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Alexander the Great and Roxana, in a 1756 painting by Italian Baroque artist Pietro Rotari.

Roxana (Ancient Greek: Ῥωξάνη; Old Iranian Raoxshna; sometimes Roxanne, Roxanna, Roxandra and Roxane) was a Sogdian[1][2][3][4] princess of Bactria and a wife of the Greek Macedonian king, Alexander the Great. She was born in c. 340 BC[5] though the precise date remains uncertain and died in c. 310 BC.[4]


Roxana was born in c. 340 BC—she was the daughter of a Bactrian nobleman named Oxyartes, who served Bessus, the satrap of Bactria and Sogdia. He was thus probably also involved in the murder of the last Achaemenid king Darius III. After Bessus was captured by the Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great, Oxyartes and his family continued to resist the Greeks, and along with other Iranian notables such as the Sogdian warlord Spitamenes, took up a defensive position in a fortress known as the Sogdian Rock.[5]

However, they were eventually defeated by Alexander, who reportedly fell in love with Roxana on sight;[6] in 327 BC, Alexander married Roxana despite the strong opposition from all his companions and generals. Alexander thereafter made an expedition into India and while there he appointed Oxyartes as the governor of the Hindu Kush region which was adjoining India. During this period, Roxana was in a safe place in Susa. When Alexander returned to Susa, he promoted a brother of Roxana to the elite cavalry.[5]

After Alexander's sudden death at Babylon in 323 BC, Roxana is believed to have murdered Alexander's other widow, Stateira II, and possibly Stateira's sister, Drypteis,[7] and her cousin, Parysatis II (Alexander's third wife). Roxana had borne a son to Alexander after his death and would have wanted no competition.

Roxana and her Greek-Persian son, named Alexander IV after his deceased father, were protected by Alexander's mother, Olympias, in Macedonia. Olympias' assassination in 316 BC allowed Cassander, who imprisoned Roxana and Alexander in the citadel of Amphipolis under the supervision of Glaucias, to seek kingship. Since Alexander IV was the legitimate heir to the Alexandrian empire, Cassander ordered Glaucias to poison Alexander and Roxana c. 310 BC.

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  1. ^ Ahmed, S. Z. (2004), Chaghatai: the Fabulous Cities and People of the Silk Road, West Conshokoken: Infinity Publishing, p. 61.
  2. ^ Strachan, Edward and Roy Bolton (2008), Russia and Europe in the Nineteenth Century, London: Sphinx Fine Art, p. 87, ISBN 978-1-907200-02-1.
  3. ^ Carlos Ramirez-Faria (2007), Concise Encyclopedia of World History, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, p. 450, ISBN 81-269-0775-4.
  4. ^ a b Christopoulos, Lucas (August 2012), "Hellenes and Romans in Ancient China (240 BC – 1398 AD)," in Victor H. Mair (ed), Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 230, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, p. 4, ISSN 2157-9687.
  5. ^ a b c Badian 2015.
  6. ^ Horn & Spencer 2012, p. 40.
  7. ^ Plutarch. Alex. 77.4


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