Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great by Elizabeth Carney

Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great (ISBN 0-415—33317-2) is an exceptional book about an equally exceptional woman – an absolute must for every admirer of Alexander the Great!
It is quite amazing what information Elizabeth Carney has been able to produce, especially since so very little has been written about Olympias, even in antiquity. E. Carney knows the mother of Alexander the Great very intimately and as she states herself, she has been living with her longer than with her own husband. That tells a great deal. 

From appearance, the book looks deceptively small but the amount of information and the conclusions she manages to present is huge.
The chapter division has been kept quite simple in fact:

  1. Olympias the Molossian, telling us about Olympias’ youth; the kingdom of Molossia; the social place of married women in Greece and in Macedonia; and about the preparations for her wedding with Philip II of Macedonia in Samothrace
  2. Olympias, wife of Philip II, discussing the problems of a polygamous marriage; her place at Philip’s court; her role as mother of a possible heir; her involvement in the Pixodarus affair and in the consequences of Attalus' accusation about the legality of Alexander as Macedonian king; Philip conceiving the construction of the Philippeon in Olympia after his victory at Chaeronea.
  3. Olympias, mother of the king, Alexander the Great, which obviously starts in 336 BC with her possible implication in the murder of her husband and her son's ascension to the throne. Discussed is the murder of Cleopatra  (Philip’s last wife) and her child(ren); her disagreements with Antipater since Alexander had not clearly defined the role of each; Olympias’ own political power through customary female religious activities (together with that of her daughter Cleopatra  queen of Molossia, by now widowed from marrying her uncle, Olympias’ brother).
  4. Olympias on her own, leaves her in a world of total chaos with no time or opportunity to grieve over her son’s death (his body never returned home). The bickering of Alexander’s generals is examined, the generally accepted idea that Alexander was poisoned at Antipater’s instigation with complicity of his sons. Olympias measures her strength against that of Adea Eurydike, the wife of Philip Arrhideus, and then liquidates both of them. Cassander rules over Macedonia. Cleopatra, Alexander’s sister, tries to save Macedonia by putting herself on the marriage market, without success and is eventually killed. Finally the murder of Olympias and its circumstances are scrutinized. This is by far the period when most of what we know about Olympias has been recorded, although the chronology is often lost in the complexity of the events.
  5. Olympias and religion, handles less Olympias’ religion practice than the general involvement of women in religion, both in Macedonia and in Greece proper.
  6. Olympias’ afterlife, examines her burial and how she has been remembered all the way through Roman times, generally together with her famous son.
  7. Appendix. Olympias and the sources. In this extra chapter E. Carney clearly explains the pros and cons related in sources like Diodorus, Justin, Curtius, Arrian, Plutarch and Pausanias.
Throughout her book E. Carney painstakingly examines what has been written by abovementioned authors as well as what has been mentioned in the Alexander Romance in order to put together an image of Olympias and the time she lived in. She does this in a most pleasant way, with an open mind, scrutinizing and analyzing every nuance in the sentences of the extensive bibliography she is using. She is very careful in drawing her conclusions and rightfully so. Unlike so many other authors, she is not ramming down her own views and ideas down my throat.

In my opinion, it takes a woman to write about Olympias. No one could have done a better job than Elizabeth Carney.

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