Back on March 3rd, and many, many posts ago, I said that while the digression as to just when Philip Arhiddaeus, Eurydice and Cynna her mother were buried was not relevant to the subject of tomb occupants, I would favour Spring over Autumn/Winter for extrinsic reasons, since we have no way of knowing whether Diodorus or Diyllus was correct from the literary evidence.
As we have discovered before on other threads, much can be learnt from geography, climate and weather, and time and distance. Let us apply these factors to our ‘fuzzy’ time scales and see if we can shed some light.
Let us begin with basic climate and geography. Greece/Macedon has four different climates but only two need concern us here. The geography of Macedon is roughly some 20% coastal plain and river valley, and 80 % alpine (as is the rest of Greece). The climate of the coastal plain is Mediterranean, and in Alexander’s time was broadly similar to now. The first event we are concerned with is the surrender of Olympias “at the beginning of/as Spring came on”. For reasons set out at length earlier, that is likely to be as soon as the spring thaw, or weather break in the event of no snow, occurs. At Pydna, Winter, with max daily temperatures averaging around 10 degrees C and minimums around 0-1 degree, is short and confined to December/January. By end January/February, the average daily temperature is over 10 degrees max, and minimum 4 degrees, with any snow present long gone, and the ground suitable for digging and moving siege machines on. Olympias’ troops will have surrendered around this time, when siege operations renewed, and certainly before there was any chance of a “ram touching the wall”, to borrow a later Roman expression for an age-old custom of war. Whilst the ‘official’ reason as stated by Diodorus was starvation, this cannot be entirely true, for we don’t hear of the entire general population starving to death, or the city being depopulated, and the soldiers will have had priority and the means to enforce it. For whatever reason, it seems the city, rather unusually, apparently had no reserve food stocks in its granaries to take it through the winter, at least when Olympias and perhaps a few hundred mouths were added.[Diodorus emphasises the few with her, and no army, not even all her Guards [“most of the soldiers accustomed to serve about the court.” (lit: her following) XIX.35; XIX.35.5-7 and; and Justin XIV.6 confirms the swiftness of Cassander’s arrival, catching her flat-footed, so November is preferable to December - as some argue - for the beginning of the siege. ] One suspects Diodorus’ source of exaggerating this ‘starvation’ aspect e.g. describing a siege which lasted from late November to early March at most – 3 months or so - as “a very long siege.” Olympias had no army, only ‘her following/guards’.The corpses brutally disposed of over the walls will have been civilians, of course, the soldiers being the last to ‘starve’, naturally. It is highly unlikely that all the grooms, and "no small number of the soldiers" starved in reality [DS XIX.49.4 makes this clear - it is the Queen's 'following/bodyguards' who are doing the throwing of corpses, likely civilian - "the city was being quickly filled with corpses.."]
The unspoken ‘elephant in the room’ was the prospect of being butchered in a hopeless cause. Nor does it seem likely that Olympias “allowed” her last hope/personal guards to just leave – she almost certainly had no choice, leaving she and her court the rather forlorn hope of flight by sea. Diodorus gives the game away when he refers to them as "deserters".[XIX.50.1]
Paralus believes that “beginning of Spring” here means mid-March, but, apart from the practical military reasons, to a pastoralist people, “lambing season” – end January/beginning February traditionally heralds Spring – see below. As he says, Cassander sent the surrendered soldiers ('deserters') off to “the various cities” to spread the news that Olympias’ cause was finished.[DiodXIX.50]
Our ‘fuzzy time scale’ for this event then is possibly early February, probably late February, and possibly as late as mid-march if the ‘Spring weather’ came late that year. A few days later at most, she surrendered after the escape attempt inevitably failed. Olympias, Thessalonike daughter of Philip, Roxane and Alexander IV all fell into Cassander’s hands. By the end of March, at the latest, Pella and Amphipolis were in Cassander’s hands and she was most likely dead, stoned to death by her many slaughtered enemies relatives.[Pausanias IX.7]
Now we must consider ‘Upper’ or alpine Macedonia, consisting mostly of mountains between 1,000 and 1,500 m high and mountain valleys. This is rather higher than the Scottish highlands. In winter they are covered in snow from December to March, and of course the passes are generally blocked, travel is impossible and the mountain valleys isolated.
The earliest a ‘muster call’ can be sent out is therefore end March-early April, and with the borders at furthest 120 miles or so from Pella, this would only take a couple of days at most by courier. Allowing a few days preparation by those selected to fill the muster, and 7 days marching ( 15-20 miles per day, average 17 mpd ), the earliest that the Army assembly could take place would be, say, end of April. I say earliest, rather than likely, because it allows no time for the Upper Makedones to set their affairs in order, arrange the farming schedule, round off the spring lambing season etc ( which traditionally heralded Spring in Macedonia and other parts of Europe – and occurs in late January early February – the “beginning of Spring”). Training and drilling is then required, whilst more far-flung allies such as Paeones, Agriaines or Thessalians might still be en route, or assembling to join the army en route depending where the campaign was to be. A campaign would therefore not generally begin before late-May or early June soonest, or even later [e.g. Philip II was still celebrating in Aigae in June 336, with guests from all over Greece, when he was assassinated] and would be geared to crop ripening in the targeted enemy areas. As an example, we may take Philip II’s Chaeronea campaign. Plutarch gives the date as the 12th of Mategeitnion, the second month of the Attic year which began after the summer solstice. Astronomical data [new moon 27 July] helps to date this to probably around 4th August 338 BC (Gregorian ). We can work back from this, knowing the battle was fought soon after Philip’s arrival [Diod XVI.85.6 ] “Both sides were eager for the battle....the armies deployed at dawn”. The distance via Thermopylae from Pella to Thebes is roughly 210 miles, 12 days march at 15-20 miles per day, allow a couple of rest days, roughly two weeks, therefore he left in mid-July, after “waiting for the last of his laggard allies to arrive.” [DS XVI.85.5] - perhaps Paeones and Agrianes, who had the furthest to come. Perhaps also delayed slightly by his negotiations with the Boeotians, though these most likely took place whilst the muster was occurring – the army could not sit around eating Philip out of house and home for long.
Alexander, in 335 BC, had been campaigning in the far north, as far as the Danube, when he learned of Thebes revolt and headed south immediately on a march of 400 miles or so, which is about a month – perhaps three weeks if forced marches are included, and he did not arrive at Thebes until September 335 BC, hence the campaign in the north likely began in summer, in July, perhaps as late as early August.
We can now return to our ‘fuzzy timetable’, as set out by Diodorus.
• Death of Olympias, probably some time in March – end of March latest
• April , May, June – ample time for wedding ( say a week, plus more to prepare, invite guests etc ; Foundation of city on Pallene; Funeral of Philip III, Eurydike and Cynna. Although not mentioned, there were also the funerals of Cassander’s brother Nicanor, and 100 of his friends and relations to arrange – though the latter may have already occurred, as well as the restoration of his brother Iollas’ tomb [DS XIX.11.7]. Agesilaos suggests that tomb-building might take a month, and for comparison we know Alexander buried Philip immediately [In July or beginning of August] before embarking on campaign[DS XVII.1.5], ultimately marching on Thebes, so Cassander’s tomb for King Philip III could easily, and probably, have got under way in April.
• Polyperchon, under siege in Thessaly, learns of the death of Olympias and capture of Alexander IV and Roxane, for whom he is Regent and Guardian ( Olympias is his subordinate ally officially, not the other way around as I read Paralus to be suggesting, though who was more powerful in reality might be debateable ....). He “finally” escapes and flees to Aetolia, probably in April
• End of April/early May – news of Eumenes defeat arrives in Macedon
• End June/ sometime in July: Cassander marches south, taking two weeks aprox to reach Thebes ( see above). He perhaps spends some time there ( a week or two? Pausanias confirms the actual construction of the walls occurred later, as one would expect, “in the time/reign of Cassander”. IX.7.4) before moving on the Isthmus and Megara, another week’s march away (125 miles) and thence to the Peloponnese and Messenia ( another 150 mile or so); 10 days or so march, allowing for rest days - where he carries on desultory campaigning at Argos and Messenia [DS XIX.54]. Allowing for the barge building to bypass the Isthmus, this takes us to the end of September or thereabouts – and takes no account of time for any fighting or the “negotiations” with the various Messenian cities. Retracing his steps back to Macedonia takes five weeks or so, not allowing for any ‘stopover’ in Thebes ( but perhaps a week ? They, in gratitude to their restorer, can hardly have demurred at ‘hosting’ the army and resupplying them for their homeward march. ) He arrives back in Pella around mid-November, with the southern Upper Macedonians of Tymphaioi, Elimiotai, Orestai and Lynkestis ‘peeling off’ once they crossed the borders into Macedonia, for they had another week to ten days march to reach their homes, doubtless hoping that winter did not come early. The Paiones and Agrianes too, if they were present had another 80 miles or so ( 4-5 days march) from Pella, leaving a bare week’s margin before the snows were due!! Cassander evidently had a busy year!
Now, I must emphasise that because all these timings are a bit approximate, or ‘fuzzy’, it is possible to tinker with them, or postulate forced marches here and there, and maybe get Cassander back in time to hold a funeral, but in that case there will be no Upper Macedonians or allies present, for they needed to get home, and bear in mind I have allowed no time for a ‘stopover’ in Thebes on the way back, or for actual fighting, or negotiations, or movement around, in the Peloponnese. One can also postulate an earlier departure time from Macedon, but that does not fit the other evidence in respect of campaign starts. [Alexander’s Asian campaign started early for obvious reasons – the campaign that proves the rule].The army generally don’t seem to have headed off on campaign until the ‘Lower’ Macedonians safely got their wheat harvest in, in June. [ Barley was harvested commencing in May, wheat in June, drying and threshing in July, fruits in autumn, and olives last in November.] It can be seen that there is little room for leeway with any of these timings, based on the agricultural cycle as they are. [Get your own harvest in, be eating your enemy’s grain in August-Sept, after it is threshed and stored.]
So we can say that extrinsic evidence generally favours a Spring burial, as per Diodorus, rather than a late Autumn/Winter burial, as per Diyllus.
What about moral/practical grounds ? We can perhaps assume that they had been already cremated [ c.f Craterus and Eumenes], so the much debated points about ‘fleshed’ or ‘de-fleshed’ cremation are moot, as Musgrave pointed out on purely forensic grounds. That too sweeps away arguments about handling ‘polluted’ remains, by the way.
We are, I think, all agreed that the three events – marriage, city founding ( whatever that may have actually consisted of) and funeral – most of all funeral in Paralus’ opinion, though I am less sure that it overshadowed the marriage which provided Cassander’s ‘right’ to the throne etc by that much, were all vitally important to establishing Cassander’s claim to the throne. Evidence of the importance of a ‘rightful’ King burying his predecessor can, however, be drawn from the parallel of Alexander’s accession. He too, like Cassander, ascended to the throne suddenly, beset by other Macedonian factions and rivals, threatened with war by cities in revolt, yet his first priority was to bury his predecessor, and in Alexander’s case this was hardly out of filial piety. Though urged to marry, Alexander’s birthright gave him a right to the throne which Cassander could only acquire through marriage. The founding of a city need be little more than a decree and perhaps a founding stone celebration. Then, in Diodorus’ timetable, came the funeral, followed immediately by the ‘enrolling’ for the campaign. This all makes perfect sense. The propaganda aspects of Cassander ‘staking his claim’ by his marriage and the respectful funeral – after all, Cassander supported Philip III, as opposed to Olympias’ grandson – could only take effect if the maximum number of Makedones were present, and that meant while the army was being raised. The marriage only required the country’s “great and good” to be present to witness it. Hence the sequence of events.
But, it may be argued, it is possible that the army headed off earlier, and that hence there was time for a funeral at the end of the year, as Athenaeus quotes Diyllus reporting, and it could have taken place before the army split up into winter quarters. Possible, yes. Probable? No, in my view. The ‘Upper’ Macedonians will have left the army as soon as they crossed back into home territory, and certainly won’t have gone all the way to Aigae, and then retraced their steps southwest again with the onset of winter threatening. Nor will the “Great and Good” been likely to leave their homes a second time for up three weeks ( a week’s journey there, say a week for the funeral, and a week’s return – again with the threat of being cut off from their homes by the first snows of winter ). Two costly and time consuming journeys to Aigae in one year ? Not very likely. Moreover, Cassander had no reason to put off the funeral to the end of the year – no-one has suggested why he would do such a thing, and that requires explanation. Custom dictated that burial take place as soon as possible. Cassander could hardly bury his brother and put off a Royal funeral, and he would certainly not delay the former, if only for family reasons. In my view, it is far more likely that the burial took place in the Spring, as soon as a tomb was ready, which could have been done by April-May easily. That was when it mattered – as part of Cassander establishing his right to the throne – as Diodorus[XIX.52.5] says “already conducting himself as a King in administering the affairs of the realm.” This included banishing Alexander IV, and his mother Roxane to Amphipolis, under guard, and stripping him of all Royal prerogatives, presumably implicated as ‘regicides’. That too occurred in the Spring, and he was anxious to gauge public opinion of Olympias’ death – which could be done as the ‘Makedones’ assembled for war - before doing away with the ‘regicides’. All of this was necessary before going off to war, to secure Cassander’s position ( just like Alexander). Especially the funeral, if Paralus is right about its importance in establishing ‘rightful heir’. ( It may be argued that a parallel can be seen in the wrangling over Alexander’s corpse, but this may have been because he was the legendary Alexander, rather than because of his role as recently deceased King of Macedon.)
All in all, for the reasons set out above, and others, we may conclude that Diodorus’ Spring burial is more likely and probable than Diyllus’ Autumn/Winter one.
Phew! And now, a short interlude before responding to Agesilaos and Paralus’ most recent posts........
Last edited by Xenophon
on Tue Mar 12, 2013 3:23 am, edited 1 time in total.