Phila

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by Stephanie Bedus

Phila of Macedonia (c. 340 BCE–287 BCE[1]) was born to Antipater, the regent of Macedonia, during the absence of Alexander, who ruled until his death in 319 BCE.[2] She was married three times, widowed twice, and produced four children; a son to each of her husbands and one daughter to her final husband. Her first two marriages, to Balacrus and then to Craterus, were political unions set up by her father; each marriage ended with the death of her husband in battle. Her final and longest marriage, and her father’s most strategic political move, was to Demetrius, son of Antigonus, who became King of Macedonia in 306 BCE, succeeding Phila’s brother Cassander.[3]

It is said that her father, Antipater, and her husbands appreciated and took council in Phila’s clever thinking, sound judgment, and good intentions.[4] She was a crusader against oppression and injustice, providing dowries for poor women from her own expenses.[5]

Demetrius resented his marriage to an older woman who already had two children from previous marriages, and is largely understood to have preferred the company of one of his other wives, a courtesan named Lamia; polygamy being an accepted practice of Macedonian society. Demetrius instead used Phila as an intermediary to repair his tarnished relationship between her powerful brothers Cassander and Pleistarchus.[6]  Phila, while succeeding in easing the familial tension, could not repair the alienation and lack of support that Demetrius had gathered from the people of Macedonia at large, and in 287 BCE he fell from power and was exiled by the more popular Pyrrhus. Phila decided to drink poison rather than be exiled from Macedonia.[7]

The treatment that Phila received from her subjects became an example for the way in which royal women would be treated in the coming Hellenistic periods.[8] Hers was a public life, and she was also the first-known royal woman who experienced a cult following association with Aphrodite while alive; she was also the first Macedonian royal woman to be allotted a title as such.[9]

 

[1] Ian Plant, “Phila,” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803) Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II (Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013), vol. 10, 57-59, editorial notes, 562-63.

[2] Plant, “Phila,” vol. 10, 57-59, editorial notes, 562-63.

[3] Elizabeth Donnelly Carney, Women and Monarchy in Macedonia (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman Publishing Division, 2000), 165-169.

[4] Mary Hays, Female Biography; or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries (6 volumes) (London: R. Phillips, 1803).

[5] Hays, Female Biography, 56.

[6] Carney, Women and Monarchy in Macedonia, 166-167.

[7] Plant, “Phila,” vol. 10, p.57, editorial notes 13-14; and Hays, Female Biography, 57.

[8] Sharon L. James, Sheila Dillon, A Companion to Women in the World (John Wiley & Sons, 2012), 312-314.

[9] James, A Companion to Women in the World, 312.

 

Bibliography

Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly. Women and Monarchy in Macedonia. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.

Hays, Mary. Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries (6 volumes). London: R. Phillips, 1803.

James, Sharon L. & Dillon, Sheila. A Companion to Women in the World. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell: 2012.

Plant, Ian. “Aretaphila.” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries. 1803. Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II. Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013. vol. 5, 198-203, editorial notes, 435-36.

 

Resources:

Brooklyn Museum
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Phile
http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/phile.php

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