Alexander’s half-sister, THESSALONIKE is one of the more ‘tragic’ women figures of ancient Macedon. She was born about 345 BC, the daughter of king Philip II by his Thessalian wife or concubine, Nikesipolis, from Pherae, a Thessalian of noble origins. Her birth fell on the same day that the armies of Macedon and the Thessalian league won a significant battle over the Phocians. Philip is said to have proclaimed “Let her be called victory in Thessaly”. Thus, her name is made up of two words Thessaly and nike” translated to mean “Thessalian Victory.”rpk-tramplin
Her mother died shortly after her birth so she was left in the care of OLYMPIAS, mother of Alexander. At the time she was born, Alexander was under the tutelage of Aristotle and she was only six or seven when he left on his Persian expedition. When Alexander died, Thessalonike would have been just twenty-one years old.
She had spent her childhood in the queen’s quarters and endured a lonely life with the formidable queen. Philip had been assassinated before he could chose a husband for her so she seemed destined to be a spinster.
Eventually she fell under the seduction of KASSANDROS who sought to entice her into marriage so that he would gain more power. He promised to name a city after her if she agreed to the marriage. This is the source for the elegant city of Thessaloniki, which in modern times was known as “the Paris of the North.” And this is Thessaloniki’s only claim to fame.
During her undoubtedly tumultuous marriage to Kassandros, THESSALONIKE gave birth to three sons, Philip, Antipater and Alexander. After their father’s death, she had a great deal of influence over them. One of the sons, Antipater, became jealous of Thessalonike’s favour shown to the youngest brother and as a result he murdered her. Thus ended a tragic life and to this day she is remembered only by the city named after her.
At the time of Alexander, women were expected to be stay-at-home moms, spending time at the loom and tending their children. Marriage was a social transaction aimed at creating relationships between families and the bride was seen as a valuable commodity. The wife of the king was mistress of his household and responsible for managing his residence, attend to the hospitality of guests and was sometimes present at the drinking parties for the men but mostly spent time in the women’s quarters ((gynaikonites) spinning and weaving in the company of her handmaidens.rtisnab
Because legitimate offspring were essential to ensure the inheritance of property and status, women were devoted to managing domestic affairs and bringing up children and were excluded from political life. Women did not take part in symposiums even when they were held at her home. If a woman lived in a rural area she often shared arduous tasks with the men and enjoyed a greater independence. But city women lived a fairly pampered and sheltered life. Intellectual pursuits were exceptional and girls did not go to school. Women of the more common folk enjoyed greater independent, frequenting the marketplace (agora) and some women worked as midwives and nursemaids. The only truly independent women were the courtesans (Hetairai). They circulated freely, attended symposia, entertained whomsoever they pleased and managed their own property. Many of them worked as temple maidens and entertainers.
In the Classical period of Macedonia the lives of the women of the royal house were well documented. Marriages of princesses were celebrated with great pomp which included state banquets and games. These marriages were arranged by the king for military and political reasons. Polygamy was customary for the Macedonian kings, serving their military and political purposes as well as ensuring large numbers of male offspring.
The everyday life of the women of the royal house was simple. they helped in preparation of the daily meals, wove cloth, and participated in formal banquets. Macedonian women seem to have been fascinated by magic as indicated by the wishes and curses they inscribed on lead strips (katadesmoi) placed in te tombs of the deceased. Plutarch refers to the surreptitiousness of Olympias who took part in licentious rites with large tame snakes coiled around the thrysoi and wreaths.
However, they also played an important role in state affairs. Women such as Eurydike and Olympias – mother and wife of Philip II – had their statues set up in the Philippeion at Olympia . These women enjoyed special treatment and were permitted to be the regents of kings who were still to young to rule and were actively involved in matters of state. Often they were the target of scandal-mongering as in the many tales told about Alexander’s mother, Olympias. When Alexander was away in Asia, she had general supervision of his kingdom and represented the Macedonian state. After Alexander’s death she issued decrees on behalf of the joint-kings and herself as well as ‘in the name of the house of Philip and his son Alexander’. Even so she failed to unite the royal house and her life story has been embellished with many scandals, most likely to be untrue as they express the defamation and hostilely that had broke out between her supporters and her opponents who were supported by Kassander.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?