Cleopatra of Macedon
- Not to be confused with Cleopatra Eurydice, the Macedonian wife of Philip II.
Cleopatra of Macedon (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα; c. 355/354 BC – 308 BC), or Cleopatra of Epirus, was an Epirote-Macedonian princess and later queen regent of Epirus. The daughter of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias of Epirus, she was the only full sibling of Alexander the Great. Her other siblings include half sisters Thessalonike and Cynane, and half brother Philip III of Macedon.
She grew up in the care of her mother in Pella, like a normal princess. In 338 BC, Cleopatra stayed in Pella with her father while her mother Olympias fled to exile in Epirus with her Molossian brother Alexander I of Epirus (Cleopatra's uncle), and Cleopatra's brother Alexander fled to Illyria. Soon Philip felt he had to ally himself to Alexander I by offering his daughter's hand in marriage. A large wedding between Cleopatra and her uncle Alexander I of Epirus was held in 336 BC. It was at the celebration of her nuptials, which took place on a magnificent scale at Aegae in Macedon, that Philip II was murdered.
Immediately after her father's murder, the two newlyweds went from Macedon back to Epirus. Not too soon after, the couple welcomed two children, Neoptolemus II of Epirus and Cadmeia. Leaving Pella did not mean leaving her family behind, as it is believed that Alexander and Cleopatra kept in close contact while he was on his conquest to the east. In 332 BC Alexander had sent booty home for both his mother and sister, as well as his close friends.
In 334 BC, Cleopatra's husband crossed the Adriatic Sea to the Italian peninsula to campaign against several Italic tribes, the Lucanians and Bruttii, on behalf of the Greek colony Taras, leaving her as regent of Epirus. She was involved as recipient and sender of official shipments of grain during a widespread shortage around 334 BC. According to an inscription from Cyrene, Libya she was the recipient of 50,000 'medimni' of grain, and shipped the surplus to Corinth. Alexander I conquered Heraclea, took Sipontum, and captured both Consentia and Terin, but was eventually killed in battle in 331 BC, leaving the young heir, Neoptolemus too young for the throne.
Cleopatra ruled Epirus in the meantime. It was an Epirote custom that the woman of a family became head of household when her husband died and their son(s) were too young, unlike the rest of Greece. It was only fitting for the powerful queen to assume control. When her husband was killed, an embassy from Athens was dispatched to deliver condolences.
She was, more surprisingly, seemingly acting as the religious head of state for the people of Molossia. Her name appears on a list of Theorodokoi ("welcomers of sacred ambassadors"), in the recently established Epirote alliance. Cleopatra was significantly the only female on the list. Her position as official welcomer would have allowed her to keep a finger on whatever was happening anywhere in Greece.
Around 324 BC, Cleopatra went back to Macedon, while her mother, Olympias assumed control in Epirus, as relations between the Macedonian mother-queen and Antipater were quite strained. It was not long after that Alexander the Great died in 323 BC.
After the death of her brother, she was sought in marriage by several of his generals, who thought to strengthen their influence with the Macedonians by a connection with the sister of Alexander the Great. Leonnatus is first mentioned as putting forward a claim to her hand, and he represented to Eumenes that he received a promise of marriage from her. After Leonnatus' death in 322 BC, Perdiccas next attempted to gain her in marriage. After his death, her hand was sought by Cassander, Lysimachus, and Antigonus. She refused, however, all these offers. She escaped to Sardis, where she was kept for years in a sort of honourable captivity by Antigonus.
An interesting event took place in Sardis. A frustrated Antipater publicly accused Cleopatra of being involved with Perdiccas in her half sister Cynane's death. Cleopatra would not submit so easily, however, and fought back.
Eventually, Cleopatra acceded to a proposal from Ptolemy, but before her design could be realized, she was captured. After being brought back to Sardis, Cleopatra was assassinated in 308 BC, seemingly by order of Antigonus, who afterwards gave a beautiful funeral in her honour.
- Cleopatra from Charles Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1867)
- Cleopatra of Macedonia from Livius on ancient history by Jona Lendering