Alexander's Late Marriages

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sean_m
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Alexander's Late Marriages

Post by sean_m »

After Alexander had liquidated his immediate rivals, it was not clear who would become king if he died. His brother Philip had some kind of disability that the sources don't want to talk about, and being 18 he had no sons. According to Diodorus 17.16.2, Antipater and Parmenion urged him to marry before he left for Asia. As it happened he married late in his wars, and when he died his living children were helpless infants, leading to 30 more years of war. He could expect to die young: he was a hard drinker and a bold warrior and Macedonian kings seldom died in bed. As a king and an Argead his fundamental responsibility was to preserve the line of Hercules and save his people from civil strife.

Was Alexander irresponsible and short-sighted, or a wise king who knew that marrying into one Macedonian family would set all the others against him? (Elizabeth Baynham, "Why Didn't Alexander Marry Before Leaving Macedonia?" Observations on Factional Politics at Alexander's Court in 336-334 B.C." Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, Neue Folge, 141. Bd., H. 2 (1998), pp. 141-152 https://www.jstor.org/stable/41234312 ) Was there a way that another of the Macedonians could have taken over with only a few dozen killings if he had died unexpectedly? Discuss.
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Alexias
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Re: Alexander's Late Marriages

Post by Alexias »

Hi, Sean. This has been discussed before a long time ago viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3625. It's impossible to know exactly why Alexander didn't marry before leaving for Asia, but given the insecurity he seems to have felt about his position at the time by eliminating all rivals, it's understandable why he didn't want to leave an heir behind him in Macedonia as a focus for rivals who would have thought he was thus expendable.

We cannot psychoanalyse Alexander but he does seem to have had an issue with rivals around him in earlier years. He also does seem to have had some noble-minded ideas about women as a young man that probably had the older generation wondering when he would grow up, but maybe he couldn't bring himself to be physically intimate with a woman. By the time of the success of Gaugamela, he may have conceived the idea of marrying Darius's daughters once he had dealt with Darius to legitimise his position as Great King. But why he didn't marry them when he left them at Susa is difficut to understand, unless he just didn't envisage at the time that it would be 6 years before he came back to Susa. He had dragged the royal ladies around with him for 2 years and Stateira had died, so perhaps he felt they weren't physically strong enough to be campaign wives.

Roxanne was perhaps made of tougher stuff, but her first child died as a baby, and this might have advised Alexander against having campaign wives. He was about 28 when he married her, and the pressure to marry might have been mounting. But 28 wasn't that old when you consider that Antipater and Parmenion were both in their sixties at the start of the campaign, yet their sons were in their twenties, or younger. They might have been the product of second marriages but why were there no older sons? They can't all have died off.

After Roxanne's baby died, Alexander was wounded in the Mallian campaign, then went through Gedrosia while she would have gone through Carmania with Craterus. They were separated again when Hephaestion took command of the bulk of the army at the head of the Persian Gulf while Alexander went along the coast, so opportunities to get her pregnant again were limited, but for all we know there may have been another baby in these two years who also died. There's an interesting post here viewtopic.php?f=12&t=6478 about Alexander having 8 children. For all we know, there may have been bastards that no one was interested in. The army at Babylon wouldn't consider Heracles as an heir so there may have been younger children in the harem that no one even considered.

Exactly what Alexander thought would happen if he was killed is anyone's guess, but clearly he didn't have a plan and nor did anyone else at his death. Perhaps he didn't care, perhaps he thought it was up to every man to take what he could get. He would have known Antipater and his sons would ensure continuity in Macedonia, and whilst Parmenion was alive, he would have been the automatic person to take charge if Alexander died. After Parmenion's execution, Alexander seems to have promoted Hephaestion to be his second in command, but he died and Craterus, possibly the next choice, was on his way back to Greece, so perhaps it was bad timing when Alexander died that he hadn't yet managed to groom another second in command in place of a son. He did obviously realise that he hadn't got an heir when Hephaestion died, but it was a bit too late.
sean_m
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Re: Alexander's Late Marriages

Post by sean_m »

Thanks Alexias. I put this out there to see if it would start up a conversation, there is the interesting article by Baynham which is the first defence of Alexander in this area I have read.

According to Plutarch, Aristobulus says Parmenion encouraged Alexander to hook up with Barsine. I think the Metz Epitome has something about a dead baby in India.
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Alexias
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Re: Alexander's Late Marriages

Post by Alexias »

sean_m wrote: Tue Jan 28, 2020 9:52 am
According to Plutarch, Aristobulus says Parmenion encouraged Alexander to hook up with Barsine. I think the Metz Epitome has something about a dead baby in India.
Yes, there was an interesting discussion a few years ago where someone proposed that Parmenion had Barsine spy for him on Alexander. Exactly what anyone thought would be revealed is anyone's guess. Barsine really didn't have any choice but to become Alexander's mistress if the powers that decided she should be. I suspect there were rumblings that Alexander didn't like women and that was why Parmenion pushed Barsine on him. I must try to read the article but time is a bit short at present.
hiphys
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Re: Alexander's Late Marriages

Post by hiphys »

I agree totally with the paper of Elizabeth Baynham: I don't think a 13 years old son would change things at Alexander's death. Nobody can foresee the events, therefore nobody can solve this great "if" of history. Anyway I have two steady ideas on this matter: 1) I wondered often why many people charge Alexander with neglecting any succession plan after his death: I think this is a silly, and, above all, useless question, open to so many impredictable variations. 2) I don't believe to the request of an heir of "pure Macedonian blood" backing the story of the marriage of Philip to Cleopatra/Euridice. Philip himself, as a matter of fact, hadn't pure Macedonian blood, because his mother was an Illirian/Lyncestian woman. It seems to me this story sounds fake enough and has nothing to do with the request, made by Antipater and Parmenion to Alexander, to marry a Macedonian woman before leaving.
sean_m
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Re: Alexander's Late Marriages

Post by sean_m »

I think a 11- to 13-year-old son would have changed things quite a bit, because they were old enough to have agency and almost old enough to be a threat. So any scheming warlord had to act fast: they could not just take possession of them, they would also have to kill them or come to terms within the next few years. It took the Successors quite a bit of time to openly start killing Argeads and calling themselves king (something happens to archives in Idumaea, Babylonia, and Bactria in the 7th year of Philip Arrhidaeus).

In patriarchal societies, succession is question number 1. Archaic Greek literature is obsessed with it and a big part of Plato's Republic is on how to stop the families who do well in one generation from trying to tilt things in favour of their children. So its fair to criticize any king for not getting that aspect of their life in order. Their plan may fail (just think Esarhaddon's heirs Assurbanipal and Šamaš-šum-ukkin, or the Junior and Senior Emperors phase of imperial Rome), but "a plan is useless, having planned is priceless."
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