Death on the Nile . The murder of Perdiccas and the river crossing in Ancient Macedonia

Ignacio Molina

Abstract

The death of Perdiccas, son of Orontes, during his invasion of Egypt is a fact hardly understandable, so that we can find different explanations for this event. The main goal of this paper is to establish a connection between Perdiccas’ death and the importance, meaning of rivers and its crossing for the ancient Macedonians. Indeed, rivers were related to kingship. This fact is reflected in its relationship with kings of the Balkan geographical area (Polyaen. 4.12.3). Thus, we can find passages in which some of most important mythical characters were begotten by a god-river (Asteropaios, Rhesus, Orpheus, etc). Besides, sometimes even the majesty comes from the river, because the kings were crowned into the river or near one (App. Syr. 56; Justin 15. 4.2-7). In fact, the founder of the Argead royal house, Perdiccas I, became king after being saved by a river (Hdt. 8. 138). The strong connection between kings and rivers can be perceived during the crossing, because the Macedonian monarchs, especially Alexander the Great, were responsible of this act. In other words, a true king was able to protect his soldiers during the crossing, given his close link with the water. Perdiccas son of Orontes wanted to become king, therefore the disaster of Nile could be understood like ordeal which showed the will of the river. Perdiccas was not considered a true king, while Ptolemy should become one.

Keywords

Perdiccas; Nile; Alexander the Great; Diadochoi; Ancient Macedonian myths; Ancient religion; Orpheus

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