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Stateira, wife of Darius III

Stateira was the wife of Darius III; Justin (11.9) says she was also his sister—we don’t know whether this means she was full or half-sister. She was captured by Alexander after the battle of Issus in 333 BC (Arr. 2.11.9; Diod. 35f; Pl. Alex. 20.6-21; Curt. 3.11.24-26).

One of the best known stories of Alexander relates to his meeting with Stateira, her mother Sisygambis, her son (Ochus), and her two daughters (Stateira and Drypetis). After the battle Alexander visited the royal women, to reassure them that Darius was still alive. He took Hephaestion with him, and Sisygambis thought that he was the king. When she realised her mistake she feared for her safety, but Alexander declared that Hephaestion was “also Alexander” (Arr. 2.12.3-8; Curt. 3.12.15-17; Pl. Alex. 21.1-3; Diod. 17.37.5-6; Itin. Alex. 15; Val. Max. 4.7 ext 2a).

Stateira was reputed to be the most beautiful woman in Asia. Despite her beauty, Alexander was said to have exercised great control, treated her like a sister, and maintained her royal state (Curt. 3.12.21-23; Pl. Alex. 21.4; Athen. 13.603 b-d). However, at some time in 331 BC Stateira died. The sources are contradictory about exactly when this happened, and also about the cause of death: it might be that she became ill, as a result of the hard travelling of the baggage train (Curt. 4.10.18-19); but one version says that she died in childbirth—which suggests that Alexander was not as restrained in his treatment of the royal women as he purported to be (Pl. Alex. 30.1; Just. 11.12).

However, Plutarch also cites one of Alexander’s own letters, in which the king maintains that he never even saw Stateira, to avoid being tempted (Pl. Alex. 22.3; Moralia 6.522A; Aulus Gellius 7.8.1-4). Another states that he saw her only once (Curt. 4.10.24; Just. 11.12)—on the visit to the royal women after Issus. As Justin is one of those who say he only saw her once, and yet is also one of those who say she died of a miscarriage, there can be considerable doubt over the childbirth story: either she died much earlier than any of the sources suggest; or she fell pregnant by another man—which was highly unlikely, considering her position (ie. Alexander would not have allowed anyone but himself to father a child on her).


Stateira, daughter of Darius III

Stateira (called Barsine in Arr. 7.4.4-8) was the daughter of Darius III. She was also captured after the battle of Issus in 333 BC, along with her sister Drypetis, her mother and her grandmother. (Arr. 2.11.9; Diod. 35f; Pl. Alex. 20.6-21; Curt. 3.11.24-26).

Stateira is not mentioned by name in any of the sources on the occasion of Alexander’s visit after the battle, although her presence (and that of her sister) is attested—especially in the description of their grief when they think that Darius has been slain, and particularly as they fear for their own lives (eg. Curt. 3.11.25, 3.12.3-5; Pl. Alex. 21.1).

However, Alexander is said to have treated Darius’ daughters with “as much respect as if they were his own sisters” (Curt. 3.12.21; see also Pl. Alex. 21.3, Athenaeus 13.603b-d); he also promised to ensure that the two princesses were given husbands of sufficient rank (Diod. 17.38.1; Just. 11.9). However, there was no doubt that the royal women were Alexander’s captives—in the exchange of letters between Darius and Alexander, before the Gaugamela, Darius offered Alexander one of his daughters in marriage (we don’t know which); Alexander’s reply was that what Darius offered was already his (Pl. Alex. 29.4; Curt. 4.5.1; Just. 11.12).

When Stateira’s mother died (see above) the princess was at her side (Curt. 4.10.19). When the army left Susa in late 331 BC the royal family were left there. According to Curtius Alexander committed a grave faux pas at that time—having received some material from Macedon he sent it to Sisygambis, suggesting that she might like to make some clothes and teach her grand-daughters dressmaking. This was a deep insult to the Persian women, which Alexander was fortunately able to avert once he had explained his homeland’s customs (Curt. 5.1.17-22).

Stateira disappears from the sources at this point, until the king’s return from India. When he arrived back in the West of the Empire he arranged marriages for his companions with high-born Persian women. Alexander himself married Stateira, while Drypetis was given to Hephaestion. We don’t know what the princesses thought of their marriages, although Stateira certainly could not have aimed for a more powerful or wealthy husband. As it was, Alexander was believed to have married the princess for purely political purposes, having married Roxane for love (Pl. Moralia 4.338D-F). This might be true, bearing in mind Roxane’s relatively humble background; but the importance of having an ally of Oxyartes’ (Roxane’s father) rank suggests a strong political reason for that union; and Stateira’s beauty was said to have rivalled that of her late mother … so such statements should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. (Arr. 7.4.4-8; Pl. Alex. 70.2; Diod. 17.107.6; Just. 12.10; Athenaeus 12.538B. Aelian, Var. Hist. 8.7 gives a detailed description of the marriage feast, which is echoed in Moralia 329D-F.)

Whether her marriage was one of love or not, Stateira did not enjoy it for long. After Alexander’s death, Roxane lured Stateira and her sister to her, and had the two princesses killed, with help from Perdiccas—Roxane was pregnant and was determined that her son should be the undisputed heir to the empire (Pl. Alex. 77.4).

Written by marcus