It’s said that behind every strong man is a strong woman.
Well, there was a veritable army of fearsome (and sometimes downright terrifying) women flanking Alexander the Great.
The first, his mother Olympias, reputedly slept with snakes and eventually helped govern Macedon while Alex was off campaigning at the ends of the earth. Before Alexander became king, his father had threatened to make a younger son by a lesser wife his heir. Strangely enough, Philip soon dropped dead of an assassin’s blade and even more shocking, Olympias later congratulated and crowned that same assassin. People suspected Olympias’ involvement in the murder, but her son now sat on the throne so it wasn’t as if anyone was going to put her on trial. And if you can get away with murder once…
Well, let’s just say Olympias was the original Tiger Mom.
Next we have Roxana, Alexander’s Persian wife. It might come down to a coin toss to see who was more devious and cruel: Olympias or Roxana. Lovely Roxana was the daughter of a minor Persian noble and caught Alexander’s eye after he stormed the fortress at Sogdian Rock. The two were soon married and eventually Roxana birthed Alexander’s one and only legitimate son. (Too bad Alexander had dropped dead only months before, thus ushering in a bloody civil war.) Perhaps in a quest to outdo even Olympias’ brutality, Roxana was willing to commit any crime to keep her power.
Pretty, young Roxana could have given Lizzie Borden a run for her money.
Finally we have Thessalonike, Alexander’s sister. Ancient sources are fairly silent until Thessalonike made a power marriage, but she was daughter to one king, sister to another, and wife to a third. Her mother died shortly after her birth, leaving her to be raised by Olympias. (Poor unfortunate soul!) Yet rather than let her evil stepmother scar her for life, Thessalonike seemed to have learned political maneuvering at Olympias’ elbow. She bided her time until after Alexander’s death and helped quell the raging civil war as everyone fought for control of Alex’s empire. She went on to bear three sons and have a city, Thessaloniki, named after her.
So what’s the moral of the story if you’re mother, sister, or wife to one of the world’s greatest conquerors?
Be ready to play dirty, or hide on the sidelines until everyone else is dead.
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Where Theodora went, trouble followed…
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We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.
330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.
His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.
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