Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October 6, 336 BC – Pausanias of Orestis Assassinates Attalus

King Philip II carved out a grand empire stretching south from his original kingdom of Macedon. He unified the often-warring city-states of Greece by diplomacy and military might. With command of impressive resources and crack-trained men, he hoped to launch an invasion of Persia, an empire that had grown old and frail. It was not just an attack of opportunity, however. He meant to secure the Greeks forever against another eastern invasion and establish a new, Greek-led world order.

While all of his empire-building went on, Philip also had a private life, taking up Pausanias of Orestis, a member of his bodyguard, as a lover. As time progressed, Philip's attention went to a different, younger Pausanias, ousting the elder. The forsaken Pausanias tormented the younger with taunts, eventually driving the young man to suicide. While no direct law had been broken, there were those who felt that this bullying should be punished, and the lead was taken by the younger Pausanias's friend and Philip's father-in-law, General Attalus.

Attalus threw a grand dinner party, inviting Pausanias and making certain that the man drank past any sense of sobriety. He and the rest of his party then descended upon Pausanias in brutal rape. Pausanias awoke to the horror and demanded King Philip punish his general. Philip would not. He needed Attalus, vicious as he was, to be a loyal commander as he was sending him along with General Parmenion to establish a foothold for the invasion of Asia. Beside, Attalus was his father-in-law, and family matters trumped even those of former lovers. In consolation, Philip promoted Pausanias to the highest rank of his bodyguard and thus of Macedonian nobility.

The rank was not enough to calm Pausanias' anger. He had been insulted and felt that vengeance must take place. In seeking guidance from a soothsayer, Pausanias was told that he would become the most famous man in the world. Many said that the soothsayer was the pay of Persians or a conspiracy of Greeks, pushing Pausanias to kill the king and end a potential invasion. Cryptic words did not give Pausanias such an idea, however; he decided he would become famous by exacting perfect revenge.

At the wedding of Alexander of Epirus and Philip's daughter Cleopatra, Pausanias struck. All attention was on Philip, who was boastfully attending the wedding without his guard around him, supposedly to impress the Greek diplomats attending. While all backs were turned, Pausanias stabbed Attalus, whom he had beguiled into not leaving for Asia until after the wedding, with a poisoned needle. The general knew it was an attack, but the wound was small enough that no one would believe him that Pausanias had done anything. Attalus fell ill and died.

Afterwar, Pausanias would ask to take Attalus' place as general. Philip would grant the request, feeling that debts were then fully paid. The invasion of Persia would go forward as planned in 335 BC, with Pausanias leading at Philip's side, taking all that would have been Attalus' glory. He would routinely be named a hero in battle, and his legend would install him as the most famous warrior in the world for a generation. The young prince Alexander would follow, playing key importance in cavalry maneuvers, but never to the degree of Pausanias. Over the next ten years, Philip would establish a great Greek empire stretching from the Adriatic Sea to India. While Philip would then settle into rule, his son Alexander would march west to become known as The Conqueror, scooping up the lands of the Carthaginians of Africa and upstart Romans in Italy.

With Alexander's son Alexander IV coming to the throne in 299 BC, a strong chain of succession was established that would carry Greek unity for generations. Ideals of trade, art, and mathematics would spread throughout the world, such as the philosopher Archimedes determining the principles of Calculus in 211 BC and the inventor Heron of Philipi creating the first workable steam engine in 35 AD. Eventually the Greek Empire would fall from decadence, eastern rebellion, and barbarian incursion (most notably the Germans of the north), but it would forever leave its stamp on the world as a golden age.

In reality, Pausanias became the most famous man in the world by killing the most famous man in the world, his king and former lover Philip II. While Philip left his guards behind, Pausanias attacked him. In the ensuing chaos, he fled, attempting to escape by the city gate. He tripped, which slowed him enough to be speared by royal guard. The inquiry into assassination uncovered the rest of a conspiracy with two more high-ranking Macedonians executed as Alexander worked to secure his succession to the throne.

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