Philip’s wives and marital conflicts (337 BC)
We know or hear very little about the first five wives of Philip before Olympias. It is interesting to note that in all four of them spoke Greek (Phila, Philinna, Nicesipolis and Olympias) and two of them did not (Audata and Meda). How historians managed to find that out, I wonder. Nicesipolis died soon after childbirth, but all the others were apparently living at court in Pella (read also The Many Wives of Philip II.). It is obvious that Olympias had a special status because she was the mother to the heir, Alexander. The other ladies had given birth to a daughter or the retarded Arrhidaeus. Since these marriages had happened rather early in his kingship and for political reasons, one may wonder how close Philip kept in touch with them.
The wedding took place, probably a typical Macedonian affair with abundance of wine flowing between the men. I think that even to their own standards they all got pretty drunk. Anyway, at a certain point Attalus, now father-in-law of his king, proposed a toast to the bride and groom wishing them a legitimate Macedonian heir. It is not difficult to picture Alexander’s reaction, who felt deeply hurt by the insinuation that Attalus (and who knows who else) considered him a bastard! A fiery argument broke out, the king tried to intervene but had probably been drinking too much himself as he took side with Attalus and demanded excuses from Alexander. As we can expect, Alexander refused. He left the room, picked up his mother and took her to her brother in Epirus. He himself sought refuge in Illyria. Now there is a theory by which Olympias tried to convince her brother to revolt against Philip while Alexander might have worked the mind of the Illyrians in the same direction, but nothing is proven. Eventually Philip hired an actor (as was customary to settle differences), Demaratus of Corinth, who managed to bring Alexander back to Pella. Yet this must have left quite a bitter aftertaste on both sides.
It is rather clear that Alexander was accepted as Philip’s heir since the age of fourteen when Aristotle became his tutor. There is no trace to include for instance Amyntas, the son of Perdiccas III and true heir to the throne which Philip now occupied, in Aristotle’s lessons, yet when Alexander became king he had Amyntas executed. It is also a fact that Alexander took over the regency of Macedonia at sixteen while his father was campaigning, and at eighteen Philip trusted him to lead the cavalry at Chaeronnea. But in spite of all that, Philip was still father and king and did not tolerate anyone, even his own son, to act against him will. A clear example is that of the Pixodarus affair.
Pixodarus was the ruler of Caria (the area of Bodrum) who had kicked his sister Ada, the widow of the previous ruler, from the throne while remaining submissive to the Persian King. But Persia was in turmoil after eunuch Bagoas murdered Artaxerxes III and in the confusion Pixodarus thought it wise to seek support from Philip, an interesting consideration that fitted Philip’s plans to march east. Pixodarus offered his daughter, Ada, in marriage and Philip in exchange presented the retarded Arrhidaeus. The pact was accepted. But Alexander felt his father had left him out and decided to act on his own, offering himself as marital candidate to Pixodarus, who of course could not have asked for a better deal! When Philip got vent of this maneuver behind his back, we can imagine how infuriated he became. The entire agreement with Pixodarus was called off and Philip seriously reprimanded his son by exiling several of his closest friends from Pella . That must have been quite a blow for Alexander!
These events clearly illustrate that all was not running smoothly between father and son, which may have led to the conclusions about the true murderers of Philip the next year.