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Olympias was the formidable mother of Alexander the Great. Today (12/07/2021), I am inspired to writer about her, not just because of the following wonderful report ( which suggests her tomb mauy have been discovered, but because she was a truly remarkable woman.

Olympias was born into the royal house of the Molossian tribe of Epirus. Her father was Neoptolemus I, and they believed they were the descendants of great Homeric warrior Achilles. After her father died in 358 BCE, her uncle Arymbas succeeded him and formed an alliance with Philip II of Macedon, a relationship that was cemented by Olympias' marriage to Philip. Philip was a remarkable ruler himself, and perhaps deserves as much credit (some might argue more) than his more famous son. Alexander was born in 356 BCE. However, his succession to the Macedonian throne was not a straightforward one. Many accounts report a stormy relationship between Philip and Olympias. Philip was temperamental, Olympias ambitious. Hmmm, that was going to well. In 337 BCE, Philip married a Macedonian noblewoman named Cleopatra, daughter of Attalus. Philip made no attempt to defend Alexander's legitimacy and a fuming Olympias went with Alexander into voluntary exile at the Molossian court.

However, she was never one to go quietly. She may well have been involved in the assassination of Philip via one of his bodyguards and was almost certainly involved in the murder of Cleopatra and her child. Alexander succeeded Philip.

Whilst absent on his many campaigns and conquests, Olympias was ruler of Macedon, de facto at least, and was a thorn in the side of regent Antipater, fiercely defending her grandchild's right to the throne (Alexander's son by Roxane). When Cassander, Antipater's son, usurped the role of regent, forcing Olympias back into exile. But she again did not go quietly, as she realised Cassander was aiming to thwart her grandchild's right to succeed. She returned to Macedon where she was welcomed by the soldiery. Challenging the other potential successor, Philip's son by Eurydice (the name given to Cleopatra after her marriage to Philip), also called Philip, she was victorious and had them both executed. However, Cassander soon caught up with her, beseiging her at Pydna. He later reneged on his promise to spare her and she was executed.

Nevertheless, her role in Alexander's rise to power is undeniable and she fought hard to maintain his direct line. She ruthless, even cruel, but she was hardly the only ambitious schemer. She remained determined to the end and the history of Macedon might have been very different without her.

References - Pictures from Article (left to right anti-clockwise)

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