THE DEATH OF PHILIP OF MACEDON Amalia Skilton ho caused the assassination of Philip II, King of Macedon from c. 355 to 336 BC? Was it his wife Olympias, his son Alexander, or some other person or group? The answer is critical, for it shapes the modern world’s understanding of Alexander the Great more than does any other issue. Did Alexander exploit conflicts between Macedonians, arranging his father’s death in order to become King, or was he innocent of the crime, creating compromise between ethnic and political factions in Macedon? This paper will answer the question of Philip’s murder with attention to both ancient authors’ claims and their sources, as well as to the arguments of modern writers. It will ultimately lay the blame for Philip’s assassination on the shoulders of Amyntas, Philip’s nephew and the son of King Perdikkas II.1 However, it will disregard neither the motives of the assassin himself, Pausanias, nor the possible complicity of other groups in the crime. Historical Context Despite its prominence in the Hellenistic era, Macedon was considered at best a backwater by Ionians and more southerly Greeks for most of the classical period. At worst, it was a land of barbarians: Alexandros I, an early king, had to submit a pedigree
Amalia Skilton is a Senior at Tempe Preparatory Academy in Tempe, Arizona, where she wrote this independent study paper for Mr. Edward Denny during the 2007/2008 academic year.



Amalia Skilton

before being allowed to compete in the Olympic Games, an event limited strictly to “Hellenes.”2 Even proof of the Hellenic ancestry of Macedonian kings, however, was not enough to establish the nation as Greek. The test of that was native fluency in one of the Greek dialects of the southern peninsula—a test, according to a pair of ancient historians, which at least some Macedonians could not pass.3 Late in the fifth century BC, a comedy called “The Macedonians” was produced in Athens; fragments...