Olympias by Damnans, 2004. Oil on canvas. 

Daughter of king Neoptolemus I of Epirus, the fourth wife of the king of Philip II of Macedonia, and mother of Alexander the Great. She was a devout initiate of the Mysteries of Dionysus. Her relationship with Alexander was cordial and, after Phillip’s death, she wielded great influence in Macedonia, earning the displeasure of the regent of the kingdom, Antipater. In 330 BCE, she returned to Epirus, following the death of her brother Alexander I, to serve as regent to her cousin Aeacides. 

She took part in the wars of succession that followed the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and, supported by the Macedonian army, defeated the puppet Phillip III whom had been placed on the throne by Antipater’s son Cassander. Cassander defeated Olympias’ army in battle, and besieged her forces at Pydna. After the fortress surrendered, Cassander ordered his soldiers to kill Olympias, but they refused out of respect for Alexander. It is said she was stoned to death by her enemies at Cassander’s instigation, or at least with his approval, and her body denied the rights of burial.

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