Pausanias of Orestis

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Drawing of Philip II's assassination by artist André Castaigne (c. 1898)

Pausanias of Orestis (Greek: Παυσανίας ἐκ τῆς Ὀρεστίδος) was a member of Philip II of Macedon's somatophylakes, his personal bodyguard. He assassinated Philip in 336 BC, possibly at the instigation of Philip's wife Olympias, or even his son Alexander the Great; he was quickly captured and killed. The most popular story explaining the murder comes from Diodorus Siculus, who expanded upon its mention by Aristotle.

According to Diodorus, the general Attalus blamed Pausanias for the death of his friend. Philip and Pausanias had once been lovers, but the affair ended, and Philip started a new affair with Attalus' friend (also named Pausanias). The former Pausanias, feeling spurned, insulted his romantic rival in public. To secure his honor, Attalus' friend committed suicide by recklessly putting himself into danger in battle, while at the same time protecting the king. Devastated, Attalus sought to punish Pausanias of Orestis, and did so by getting the man drunk before raping him. For any number of reasons, Philip did not punish Attalus. Pausanias of Orestis was promoted to the rank of somatophylax, probably as a consolation.[1]

It has been supposed then that Pausanias' motive for killing Philip was at least in part due to personal anger over Philip not having intervened or reprimanded Attalus in any way. However, Diodorus, who supports the attribution of a personal motive to Pausanias, dates the events that led to the assault on Pausanias to the time of the Illyrian Pleurias; the last known campaign Philip conducted against the Illyrians took place in 344 BC. This would mean that Pausanias waited eight years before deciding to murder Philip in an act of personal vengeance. However, although it is not known for certain, Philip may have confronted the Illyrians again at a later date; it it possible that he fought against them in 337 BC, a year before his assassination.

Pausanias killed Philip at the wedding ceremony of Philip's daughter Cleopatra to Alexander I of Epirus; however, in the aftermath of the murder, whilst fleeing to the city gate in order to make his escape, Pausanias tripped on a vine root and was speared to death by several of Philip's bodyguards, including Attalus (not the general who abused Pausanias, but instead the son of Andromenes the Stymphaean), Leonnatus, and Perdiccas, who were also bodyguards and friends of Alexander.[2] Alexander had Pausanias' corpse crucified, but as soon as he had left Macedon, Olympias built a memorial to the slain man. The murder was certainly premeditated, as horses were found near where Pausanias had tried to flee.[3] At the murder trial, two other men, Heromenes and Arrhabaeus, were found guilty of conspiring with Pausanias, and executed. Leonnatus, who threw the spear that killed Pausanias, was demoted, possibly under the suspicion that he was trying to prevent the assassin from being interrogated.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diodorus Siculus 16.93.4-16.94.4; Aristotle, Politics 5.10, 1311b
  2. ^ Diodorus Siculus 16.94.3-4
  3. ^ Justin 9.7.9-11


Ancient sources[edit]

Modern commentary[edit]