8 Interesting Facts about Queen Olympias – Alexander the Great’s Mother

Queen Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great is quite a prominent figure in Greek history. A lady with her own mind and virtue, here we share everything you wanted to know about her including her history, biography and some lesser known facts –

By Fotogeniss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

She was the Fourth Wife of Macedonian King Philip II

Olympias was the daughter of Molossians King Neoptolemus I. Molossians was an ancient Greek tribe in Epirus (presently in between Albania and Greece) south-west to Macedonia. When Olympias’ father the king of Molossians died, he was succeeded by his brother Arymbas in 360 BC.

2 years later, Arymbas the uncle of Olympias signed a treaty with Philip II, the Macedonian king, and under this alliance, she was married to Philip II in 357 BC. This marriage alliance made Olympias the Macedonian Queen. Now that Olympias was born in the year 375 BC, she was only 18 when she married Philip II.

Also See: Porus and Alexander Were Not Born on the same day!

Her Original Name was Polyxena. Olympias was her Third Name out of Four

The ancient Greek document written by Plutarch mentions that Alexander’s mothers’ original name was Polyxena. The book further states that when she was getting married to Philip II, her name was changed to Myrtale. The name Olympias is her third name which she got a year later in her marriage after Philip’s race horse won in the Olympic Games of 356 BC. Her fourth and last name was Stratonice, mostly an epithet which was attached to her name post her victory in 317 BC over Eurydice.

According to a Biographer, Queen Olympias Used to Sleep with Snakes

As per the information penned down by Plutarch, Olympias was a member of a mystic snake-worshiping cult of Dionysus. It was this background of Olympias that angered the Macedonians. It is also believed that she used to sleep with snakes. Some stories indicate that when Philip II saw her sleeping with the snakes, he no more entered her room. So, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sameshka as Olympias in Sony TV Porus sleeping with snakes.

Olympias Didn’t Share a Healthy Relationship with Her Husband King Philip II

As per the available historical evidence, Queen Olympias was jealous of Philip’s other Macedonian wives. Her relationship with Philip wasn’t good but a stormy one. Things became even worst when Philip married a noble Macedonian woman, the niece of Attalus. This alliance created a lot of tension between Olympias and Philip, so much that she went to her paternal house in Epirus along with her only son Alexander who sided her. When she went to Epirus, her brother Alexander I reigned as the king of Epirus.

Also Read: Who was the Father of Alexander the Great – Philip II or Zeus? 

Olympias Was Also the Mother of Cleopatra who married her uncle Alexander I

Not just Alexander the great, Olympias and Philip II also had one more child. Their second child was a daughter named Cleopatra. She was married to her own maternal uncle Alexander I of Epirus in 336 BC. The alliance was arranged by her father and it was at this wedding that her father Philip II was killed by one of his seven bodyguards, Pausanias of Orestis.

Queen Olympias Poisoned Her Step Son Arridaeus to Eliminate a Possible Rival to her son

Arridaeus was a son born to Philip II from his other wife Queen Philinna. Now that both Alexander and Arridaeus were almost of same age, Olympias feared that he could become an obstacle in her son’s path to the royal throne. So, she used to poison him regularly which made him disabled – he had learning disabilities. He, however, succeeded Alexander the Great and named himself as Philip III after his accession to the throne.

After Philip II’s Death, She Killed His Last Wife and Her Children

As soon as her husband Philip II was killed, Olympia immediately killed his children – Europa and Caranus from his last wife Cleopatra Eurydice. After all, she was jealous of this wife so much that she even went to exile when he married Cleopatra Eurydice. After hearing this news of her children’s death, Cleopatra Eurydice took her life.

Also Read: All About Porus’ Mother – Queen Anusuya

She Was Killed by Cassander – the Son of Alexander’s Regent Antipater

During the reign of Alexander when he entered Asia Minor fighting against Darius III of Persia and Porus of India, Antipater remained the regent. However, when Antipater died due to old age, he didn’t appoint his son Cassander as his successor but Polyperchon. Cassander, however, was successful in ousting Polyperchon and became the regent himself. When Olympia realized that her grandson Alexander IV could never become a king if Cassander remains the regent, she planned to execute Cassander, however, her plan failed. Cassander captured her in 317 BC and in spite of promising to save her life killed her in 316 BC.

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