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The Struggle for Power


Jenice Batiforra

(University of Winnipeg)


Philip had united all of Greece and produced a son who would eventually conquer the Persian Empire. Yet I wondered, could Philip's conquest of Greece have been prevented? A review of Philip's first campaigns against the Illyrians and Paeonians shows that it would have been highly unlikely that the southern Greeks could have prevented his coming. Shortly after his accession to the throne, Philip had reorganized the Macedonian army, creating a formidable force. After removing internal dissent and temporarily alleviating external pressures, Philip had quickly and vigorously administered his military reforms: the introduction of the sarissa and the development of the pikeman-phalanx. Its great speed in movement, versatility in tactics and weapons, and coordination of cavalry and infantry had never been seen before in Greece. [FN 1]

If Philip's conquest of Greece were to be avoided, he would have to be prevented from creating such a formidable army. This army had won decisive victories against both the Paeonians and Illyrians in 358 BCE, only two years after Philip had been made king. Essentially, Philip would have to be eliminated either before his accession to the throne or immediately after. But who had the capability to accomplish such a task and when specifically could it have been done? A review of Macedon's dynastic struggles in the 390's shows that perhaps the elimination of Philip need not be carried out by foreign powers. From 400 - 390, Macedon had seen the death of four kings. These struggles had effectively depleted the lines of Philippus, Alcetas and Perdiccas II (the first three sons of Alexander I), leaving only Menelaus and Amyntas, his two youngest sons. [FN 2] At the end of the 390's, Amyntas III rose to the throne.

Upon Amyntas III's death in 370 / 69, he had left behind a widow and three sons: Alexander II, Perdiccas III and Philip II. Of these three sons, he had left the throne to Alexander. According to Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch, Ptolemy of Alorus, the son of Amyntas II, had challenged Alexander for the throne (D.S. 16.2.4; Plutarch, Pelopidas, 26). Both parties had turned to Pelopidas, the great Theban general, to act as arbitrator. Pelopidas had granted the throne to Alexander. In order to ensure Alexander's good behaviour, the Thebans had taken Philip and thirty other Macedonian princes as hostages. In 367 BCE, Alexander was assassinated by Ptolemy (Plutarch, Pelopidas, 26).

As my "what-if" scenario, I have chosen to write a narrative from the perspective of the Queen Mother Eurydike. The narrative is set in Pella, c. 368 BCE, the year in which Pelopidas granted Alexander the throne in exchange for thirty hostages including his brother, the young Philip II. I have chosen this specific time as Philip was still young and vulnerable, with his fate lying in the hands of his brother. According to our history, Philip's three-year stay in Thebes had educated him in the art of war. In my story, Philip never leaves Pella. In fact, he never sees the throne. Much of my account relies upon Diodorus Siculus', Plutarch's and Justin's accounts as interpreted by Hammond, Griffith, Borza and Ellis, who all describe a dynasty which was constantly struggling for power.

Inspired by Olympias' own intrigues on behalf of her son, Alexander the Great, I have chosen Eurydike as she too had been honoured as queen mother. In his Moralia (14 b-c), Plutarch stated that she had "learned her letters" after she had arrived in Macedonia. The description implied that she was literate. That she learned to read and write, after she arrived in Macedon suggests that perhaps it was not merely the availability of education which had inspired her to learn. In my story, I have made Amyntas' weakness the main motive for Eurydike's intrigues.

In eliminating Philip before he could make a historical impact, Greece comes to modern times as a fragmented country, much like the Middle East. The area is hotly disputed and closed off to foreigners due to warfare. As Alexander was not born, Greek culture was not spread. Thus, information about Greece is limited and doubtful. The achievements of the Classical Greeks have been passed down, but only to serve as propaganda for the warring city-states.


University of Winnipeg, 2004.

To: Ms. Batiforra
Re: Macedonian History

I would like to apologize regarding the delay of the following material. However, as you may already know, information regarding Macedon or Greece, for that matter, is hard to come by. Modern Greece and the Balkans are still closed off to foreigners on account of the constant warfare. As such, scholarship is very limited and I can only offer you the following information.

Macedon was a kingdom in northern Greece, in the area we now know as the Balkans. We do not know what its borders were in ancient times. The text below was supposedly written by the Queen Mother Eurydike, an account of the murder of her sons. Whether the story is true, we are not sure. However, the struggle for power depicted here seems to correspond to the current situation in this area, where the local barons are still fighting amongst one another. The reference in the text regarding an Athenian naval power and the decline of Spartan supremacy can also be confirmed through quotes derived from propaganda. This text comes from a Greek refugee, who claims that his ancestors had once served this woman and had preserved her narrative throughout the generations.

I must warn you — Greek refugees often sell such information in order to buy their way out of the country. I cannot vouch for its authenticity. There are ancient coins which have come to us bearing the name "Amyntas". Whether this is the same Amyntas in the text, cannot be determined.

Please find enclosed a copy of the translated text. Again, I would like to apologize for the delay and also for providing such limited information. I hope that your research in this area will prove fruitful.


A Pembridge
University Archives



"There are those who would doubt the words of a woman. I do not write for such people. I write for the sake of my sons — my sons, whose names shall never be praised in glory, shall never be immortalized, on account of the weakness of their father, the failures of their mother. I write so that the truth might come to light. I write in the hopes that my sons may be avenged.

My marriage to Amyntas was meant to end the feud between Lyncus and Macedonia. I was seventeen. [FN 3] I knew nothing of my husband. I knew only that my mother had protested against the marriage. She hated the thought, the idea of her daughter, a princess of the proud Bacchiadae, marrying into such a weak kingdom. [FN 4] But father had persisted and mother was silenced. I would hear her weep at night, but see only a stone mask of silence in the morning.

I met Amyntas on the day we were married. He was far older than I, with a full, thick beard. During the banquet, my father had spoken with such hope — hope for peace, hope for grandsons that would firmly establish the alliance. That night, in the bridal chamber, Amyntas had made me his wife and queen.

But our joys were not to last long. The Illyrians had invaded Macedonia shortly after our wedding. Amyntas and I were driven out. I cannot begin to relate what I had felt at the time. I was young, with child and afraid. Amyntas had a kingdom to reclaim and while he sought help, I was left in the care of the Aleuadae at Larissa. I cannot express my gratitude to this family in words — the debt is too great. It was here that I bore my first-born, Alexander. [FN 5] Little did I know that however much happiness he brought me that day, he would pay back with just as much pain.

Amyntas regained his throne — but at a price. In the course of making an alliance with Olynthus, he had given them land around Lete and Lake Bolbe. In addition, he had signed a treaty with Olynthus, a treaty which seemed to benefit only the Chalcidic League. At the time, he believed that the loss was worth the gain. [FN 6]

The alliance afforded us some peace. It was during this time that I gave birth to our daughter, Eurynoë. It was her birth which compelled Amyntas to take a second wife. [FN 7] Amyntas needed sons. With our positions so precarious, he needed to ensure the succession of his line. Alexander would not be enough.

Gygaea. Though a part of me had wanted to befriend her, the idea that she might one day produce a son to challenge my own, kept me from embracing her as a sister. On the nights that she would keep him away from my bed, I would lie awake in anxiety. I would wonder whether tonight was the night that she would conceive.

My fears were for naught. Her first pregnancy had ended in miscarriage and by the time she had announced her second, I had already bore my second son, Perdiccas. [FN 8] Yet even as I held him in my arms, the fear persisted. Gygaea was young. She was still able to bear children. Amyntas was older than both of us and should he pass on while our sons were still young, I would not be able to preserve the throne for their sake. I had heard the secrets of this house, stories about kin murdering kin. Amyntas himself had taken the throne after four kings had died within less than a decade. I would not be able to secure the throne for my sons by competing with another woman. I could not allow my sons to live as their father had, a man who was barely surviving, desperately holding on to his kingdom by a mere thread.

I began to learn my letters. One of Amyntas' ancestors had once invited the great artists and poets of Greece to turn Pella into a proper royal court. [FN 9] Though there were but few learned men in Pella during Amyntas' reign (on account of the instability of the kingdom), there were plenty of collections of work left behind. I do not claim to be a scholar, you must understand. I did not venture into the world of men out of pleasure. Amyntas was getting on with age, and I knew that my children would be too young to hold on to the throne securely. I had to learn what I could, do what I could, to ensure that no harm came to them.

Once again, Macedonia fell into war. Amyntas had asked for the return of the land which he had entrusted to Olynthus. Olynthus had refused. The alliance was broken and Amyntas went to war. With our army being so pitiful, Amyntas again had to look for allies. He turned to Cotys, the Odrysian king. Cotys' Athenian son-in-law, Iphicrates, was able to give him some aid. However, it was Amyntas' plea to Sparta which brought salvation. After a year of fighting, Olynthus was defeated. [FN 10] At last, our kingdom was secure. Philip, my youngest son, was born in the midst of this war. Yet despite the memories of the time, I cannot help but smile now, as I remember that child. He should have been the middle child, being a mixture of both Alexander's rambunctious nature and Perdiccas' thoughtfulness. My position as queen mother was now secure. I had by then borne three sons, while Gygaea had only produced one. [FN 11]

Ironically, Sparta's victory over Olynthus brought her own decline. The defeat of Olynthus had inspired Athens to rebuild her naval alliance. [FN 12] In Athens, Amyntas saw a worthy ally. Her new fleet would need timber, something which Macedonia could readily supply. Amyntas had quickly abandoned his ties to Sparta and aligned himself with Athens. Athenian guests came frequently to Pella then, and while my husband would ply the politicians with food and drink, I would send my own slaves to serve them, ordering them to get as much news as they could.

The alliance with Athens gave us peace. So long as Amyntas was producing revenue, my husband's enemies could not attack him — not while the kingdom was stable. We watched as our sons grew from infants to youths. Alexander was ambitious and impulsive. Amyntas had clearly marked Alexander as his heir, doting on his physical training and bringing him along whenever he went on his diplomatic missions. But diplomacy had never been Alexander's virtue. Amyntas had driven him hard and instilled all the lessons of his years into his young son. My son had seen his father beg others to help him keep his throne. He knew how reliant we were upon Athens' money and influence. He had heard the malicious whispers behind his back when he would go south with his father, calling him a barbarian. At times, he could not control his frustrations, taking them out on his younger brothers. Oh how I ached to comfort him then. 'When I am king,' he would say, 'I shall never beg!'

As Amyntas began to grow weaker with old age, he began to turn more attention to his heirs. Although he had prepared Alexander, he saw a potential rival in his second cousin Ptolemy. Ptolemy, being the great-grandson of Alexander I, had the sort of lineage which could easily challenge our son's. Moreover, he was older, more experienced and Amyntas feared that the Assembly might pass over his son to elect him. As a solution, Amyntas gave him our daughter Eurynoë in marriage. [FN 13] He believed that this would be enough.

I did not trust him. His ever-watchful eyes seemed to be everywhere and I feared for my sons. I could not help but watch over them obsessively and where my eyes could not reach them, I assigned my husband's most trusted guards to keep watch. I would often make excuses to visit my daughter at his home, hoping to get information from Eurynoë, warning of Ptolemy's ambitions. [FN 14]

When Amyntas died, I thought I was prepared. [FN 15] The Assembly elected Alexander as their new king. Soon after his accession, our old friends, the Aleuadae, had begged Alexander to help them become independent from Pherae. I, in my eagerness to help out these people who had helped us long ago, urged Alexander to go. He gained control of Larissa and promised that he would turn the city over to their hands. He lied. He kept a Macedonian garrison at Larissa. [FN 16] I was enraged. I reminded him of our debt to these people, told him how they had kept us alive and helped his father regain his throne. He dismissed my words, telling me to go back to my weaving.

I was distraught. The Aleuadae were old allies and I knew that this betrayal would bring disaster. I had expected Ptolemy's challenge. He brought the betrayal before the Assembly, saying that it was proof of a young man's foolishness. We were soon in a civil war. I ensured that my dowry would go to fund Alexander's campaign. But two years passed, and they were at a standstill. Finally, they agreed to have Pelopidas, the great Theban general, to arbitrate. He ruled in Alexander's favour — but at a price. Alexander was to give thirty hostages to the Thebans, including one of his brothers. [FN 17] For once, Alexander turned to me. I was not prepared for it. He asked me to choose which one would go. I was speechless. How could he have asked a mother to part with any of her children? I could not decide and Alexander could not wait. He sent both of them, saying that they could take comfort in each other while they were away. He assured me of their safety, that he did not plan on doing anything rash. He promised that he would collect them once he had secured the throne. He had promised me so earnestly, with tears glistening in his eyes. I should have known better.

What came next, I did not see coming. The arbitration had been a hoax. Ptolemy had made an alliance with Thebes months beforehand. He had known that the Thessalians would call upon Thebes in order to liberate them from Macedonian control. He had made an alliance, promising to pay tribute to Thebes, if only they would help him gain control. Pelopidas had agreed and in so doing, had sealed the fate of my sons.

Perdiccas and Philip were the only 'hostages' taken. They were killed before the week was out. Alexander was assassinated shortly after. Pelopidas had his forces hiding outside Pella, waiting for Ptolemy's sign. Once my sons had been killed, Pelopidas had destroyed our forces and installed Ptolemy upon the throne. I was locked in my chambers, awaiting my fate.

When the doors finally opened, it was my daughter who walked in, with her hands behind her back. I ran to her, believing that she had come to comfort me. Instead, she brought her hands forward. In her hands, she held the heads of her brothers. I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked at her in disbelief.

'Did you think you were the only one who could deceive, mother?' She had asked sweetly. She dropped the heads before my feet. I felt my knees give out. 'All those years doting on your sons, believing you would groom them to become kings. And all the while, leaving me in the woodwork, yet another slave to help you secure the fates of your sons. Here are the fruits of your labour,' she had dared to kick their heads in my direction. 'Feast upon your ambitions!'

I neither heard nor saw anything after that. I was kept in my chambers, with only one servant to tend to me. I do not know who will read this, or even if it will survive. If there are gods in the heavens, hear my prayers! Let my sons be avenged!"


1 Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus: The Emergence of Macedon, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 205. [Return to text]

2 See Borza, 2, 177 - 179. [Return to text]

3 Hammond places her birth in 410 BCE and her marriage to Amyntas III in 393 BCE. See N.G.L. Hammond, Philip of Macedon, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1994), 16. [Return to text]

4 Hammond and Griffith cite Strabo, 7 C 326 regarding her ethnicity. See N.G.L. Hammond and G.T. Griffith, A History of Macedonia: Volume II 550 - 336 BC, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 14. [Return to text]

5 An inscription was preserved in Athens which showed that Alexander had signed an alliance with his father and Ptolemy. Hammond and Griffith have placed the date of this inscription between 375 and 373 BCE. I am assuming that Alexander must have been an adult by then, perhaps eighteen, placing his birth between 393 - 391 BCE, around the same time that Amyntas had been expelled from his kingdom. See Hammond and Griffith, 178. [Return to text]

6 According to Hammond and Griffith, the attack occurred in 393 / 2, citing Diodorus 14.92.3. Amyntas had then turned to the Aleuadae and had given land to Olynthus. See Hammond and Griffith, 172. [Return to text]

7 This is my own speculation. Having just been restored to his throne, he most likely tried to strengthen his rule by obtaining allies. We have seen how the feud between Lyncus and Macedon had ended through his marriage to Eurydike. His marriage to Gygaea may have also been a political marriage. Through my readings, I found no other mention of Gygaea in relation to Amyntas III aside from the fact that she eventually bore him three sons. Here, I have speculated that perhaps it was also the birth of a daughter which compelled him to marry again, as he was driven to ensure heirs to his throne. [Return to text]

8 Upon Alexander's death in 367 BCE, Perdiccas was still a minor. In 368 BCE, Philip was roughly fourteen years old when he was sent to Thebes. I've speculated that Perdiccas was only three years older than Philip, and since Philip was born in 382 BCE, I have made Perdiccas' year of birth in my story as 385 BCE. [Return to text]

9 In regards to Eurydike's literacy, see Plutarch, Moralia, 14 b - c. It was during Archelaus' reign that Pella became the Macedonian capital. The stability of his reign had allowed him to establish Pella as a cultural capital. See Borza, 171 - 177. [Return to text]

10 Borza places the alliance with Cotys in 386 and the defeat of Olynthus in 379 BCE. See Borza, 182 - 186. [Return to text]

11 This is my speculation. Upon Philip's accession to the throne, he had two younger half-brothers who had fled to Olynthus and so I assumed that Philip only had one older half-brother. [Return to text]

12 377 BCE. [Return to text]

13 See N.G.L. Hammond, The Macedonian State: Origins, Institutions and History, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 32. [Return to text]

14 See Justin, 7.4.7 - 7.5.8. According to Hammond and Griffith, Justin's account is "absurd" and is nothing but "poppycock", as the story is filled with holes. Justin states that Eurynoë found out about her mother's and Ptolemy's plot against her father Amyntas. However, he does not explain how she found out. Moreover, he states that Amyntas had forgiven Eurydike on account of their children, but this does not seem likely. Borza and Ellis seem to have accepted this tradition. Perhaps Eurydike's associations with Ptolemy were mistaken. Plutarch (Pelopidas, 26) portrays her as a protective matriarch, enlisting her connections in order to eject Pausanias out of Macedon upon Alexander's death. Perhaps it was Eurydike's frequent visitations at Ptolemy's home which prompted the rumours. Here, I have made such visitations as Eurydike's attempts at spying upon Ptolemy. [Return to text]

15 370/69 BCE. [Return to text]

16 See Hammond and Griffith, 181. [Return to text]

17 Justin, 7.5.1 and D.S. 16.2.2. [Return to text]



Borza, Eugene. In the Shadow of Olympus: The Emergence of Macedon. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).

Diodorus Siculus. Library. [cited 10 April 2004]. Available from World Wide Web: (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Diod.+9.13.1).

Ellis, J.R. Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976).

Hammond, N.G.L. Philip of Macedon. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).

Hammond, N.G.L. The Macedonian State. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).

Hammond, N.G.L. A History of Macedonia: Volume II 550 - 336 BC. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979).

Marcus Justanus Justinus. 2003. Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. [cited 10 April 2004)]. Available from the World Wide Web: (http://www.forumromanum.org/literature/justin/english/index.html).


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