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Pausanius assassinates Philip during the procession into the theatre by Andre Castaigne (1898-1899)

Pausanias of Orestis (Greek: Παυσανίας 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 captured and killed. The most popular story explaining the murder comes from Diodorus Siculus, who expanded upon its mention by Aristotle. However Diodorus was writing over two centuries after Philip's reign, and without mentioning sources, thus his depiction must be taken with a grain of salt.

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, and then submitting him to a rape. 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 in killing Philip was at least in part a personal anger for not having been granted justice against Attalus. However Diodorus who supports the attribution of a personal motive to Pausanias dates the events which led to the assault on Pausanias to the time of the Illyrian Pleurias and the last known campaign taken by Philip against the Illyrians took place in 344 BC. This would mean that Pausanias waited eight years to act against Philip for his lack of justice. But not all wars of Philip against the Illyrians are known; so it is possible that he fought against them also in 337 BC.

Pausanias killed Philip at the wedding ceremony of Philip's daughter Cleopatra to Alexander I of Epirus, and as he tried to flee to the city gate, tripped on a vine-root and was speared by Attalus (not Parmenios son-in-law), 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 fled.[3] At the murder trial, two other men, Heromenes and Arrhabaeus, were found guilty of conspiracy with Pausanias, and executed. Leonnatus, who threw the spear that killed Pausanias, was demoted, possibly under suspicion he was trying to prevent him from being interrogated.

Ancient sourcesEdit

Modern commentaryEdit


  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

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