant springs and lakes of water.

Callisthenes described the visit which included ritual offerings and ceremonies. As pharaoh, Alexander was allowed to enter the temple where he was greeted as ‘son of Ammon”.

When asked by his friends what the oracle told him, he replied only that he would speak of it to his mother when he returned home. He kept the oracle to himself and treated it as a secret, but he wrote Olympias afterwards and told her that he had received secret details which he would impart to her when he returned to Macedon. This never happened. He took the secret with him to his grave.


The Noble Persians


The Persian Empire from about 500 BC

Persia was one of the highest civilized regions from the earliest antiquity. The world of ancient Persia extended far beyond the current border of Iran. The region over which Persian influence was spread was contained within the four rivers of ancient mythology: The Tigris and the Euphrates in the west, and the Oxus and the Indus in the east. The south is bordered by the Persian Gulf and the north by a line from the Caspian Sea as far as the Aral Sea. It encompassed the mountains of Azerbaijan, the Zagros Mountains and the Elburgy range and in the southeast adjoins the folds of Baluchistan and the awesome heights of the Hindu Kush.


Cyrus II

During the reign of Cyrus II  (Kurash) the Persians came into world prominence when, in 550 BC, they rebelled against the Median King Astyages. From 546 Cyrus II attacked the powerful kingdom of Lydia, capturing Sardis before going on to subdue the rich Greek cities of Ionia. This made Cyrus master of all Asia Minor. Then he turned his attention on the eastern frontier, crossing the Oxus and the Jaxartes rivers, building fortresses to keep out the nomads of Central Asia.

In 539 BC he attacked the capital city of Mesopotamia and was welcomed as a liberator by the Jewish exiles. The respect he showed for the religions of others earned him respect and homage.  He was called the “Father of all Persians”. The Greeks thought of him as a worthy leader. The Jews regarded him as “God’s anointed”. Cyrus was a genius, diplomat, leader of men, strategist. He conquered Babylonia and convinced the Babylonians that Marduk, their supreme deity, had led him to Babylon.

In the space of 20 years he held sway over all the kingdoms of the Near and Middle East, assembling the greatest empire the world had ever seen. He had his sights set on Egypt when he was killed in battle in 530 BC. He was buried at Pasargadae and when Alexander the Great came to Persia, he paid homage at Cyrus’s grave.


After Cyrus II’s death the Achaemenian Empire was established.  When Darius I (Daryavush, The Great King) was defeated by Greece in the first Persian War at the Battle of Marathon, 490 BC, it was only a minor upset for the master of this gigantic empire, but this incited the hostility of the Greek city states and the Ionians who mounted a revolt against Persia.

In 481 Xerxes, son of Darius, set out to expunge the Persian defeat at Marathon. He built a pontoon bridge in order to get his troops across the Hellespont, seized Macedonia and marched toward Attika. The Greeks and Spartans put up a heroic resistance at Thermopylae but were defeated. Athens was taken and pillaged, the Parthenon burned. The Persian victory was short lived however when their fleet was defeated at Salamis and their army routed.


These defeats marked the end of the Persian expansion and rebellions grew more frequent. Under Artaxexes, the satrap of Bactria seceded, then Syria, and Egypt. By 370 the satraps revolted. Finally the great grandson of Darius II mounted the throne under the name Darius Codomannus. Years later, defeated by Alexander’s army and betrayed by his troops, Darius would be murdered by his own men.

Meanwhile, Philip II of Macedon succeeded uniting the various city states after the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. He founded the League of Corinth and proposed they should go to war against Persin. However, in 33t BC he was assassinated and his son, Alexander was declared king.

philipiiPhilip II

Philip had already sent troops to Asia Minor, so Alexander, at the age of 20, took over his father’s mission of revenge and set out to conquer the Persian Empire. He followed a policy of integration between the Greeks and Persians encouraging marriages and applying the same magnanimity and generosity which had formerly brought success to Cyrus II.  In 13 years of fighting, the Greek forces subjugated the largest empire that had ever been known to the world of antiquity.

The Persians were mystics and concerned with the meaning and objectives of life. Rooted in tolerance, flexibility, devotion to truth and other lofty principles on which their empire was based. Their system of education was comparable with Greece. Boys underwent a rigorous course of training which was chivalrous with great stress on valour, physical accomplishment. Based on the tenets of Zoroasterism, it was geared to a concept of pride, an essential element of Persian character. The Persians regarded themselves as “by far the best of men” (according to Herodotes) emphasising virtue, and love of truth.


The traditional religion was Zoroasterism. He was a native of Media. His message: the existence of two principles: The Truth (good, light) and the Lie (evil, darkness). The first Persian texts going back to the 7th century BC refer to the god Ahuramazda, the Wise Lord, creator of all things. This ancient divinity, preached by Zoraster, was a monotheistic religion worshipped in a way that was completely spiritual. It was prohibited to raise statues to Ahura Mazda was depicted as a bearded man crowned ith a tiara encircled in a winged solar disc. Religious prayers were offered in front of a lit fire altar in the open air, symbolizing the uino with the solar godhead, represented wy a winged disc. When he set up his capital at Pasargadaea, Cyrus II had creaeted a high terrace so fire ceremonies could be held on top of it.  The Avesta, the sacred book of Zoroaster was said to have been destroyed by Alexander when his army occupied Persepolis and burned the temple there.

The Magi (priests) were a hereditary caste who was not only holy men but star seers. Without a Magus, the Persians could not sacrifice.

In SHADOW OF THE LION, two of the fictional characters who play important roles in the story are the old Chaldean Magus and the Persian court advisor, Nabarzanes, who become like a surrogate father to the young son of Alexander the Great. While researching for the novel I did extensive research on the ancient Persians and found it one of the most fascinating aspects of writing this story. I wanted the Persians to have a strong voice in the story and leave a lasting impression on the reader. These two fiction characters soon became ‘real’ to me and I based their characters on two real people I know: one was my father, a spiritual man and preacher; the other an artist from Baghdad who became my friend.

There are several historical Persians included in the cast of SHADOW.  The tragic princesses, Stateira and Drypetis, daughters of Darius III; Barsine, widow of Memnon of Rhodes, daughter of a Persian satrap who becomes Alexander’s mistress and gives birth to his eldest (illegitimate ) son, Herakles; and Roxana, who was from Soghdiana, part of the Persian Empire, and Alexander’s wife, mother of his only legal heir who she calls by his Persian name, Iskander.

persian+woman+2Persian woman