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Barsine, daughter of Artabazus

Barsine was the daughter of Artabazus, a Persian nobleman. She was married first to Mentor of Rhodes and, when he died, to his brother Memnon. Apparently she had received a Greek education, although it is not clear whether this was as preparation for, or as a result of her marriages to Greeks (Pl. Alex. 21.4).

At some point in the 340s BC, Artabazus and his family were guests at Philip’s court, following an unsuccessful rebellion of satraps against the Artaxerxes III Ochus (Diod. 16.52.3-4; Curt. 5.9.1, 6.5.2). While at Philip’s court, Barsine might have come to know the teenage Alexander, who was later to play a much larger role in her life.

When Darius III appointed Memnon as supreme commander of the forces in Asia Minor in 334 BC, charged with stopping Alexander’s advance, Barsine travelled to the Great King's court—possibly as a hostage, but certainly for safety. She was therefore at Darius’ court when she was widowed—Memnon died at Mitylene, of illness, in early 333 BC.

Later that year she travelled with the court to Damascus, where she remained while Darius and his army progressed to meet Alexander at Issus (November 333 BC). Alexander won the battle, however, and Barsine was still at Damascus when she was captured by Parmenion, who sent her to Alexander (Pl. Alex. 21.4).

Alexander's made her his mistress, possibly very soon afterwards, and apparently very much at Parmenion’s urging. She appears to have travelled with the army for the next five years (Pl. Alex. 21.4). At some point in early 327 BC she bore Alexander a son, Heracles (Pl. Eum. 1; Just. 11.10). We do not know where the boy was born, as at some unknown point Barsine was sent back to the west (presumably when she first became pregnant, as at the time the army was engaged in a desperate guerrilla war in Bactria and Sogdia—hardly the best conditions for a pregnant woman!).

Barsine did not play any role in the rest of Alexander’s history. One of her daughters, from her marriage to Mentor, married Nearchus in 324 BC (Arr. 7.4.6); and Nearchus unsuccessfully tried to advance Heracles’ claim to Alexander’s throne after the king died (Curt. 10.6.10-12; see also Just. 13.2). Heracles was eventually killed by Cassander in around 316 BC (Just. 15.2; Eusebius, Chronicle).

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