Philip III of Macedon

Philip III Arrhidaeus (Ancient Greek: Φίλιππος Γ΄ Ἀρριδαῖος; 356 BC 25 December, 317 BC) reigned as king of West Macedonia from after 11 June 323 BC until his death. He was the eldest son of King Philip II of Macedonia by Philinna of Larissa, and thus an elder half-brother of Alexander the Great.

Philip III Arrhidaeus
Tetradrachm of Philip III Arrhidaeus
King of West Macedonia
Reign323–317 BC
PredecessorAlexander III (as king of all Macedonia)
SuccessorAlexander IV (as king of all Macedonia)
Born356 BC
Pella, Macedonia, Ancient Greece
Died25 December 317 BC (aged 39) executed by Olympias of Epirus
Amphipolis, East Macedonia, Ancient Greece
SpouseEurydice (m. 323 BC)
Philip Arrhidaeus
DynastyArgead dynasty
FatherPhilip II
MotherPhilinna of Larissa
ReligionAncient Greek religion

He was named after his father, king Philip II, and his great-grandfather, general Arrhidaeus. As Philip Arrhidaeus grew older it became apparent that he had mild learning difficulties. Plutarch was of the view that he became disabled by means of an attempt on his life by Philip II's wife, Queen Olympias, who wanted to eliminate a possible rival to her son, Alexander, through the employment of pharmaka (drugs/spells); however, most modern authorities doubt the truth of this claim.[1]

Alexander was fond of Philip Arrhidaeus and took him on his campaigns[citation needed], both to protect his life and to prevent his use as a pawn in any prospective challenge for the throne. After Alexander's death in Babylon in 323 BC, the Macedonian army in Asia proclaimed Philip Arrhidaeus as king;[2] however, he served merely as a figurehead and as the pawn of a series of powerful generals.[citation needed]


Philip III as pharaoh on a relief in Karnak

Even though Philip Arrhidaeus was older than Alexander, he was never a rival claimant due to learning difficulties; nevertheless, when the Persian satrap of Caria, Pixodarus, proposed his daughter in marriage to Alexander, the king declined, offering his son Philip Arrhidaeus as husband instead, and Alexander thought it prudent to block the dynastic union (which might have produced a possible future heir to Philip's domain before Alexander himself did), resulting in considerable irritation on the part of his father (337 BC).[3] Philip Arrhidaeus' whereabouts during the reign of his brother Alexander are unclear from the extant sources; what is certain is that no civil or military command was given to him in those thirteen years (336–323 BC).

He was in Babylon at the time of Alexander's death on 10 June 323 BC. A succession crisis ensued. Philip Arrhidaeus was a candidate, but he had mental problems. A conflict then arose between Perdiccas, leader of the cavalry, and Meleager, who commanded the phalanx: the first wanted to wait to see if Roxana, Alexander's pregnant wife, would deliver a male baby, who would be also named Alexander, while the second objected that Arrhidaeus was the closest living relative and so should be chosen king. Meleager was killed, and a compromise was engineered: Philip Arrhidaeus would become king of West Macedonia while the unborn baby, if male, would become king of East Macedonia and if female, all of Macedonia would have Philip Arrhidaeus as king. Eventually, Roxana's son, Alexander, was born on 19 August. It was immediately decided that Philip Arrhidaeus would reign, but not yet rule: this was to be the job of a regent.

When news arrived in Macedonia that Philip Arrhidaeus had been chosen as king, Cynane, a daughter of Philip II, developed a plan to travel to Asia and offer the new king her daughter Eurydice for wife. This move was an obvious affront to the regent, whom Cynane had completely bypassed, and to prevent the marriage, Perdiccas sent his brother, Alcetas, to kill Cynane. The reaction among the troops generated by this murder was such that the regent had to give up his opposition to the proposed match and accept the marriage. From that moment on, Philip III Arrhidaeus was to be under the sway of his bride, a proud and determined woman bent on substantiating her husband's power.

Coin of Philip III Arrhidaios. 323-317 BC. AR Tetradrachm (17.20 g, 1h). Babylon mint. Struck under Perdikkas, circa 323-320 BC. Head of Herakles right, wearing lion skin headdress / [BASILEWS FILIPPOU], Zeus Aëtophoros seated left; wheel and monogram in left field, monogram below throne.

Eurydice's chance to increase her husband's power came when the first war of the Diadochi sealed the fate of Perdiccas, making a new settlement necessary. An agreement was made at Triparadisus in Syria in 321 BC. Eurydice moved deftly enough to achieve the removal of the first two designated regents, Peithon and Arrhidaeus, but was powerless to block the aspirations of Antipater, whose position proved too powerful, and the latter was made the new regent; Philip III Arrhidaeus and Eurydice were forced to follow Antipater back to Macedonia.

The regent died of natural causes the following year, nominating as his successor not his son Cassander, but his friend and lieutenant, Polyperchon. Cassander's refusal to accept his father's decision sparked the Second War of the Diadochi, in which Eurydice saw once again a chance to free Philip from the control of the regent.

An opportunity presented itself in 317 BC when Cassander expelled Polyperchon from Macedonia. Eurydice immediately allied herself with Cassander and persuaded her husband to nominate him as the new regent. Cassander reciprocated by leaving her in full control of the country when he left to campaign in Greece.

But individual circumstances and events at this time were subject to rapid change. That same year, Polyperchon and Olympias allied with her cousin, Aeacides, king of Epirus, and invaded Macedonia. The Macedonian troops refused to fight Olympias, the mother of Alexander. Philip and Eurydice had no choice but to escape, only to be captured at Amphipolis and thrown into prison. It soon became clear that Philip was too dangerous to be left alive, as Olympias' many enemies saw him as a useful tool against her, and so on 25 December 317 BC, she had him executed, while his wife was forced to commit suicide.


Golden Larnax (Chrysi Larnaka) (with the Sun of Vergina on the lid) that contains the remains (bones) from the burial of King Philip II of Macedonia and the royal golden wreath. Formerly located at the Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, since 1997) displayed in the underground museum of Vergina, inside the Great Tumulus.[4]

In 1977, important excavations were made near Vergina leading to the discovery of a two-chambered royal tomb, with an almost perfectly preserved male skeleton. Manolis Andronikos, the chief archaeologist at the site, along with a number of other archaeologists, decided it was the skeleton of Philip II, but others have disputed this attribution and instead proposed it to be the remains of Philip Arrhidaeus.

Philip Arrhidaeus in fiction

He appears as one of the main characters in the novel Funeral Games by Mary Renault. In Renault's version, the villainous Cassander slows down his advance on Macedonia to give Olympias enough time to kill Philip Arrhidaeus and Eurydice.

Philip Arrhidaeus is also a main character in Annabel Lyon's novel The Golden Mean. In it, the young Philip Arrhidaeus is tutored by Aristotle while he also mentors his younger half-brother, the future Alexander the Great. Alexander, who is initially disgusted with his brother's inferior intellect, learns to love him before he sets out to conquer the world.

In the Japanese fiction manga Historie, he was shown as an intellectually disabled young child, who became happy when Eumenes made him a toy chariot and became sad when Alexander the Great destroyed his toy. Eumenes later replaced it with a new one, telling him to bury the chariot.

Philip Arrhideaus is also portrayed in the Indian historical drama series Porus.

Philip Arrhidaeus is a prominent character in the Eric Flint novel The Alexander Inheritance and its sequel The Macedonian Hazard. Phillip is portrayed as having an affectionate relationship with Eurydice that is marred by his inability to stand being touched. The appearance of a cruise ship of time travelers a few months after Alexander's death changes history, and prevents Philip Arrhidaeus and Eurydice's deaths, although they spend a time as prisoners of Antigonus I Monophthalamus. He is portrayed as having a spectrum disorder, but a photographic memory and a talent for mental arithmetic. His condition improves after sessions from a therapist among the time travelers, along with medical marijuana and other drugs, and fathers a child with Eurydice in the second book.


  • Habicht, Christian (1998). Ελληνιστική Αθήνα [Hellenistic Athens] (in Greek). Athens: Odysseas. ISBN 960-210-310-8.
  • Smith, William (editor); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Arrhidaeus (1)", "Eurydice (3)", Boston, (1867)
  1. Elizabeth Donnelly Carney (2006). Olympias: mother of Alexander the Great. Taylor & Francis. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-415-33316-0. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  2. Siculus, Diodorus. Bibliotheca Historica, 18.2.1-4.
  3. Plutarch. Alex.. 10.2-3.
  4. Stella Drougou, Chrysoula Saatsoglou-Paliadeli. Verghina, Hellenic Minister of Culture, Athens, 2005 (p. 45, p. 59) ISBN 960-214-385-1