Eurydice I of Macedon

Eurydice I
Queen of Macedon
Reign 393 BC - 369 BC
Born 407 BC
Burial Vergina
Spouse Amyntas III of Macedon
House Argead
Father Sirras

Eurydice (Greek: Εὐρυδίκη from ευρύς eurys, "wide" and δίκη dike, "right, custom, usage, law; justice", literally "wide justice") was an ancient Greek queen from Macedon, wife of king Amyntas III of Macedon.[1][2][3][4]

She was the daughter of Sirras of Lyncestis, Upper Macedonia. Eurydice had four children: Alexander II, Perdiccas III, Philip II, all of whom would be crowned kings, a daughter Eurynoe, and through her son Philip, she was the paternal grandmother of Alexander the Great.[4][5] Literary, inscriptional and archaeological evidence indicates that she played an important public role in Macedonian life and acted aggressively in the political arena.

Eurydice’s political activities mark a turning point in Macedonian history. She is the first known royal woman who actively took political action and successfully exerted political influence.[6]

Early life

Eurydice was born between 410-404 BC, most probably in 407 BC.[7] She was the daughter of the Lyncestian noble Sirras,[7]:9[8][9] who is sometimes referred as of Lyncestian or Illyrian origin,[10][10][11][12][13][13][14][15] and the Lyncestian Arrhabaeus was her maternal grandfather.

Queen of Macedon

King Amyntas III of Macedon married the young princess Eurydice in about 390 BC, probably in an effort to secure peace allies against[16] the Illyrians, after he was defeated by them in 393 BC.[17] Ten years later king Amyntas III was forced to entrust a portion of his kingdom to the Greek Chalcidians, who refused to relinquish it, and by 382 BC had extended their control westward, including Macedon’s capital Pella. Sparta, the most powerful of the Greek states at that time, intervened and restored Amyntas to his capital in 379 BC, but Macedonia had to accept subservience to Sparta.[17]

Amyntas had another wife, a fellow kinswoman named Gygaea, who had three children. At some point during her husband’s reign, Eurydice became the dominant wife.[6] Still it cannot be determined whether this development was immediate or gradual, linked with her family and relations, her higher status, the ages of her sons or a combination of these factors. Nevertheless, for the first time events in the life of a royal woman were also central to the political arena of Macedonia in that period and Eurydice was, however, the most important factor in the change.

Eurydice was literate, although she learned to read rather late in life,[18] probably due to being part of a culture that still was heavily oral in nature and where literacy was not fundamental to knowledge, even more in the case of those who had the wealth and leisure to be read to.[6]


Her life career is full of controversy. According to the Roman historian Justin, Eurydice conspired with her son-in-law Ptolemy of Aloros to kill Amyntas, then marry Ptolemy, and then give the throne to her lover. But the queen’s daughter, Eurynoe, foiled the plot by revealing it to her father, Amyntas, who, nevertheless, spared Eurydice from punishment because of their common children.[3][5][6] Eventually in 370/369 BC, Amyntas III died, and his eldest son, Alexander II succeeded him. In 368 BC, Ptolemy of Aloros killed Alexander II, despite an earlier settlement between them, worked out by Pelopidas, a Theban statesman and general. Then Ptolemy was forced by Pelopidas to agree merely to be regent for Alexander’s two younger brothers, Perdiccas III and Philip II.[19]

Later on Eurydice married Ptolemy.[20] It is unlikely that Eurydice voluntarily married her eldest son’s murderer, most probably she acted to ensure the succession of her remaining sons. A new pretender of the throne, Pausanias was very popular and was attracting support in Macedonia. Queen Eurydice asked the Athenian general Iphicrates (their father’s adoptive son) to protect the throne for her two sons. Iphicrates drove out Pausanias. There is no evidence that Ptolemy had any role in this matter, or suggests that anyone other than Eurydice would have influenced Iphicrates. Even if she was prompted by Ptolemy, her successful intervention in political and military affairs remains remarkably bold and without any known precedent, an extraordinary act for a royal woman.[6] Eurydice took the unprecedented step of seeking international help when she believed the succession of her remaining sons was in jeopardy and her attempt was successful.

In 365 BC Perdiccas III avenged his brother's murder by murdering Ptolemy and taking the throne. This caused a stir amongst the families of Macedon, which called in Pelopidas to re-establish peace. As part of the peace settlement, Philip II was taken as a hostage to Thebes. Perdiccas reigned until 359 BC, and already weakened by struggles against Athens, he confronted the Illyrian ruler Bardylis and died along with 4000 of his men in a disastrous battle. Eventually his youngest brother Philip II took control of the kingdom.[17]

Personal life

Eurydice was also very active in the cult activities. She may have funded the construction of the temple of Eucleia cult at Vergina. She had made a dedication polietisi (πολιετισι) to or for women citizens, and perhaps to the Muses, grateful for her acquired education.[6]

Archaeological findings

The Philippeion at Olympia, Greece, where once the statues of Eurydice I and her family were placed

Eurydice’s portrait-statue, together with those of her most celebrated son Philip II, Philip II's wife, Olympias, her grandson, Alexander the Great, and her husband, Amyntas III, were realized by the Athenian statuary and sculptor Leochares in ivory and gold. They were placed in the Philippeion, a circular building in the Altis at Olympia, erected by Philip II of Macedon in celebration of his victory at the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC).[21][22]

Eurydice’s tomb was found and identified by the Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos in 1987 in Vergina (ancient Aigai), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with other royal Macedonian tombs.[23] In the summer of 2001, between August 13 and September 9 the tomb of Eurydice was robbed and seven marble figurines had been taken.[23] Eurydice’s tomb had faced robbery and was partially plundered since antiquity, probably soon after queen’s burial, but the looters had probably failed in their mission, as evidenced by two skeletons found there.[23] An inscribed pot fragment, dating 344/3 BC was found inside the tomb,[23] whereas two inscriptions, one of which dated in 340 BC, have been found in Vergina of Eurydika daughter of Sirras to goddess Eukleia.[24][25]

Ancestry and plot disputes

Plutarch explicitly states that Eurydice was an Illyrian,[26] so does Libanius and thus is stated in the massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopaedia, Suda.[2]

From the modern scholars and historians, Eugene N. Borza, A. B. Bosworth and Kate Mortensen support an Illyrian ancestry, whereas Robert Malcolm Errington and Charles F. Edson dispute an Illyrian origin and favour an Lyncestian ancestry for her. In an inductive analysis of the historical information over Sirras, through an a posteriori argument, Elias Kapetanopoulos, a Greek historian, also says that Sirras must have been a Lyncestian, not an Illyrian, as Eurydice as well.[7]:10 Ian Worthington makes a convincing case for her Lyncestian ancestry,[27] stating that while some dispute her ethnicity thinking her father Sirrhas may have been an Illyrian, "However, this is unlikely in light of a comment that Attalus made at the wedding of Philip in 337, intended as a slur on Alexander's legitimacy, for his mother was from Epirus.". And Ian Worthington reasons further [28] that "Attalus' taunt, incidentally, goes some way to determining whether Philip's mother Eurydice was Lyncestian or Illyrian. If she had been the latter, then Attalus' remark would, by implication, make Philip also "illegitimate"...Hence Philip's mother was probably Lyncestian". Others also argue on her possible Lyncestian origin, stating that "she might have been descendent from a branch of the Bacchiadae clan, originally of Corinth."[29]

Stories of Eurydice's plots against her husband and her sons are at odds with other historical evidence and may be fabricated. Recent scholars have noted the many implausibilities in Justin’s narrative and have acknowledged Eurydice’s near-contemporary evidences of Aeschines towards her.[6] Aeschines described Eurydice I as the loyal defender of her sons,[30] whereas a Plutarch’s passage describes Eurydice as a good model in the education of children.[18]

See also


  1. Sarah B. Pomeroy; Stanley M. Burstein; Walter Donlan; Jennifer Tolbert Roberts (2007). ANCIENT GREECE: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 410. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  2. 1 2 "Suda On Line: Byzantine Lexicography – "Karanos"". Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  3. 1 2 Smith, William. "A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. By various writers. Ed. by William Smith. Illustrated by numerous engravings on wood.". Digital Collections. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  4. 1 2 Encyclopedia of World Biography (2004). "Alexander the Great". Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  5. 1 2 Justin (Marcus Junianus Justinus) (2004). "Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus - Book 7, Chapter IV: Family of Amyntas". Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly (2000). Women and Monarchy in Macedonia. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3212-4.
  7. 1 2 3 Elias Kapetanopoulos - Sirras
  8. Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian (2010). A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. John Wiley and Sons. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-4051-7936-2. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  9. Schuett, Curt (1910). Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der alten Illyrier (in German). Theiner & Meinicke. p. X. Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  10. 1 2 Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian (2011-07-07). A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781444351637.
  11. "SOL Search". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  12. Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly (2000-01-01). Women and Monarchy in Macedonia. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806132129.
  13. 1 2 Obbink, Dirk; Parsons, P. J. (2011-06-16). Culture In Pieces: Essays on Ancient Texts in Honour of Peter Parsons. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780199292011.
  14. Plant, Ian Michael (2004-01-01). Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806136219.
  15. Chicago, Art Institute of; Publishers, Ares (1982-01-01). Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Macedonian heritage. University Press of America.
  16. Worthington, Ian (2008). PHILLIP II of Macedonia. New Haven and London: Yale. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-300-12079-0.
  17. 1 2 3 "Philip II of Macedonia". The Ancient World, Volume I. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  18. 1 2 Plutarch Moralia 14 b-c
  19. Diodorus Siculus (2004). "Diodorus Siculus, Library". Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  20. Aeschines - On the Embassy 2.29
  21. Smith, William. "A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (LEOCHARES, page 750)". Digital Collections. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  22. "The Philippeion at Olympia, Greece". Heritage images. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Mark, Rose (November–December 2001). "Royal Tomb Robbery". Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  24. Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane (2003). Tragedy and Athenian religion. Lexington Books. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-7391-0400-2.
  25. SEG 33:556
  26. Mor. 14 B-C =Plutarque, Oeuv. Mor. (text and translation by J. Sirinelli, I (1), Paris 1987) 63 and 155, n. 3 (under page 63). Cf. also Hammond (n. 8) 16, n. 1
  27. Worthington, Ian (2008). PHILLIP II of Macedonia. New Haven and London: Yale. p. 245. ISBN 978-0-300-12079-0.
  28. Worthington, Ian (2008). PHILLIP II of Macedonia. New Haven and London: Yale. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-300-12079-0.
  29. Lightman, Marjorie; Lightman, Benjamin (2007). A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women. Facts on File. p. 126. ISBN 978-0816067107.
  30. Aeschines - On the Embassy 2.32

External links

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