The Assassination of Philip II


At this point the syllabus suddenly becomes extra-exciting because the death of Philip is a fascinating whodunnit.



Diodorus Siculus's account    

Your starting-point on the assassination of Philip has to be Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian who wrote in the first century bc, because this is the set source in the specification.  You can read it in Mr Clare's Commentary on Diodorus's account of Philip's death

However, you need to be aware that the story is possibly rubbish from beginning to end - whilst the fact that it is mentioned in the only surviving contemporary account (Aristotle) shows that it was clearly the 'official story' that Pausanias was a disgruntled jilted-lover who held a grudge against Philip, it is likely that this story covered-up a deeper conspiracy which Macedonian propaganda wanted to keep quiet.



Flaws in Diodorus    

Any consideration of an explanation other than the 'lone-avenger' theory MUST start with an analysis of why Diodorus is untrustworthy - here are the key reasons:

  1.   It is shot through with superstition - all the tales about the Oracle at Delphi, the Athenian denunciation of plotters and Neoptolemus's oration are all 'portent-stories' building up the plot Similarly, the story of the 13th statue is a typical religious 'hubris-and-its-punishment' story.

 2.   Do you believe there were TWO Pausaniases?  The highly dramatic and scandalous story of a younger Pausanias looks to me like an invention to solve the problem which faced Diodorus - that some of his source stories about Pausanias had him as a youth, whilst others had him as an adult ... a contradiction which Diodorus seems to have solved by deciding there must have been two Pausaniases!

 3.   I cannot find any independent evidence of a King Pluerias of the Illyrians, which is clearly an error (the Illyrian kings at the time were 'Cleitus' and 'Glaucias', and the former king had been 'Pleurates'). 

 4.   Similarly I cannot find any evidence other than Diodorus suggesting a war against Illyria in 337bc - I think the 'war' Diodorus is writing about is that of 344bc ... which would mean that Pausanias bore his grudge for eight years.

 5.   Saying that Attalus was Cleopatra-Eurydice's nephew is just an error; he was her uncle.

 6.   There is no independent verification of a sophist called Hermocrates.

 7.   Why did Pausanias kill Philip, but not Attalus?

 8.   The statements that Pausanias 'preserved his anger' whilst 'allowing no postponement of his plan' are an unresolvable internal contradiction.



The Suspects    

So - if Diodorus IS unreliable - can we overthrow his theory of a 'lone-assassin-motivated-by-revenge' and suggest that there was a conspiracy to kill the king?

Different people have suggested different suspects:

  1.   Justin (a Roman historian of perhaps the second century ad), and also Plutarch, suggest that Olympias (and perhaps even Alexander) were behind the murder.

 2.   Arrian, and the first century Roman historian Curtius Rufus, give information which points to a plot by 'highland' nobles, angry at being 'outsiders' in the Macedon court after Attalus's 'lowland' clique gained Philip's confidence.  Pausanias came from Orestis, and Heromenes and Arrhabaeus (also executed) came from Lyncestis.

 3.   A further passage in Curtius Rufus hints that Amyntas IV - the child-king who had ruled briefly in 359bc, but who had been displaced by Philip II - might have been implicated.

 4.   Arrian reports that Alexander the Great wrote to Darius accusing him of organising his father's murder.




The following websites will help you complete the task:

This document contains the relevant section of the set
OCR Textbook.

Mr Clare's Commentary on Diodorus's account of Philip's death

Here is my (rather long-winded) blog on the death of Philip


And here are three more VERY DIFFICULT documents:

Amaleia Skilton - the most accessible, with some very useful comments on the main sources. - rambling and not academic, but interesting theories



 1.   Work with a partner or in a small group.  Imagine you are a 'Cold Case' investigative team re-opening the murder case of Philip II.  Study and analyse the Death-of-Philip factsheets -
Who do you suspect, and why?

2.   Make a list of all the errors and inadequacies in Diodorus Siculus's account of Philip's death.