Roxane, The Tragic Queen of Alexander the Great

roxaneRoxane, also known as Roxana, was a prominent figure in ancient Greek history, particularly during the time of Alexander the Great. She was born around 340 BCE in Bactria, a region located in present-day Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Roxane’s significance lies primarily in her role as Alexander the Great’s wife.

Roxane’s life became intertwined with Alexander’s during his military campaigns in the east. It is believed that they met when Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, and Roxane was a noblewoman in the court of the Persian king Darius III. According to historical accounts, Alexander fell in love with Roxane and married her in 327 BCE in a ceremony held in the city of Susa.

Their union was significant politically, as it solidified Alexander’s authority over the Persian Empire by symbolically marrying into the Persian royal family. Roxane bore Alexander a son, Alexander IV, in 323 BCE, shortly before Alexander the Great’s death in Babylon.

After Alexander’s death, Roxane’s life took a tragic turn. Following a series of power struggles among Alexander’s generals, known as the Diadochi, Roxane and her son faced threats to their safety. Eventually, Roxane and Alexander IV were captured and imprisoned by one of Alexander’s former generals, Cassander.

Sadly, Roxane’s life ended in tragedy. In 311 BCE, she and her son Alexander IV were executed on the orders of Cassander, who saw them as potential threats to his own power as ruler of Macedonia.

Roxane’s story is a poignant reminder of the tumultuous and often brutal nature of ancient Greek politics, where individuals were often caught in the crossfire of power struggles among ambitious rulers and generals. Despite her tragic fate, Roxane’s marriage to Alexander the Great and her role as the mother of his heir ensured her a place in history as a significant figure of the Hellenistic period.

Of course, aside from the diplomatic games, no one could doubt that the charms of the beautiful Roxane were capable of moving Alexander.
Those who were not at all moved, however, were most of the companions of the Macedonian soldier who could not digest the union of a Greek with a barbarian. Even more so that a “mixo-barbarian” successor to the empire could emerge from this union!
The birth of Alexander IV and the succession battle

Suddenly in June 323 BC. Alexander died. Roxani was 6 or 8 months pregnant. Her future however was very uncertain.
Apart from her, Alexander also married Stateira (who was also pregnant), daughter of Darius III, while it is assumed that he also had a third wife, Parisatida, daughter of Artaxerxes III. Eventually the Sogdian princess gave birth to a boy who was named after his father.

According to Plutarch, Roxane, with the help of the regent Perdiccas, exterminated Stateira as well as her sister Drypeti, descended from a royal line and possible rivals for the throne. The fate of Parisatida, who was also a princess, is unknown although according to a modern theory, she may have been the one killed by Roxani, and not Drypeti.

Meanwhile, the Macedonian army of Asia declared the troubled son of Philip II (half-brother of Alexander the Great) Arideus king.
At the same time, Roxane’s son was declared co-regent under the name Alexander IV.

Aridaeus married a princess named Eurydice. The latter’s ambition to keep her husband alone on the throne worried Alexander the Great’s mother, Olympias.

Olympias, fearing for her grandson’s life, convinced Roxani to flee to Epirus. There, Olympias would seamlessly raise Alexander IV, the new conqueror of the world as she believed. However, history did not have such ambitious plans for the child.

After the Wars of the Epigones, Cassander, sworn enemy of Olympias, ruled Macedonia. Aridaeus and Eurydice allied with him and declared him the guardian of the throne. Olympias immediately campaigned in Macedonia. He defeated the royal couple and killed them in a gruesome manner.

With Kassander, however, he did not have the same luck. When the Macedonian general turned against her, Olympias fled to the fortified Pydna, taking with her the young Alexander and Roxane.

After a seven-month close siege, Olympias surrendered (316 BC) asking Cassander to respect her grandson’s life. The old queen, however, was no longer in a position to ask for anything.

Kassandros slaughtered her (according to others he stoned her) and left her corpse to rot. Roxani had now lost her protector.
She spent six years in limbo until Cassander ordered her and her son’s death at Amphipolis in 310 BC.