Alexander the Great and his Greek Origins

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Alexander III of Macedon, was born in 356 BC in Pella, capital of the Macedonian kingdom, an ancient Greek state. He was son of the Macedonian king Philip II and Olympias, princess of Molossians in Epirus.

The Macedonian Royal House

The Macedonian royal house was called “Argeads” or “Temenidae“. According to the tradition, the founder of the royal house Perdiccas – even if the name of the founder differs in reference with the ancient source used – along with his brothers, the “Temenidae“, came to the place called Macedonia from the Greek city of Argos. These Temenidae were descendants of Heracles, through Temenus, thus they were called also ‘Heracleids‘.

Since the time of Alexander I, who was better known as the “Philhellene“, Macedonian kings participated in Olympic games, which as we all know only Greeks could take part. The Argive origin of the Macedonian royal house was well-attested and widely believed both from Macedonians, as well as the rest of Greeks. Rifles like the political intricasies of Demosthenes against Philip is the tenuous exception to the general rule.

Naples Mosaic

Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, was son of the Macedonian king Amyntas III and Eurydice, a Lyncestian princess. Lyncestians were incorporated earlier to Molossians, hence we could find them in ancient sources [1] as ‘Molossian Ethne’ or as Lyncestian Macedonians. A strong Illyrian influence can be recognised in the nearby Lyncestian kingdom but their royal house was widely believed in the ancient world to be descedants of the Greek Bacchiades coming from Corinth. Eurydice was daughter of a Lyncestian princess, daughter of Arrabaios, king of Lyngos and Sirras – a person shrouded in great darkness – since his ethnicity is obscure. There are conflicting theories which identify him either as Illyrian or as a native Lyncestian [2]. We can only conclude, Philip’s greek ancestry is proved beyond doubt by the traditions of the greek royal houses both in Macedon and Lyngos.

Molossian Royal House

Now we will analyze the lineage coming from the mother of Alexander, the Molossian Olympias. Her original name as a child was called Polyxena and then, at marriage, Myrtale; later in life she was also known as Olympias and Stratonice. [3] The name Olympias was given to her, according to the tradition, after her husband Philip won in Olympic games.The members of Molossian royal house , the so-called ‘Aeacidae‘ thought of themselves as descendants of Achiles’ son, Neoptolemus and Andromache. They both took refuge in the area in the aftermath of Troy’s fall. Their son was Molossus, the founder of Molossians. Olympias herself, was daughter of Neoptolemus, king of Epirus and most likely of an Epirotan woman, Anasatia [4]. In the early 6th century, the tyrant of Sicyon Cleisthenes wished to find a suitable husband for his daughter Agariste. He invited “the best of the Greeks” in order to decide which one would marry his daughter. Among the Greek contestants was the Molossian king Alkon. Conclusion of the above is that the members of the Molossian royal house considered themselves as Greeks and were viewed as such by the rest of Greeks.

So far we have examined the lineages of the royal houses connected with Alexander. What remains is another crucial question to our issue. How did Alexander the Great perceived himself to be?

From all the ancient sources we are receivers of the same message. Alexander the Great never missed a chance to verify his pride for his Greek ancestry. His parents had Greek origins. Alexander considered himself as a Greek. He spoke Greek. His name was Greek. He grew up and was educated from famous Greek teachers like Aristotle and had as his favourite book Iliad of Homer. He worshipped the same gods like the rest of Greeks. He undertook and accompliced to a military campaign based on the long-term hostility between Greeks and Persians, as leader of the Greeks. Both he and his army spread the ancient Greek language and culture to the fringes of India and therefore Alexander the Great has justifiably been used for centuries as a symbol of Greek civilisation.

[1] Hecataeus
[2] Kapetanopoulos ‘Sirras – Eurydice’
[3] Waldemar Heckel “Who’s Who In The Age Of Alexander The Great: Prosopography Of Alexander’s Empire” p. 181
[4] Favorinus ap. Jul Val 1.7 (frg. 49)

Related posts: