Special Sub-Topic: Alexander's Dysfunctional Family
|How did Alexander's father, Philip II, become King of Macedonia?|
He overthrew his nephew after being appointed regent. After being appointed regent by the Macedonian council, Philip immediately began a program to raise the standard of living of his people. He began to develop a professional army, build cities, and improve roads. Philip hoped to raise the cultural level of his people, unite Macedonia with the Greek city-states, and begin an invasion of the Persian Empire.
|Why did Philip marry Olympias, Alexander's mother?|
To secure the western borders of his empire. Olympias' uncle was the reigning prince of Epirus, a kingdom to the west of Macedonia. Philip needed him as an ally. By this time Philip had a reputation for marrying a wife after every campaign to help create alliances to protect his empire.
|What did Olympias do before marrying Philip?|
She was a priestess in a snake handling cult. Olympias was not quite eighteen when she was married to Philip. She was described as a beautiful, sullen, arrogant, and headstrong woman with a murderous temper. It does not appear to have concerned her that Philip had other wives and mistresses, but she did expect that her son would be Philip's heir. An assortment of large, tame snakes were Olympias' pets; it has been suggested that she kept them for ritualistic purposes.
|Throughout his life Alexander wished to find the identity of his true father. Who else did Olympias claim (and Phillip suspect) could be his father?|
Zeus, Father of the gods. The night before Olympias and Philip were married she had a dream that her womb was struck by a thunderbolt. There is a story that after they were married, Philip found her sleeping with a snake.
Philip was so concerned that Olympias was consorting with a higher being, that he sent a representative to consult the Oracle of Apollo. The oracle stated that Philip needed to make sacrifices to Zeus. Philip was also told that he would lose the sight of the eye which viewed the god. Three years later he lost his eye in battle. After seeing Olympias sleeping with the snake, Philip seldom slept with her.
|Which statement most correctly describes Alexander's early relationship with his father?|
Alexander admired his father, but was afraid that Philip would leave him nothing to conquer. Alexander feared that Philip would leave nothing for him to accomplish. He was not interested in ruling a rich kingdom, he planned to lead his own conquest some day. He wanted to be a man of action like his father.
|What event caused a rift between Alexander and his father that never healed?|
Philip married again. Because Philip's new wife, Cleopatra Eurydice of Macedonia, was from an elite Macedonian family, there was a real possibility that if she gave birth to a full-blooded Macedonian son (which she did a year later) he would inherit Philip's empire. At the wedding banquet Cleopatra's uncle, Attalus, toasted the couple and wished them the blessing of a legitimate male heir. A furious Alexander, who believed Attalus was calling him a bastard, began a very heated, public quarrel, during which a drunken Philip reportedly lunged at Alexander with sword in hand, only to fall to the floor. Some sources suggest that Philip later divorced Olympias and declared her children bastards.
|Why was Philip assassinated?|
All of these are possible explanations (A former male lover held a personal grudge against him, Olympias was angry about his marriage to Cleopatra, The Persians wanted to prevent his plan to invade their empire). All explanations are perfectly viable. The Persians knew that Philip was on the brink of invading; Olympias was determined that her son, not Cleopatra's, would inherit the Macedonian throne; and Pausanias, Philip's former bodyguard and lover, was angry with Philip. Alexander now had competition from what the Macedonians saw as a "legitimate heir" for the throne. Pausanias, the assassin, was immediately killed by Alexander's friends. Did he act alone? The world will never know.
|What happened to Cleopatra's son, Caranus, after Philip's death?|
He was roasted alive. Involved with his conquest of Persia, Alexander asked his mother to dispose of his rivals. It is said that Cleopatra's baby son, Caranus, was pushed face down into a red-hot charcoal brazier with this sister, Europa. Cleopatra was forced to hang herself. Alexander, upon hearing of his mother's deeds, said, "She exacts heavy rent for nine months," conveying that idea that as his mother, Olympias should be allowed to do as she please. Most sources state (and Alexander's own actions show) that he did not condone such horrible treatment of his rivals, and Europa and Cleopatra certainly did not pose a threat to his power.
|Whom did Philip choose to be Alexander's tutor?|
Aristotle. It is quite clear that Alexander loved Aristotle. No matter where Alexander traveled, he carried a copy of 'The Iliad' that was annotated by his teacher. He never failed to bring back specimens of plants and animals for Aristotle to study. In fact, the information collected by the many zoologists and botanists that traveled with his army formed the foundations of Aristotle's 'Historia Animalium'. According to Plutarch, Alexander stated that even though Philip gave him life, Aristotle taught him how to live well.
|Which parent's ancestry was most respected by Alexander?|
Olympias' ancestry to Achilles. While Philip traced his ancestry back to Heracles, Olympias traced hers back to Achilles. On his way to Persia, Alexander stopped at the ancient site of Troy, where he visited the tomb of Achilles, and offered sacrifices to Athena. He left his armor in Athena's temple and exchanged it for a suit of armor said to date back from the time of the Trojan War.
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