The Macedonian kings

The Makedonian king Alexander I (494-454 BC) was a great admirer of Greek culture. Famous Greek poets, such as Pindarus and Simonides, stayed at his court. About 500 BC, he took part in the stadion and in the pentathlon at Olympia, not as a Macedonian - since all participants had to be Greeks -, but as a member of the royal family which could trace its origins back to Argos. He is the only ruler of whom we know that he took part in the athletic competition.

Philip (359-336 BC), the father of Alexander the Great, won in 356 the race for horses with rider at Olympia. He was not present. It was told that he received on the same day the news of this victory and that of the birth of his son Alexander. Four years later he won with a two-horse chariot. He celebrated his victory with coins and by building a tholos at Olympia, where Alexander later put up statues of himself and of his family. Even more importantly, king Philip organised in 346 the Pythian games as newly appointed head of the Delphic amphiktyony (league).

Alexander the Great (336 - 323 BC) organised dozens of athletic games for his troops when they marched to the East. In 324, one year before he died, he proclaimed at the Olympic games the return of all Greek exiles to their hometowns, a political act with great consequences.

© KU Leuven, 2012