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Olympias, daughter of the Molossian King Neoptolemus I of Epirus and a Chaonian (Illyrian?) mother could also trace her ancestry back to two famous royal houses: that of Achilles and that of Troy. Additionally, she served as priestess at Dodona. At the age of sixteen, she took part in the Mysteries of Samothrace where she met Philip II of Macedonia who was about to become his country's ruler. Together they parented two children: Alexander, later called "the Great" and Cleopatra, later a queen of Epirus. Olympias and Philip fortified Macedonia and led it into an ancient renaissance unequalled for centuries.

While Philip was away at war for as much as three years at a time, it was Olympias who was left behind in Pella to administer Macedonia. Later when her son left for Asia, it was Olympias who again managed Macedonia and the west for a third decade. After Alexander's death, it was Olympias whom the Macedonians recalled from her retirement in Epirus to return to Pella as the Guardian of the Two Kings. Olympias became the first and only Macedonian woman to rule the empire and the example of excellence for those generations of Macedonian queens who followed her over the next three centuries. During the reign of her rival Cassander, it seems likely that records of her career were erased and her reputation slandered. However, some tombstone inscriptions have been found in south-eastern Aegean Macedonia referring to the tomb of Olympias. It appears that the Macedonians showed her one final act of justice and respect: a proper burial. And mostly through her son and husband, her name, at least, has not been forgotten.

Michael A. Dimitri

Author of:

  • The Radiance of Ancient Macedonia (1992) ISBN:1-884191-00-2
  • The Daughter of Neoptolemus (1993) ISBN 1-884191-01-0 [An Olympias biography]
  • In Search of the Macedonians of Pakistan (1995) 1-884191-03-7