Monday, August 3, 2009

Creating Character: Philip

phil of macedon's helmet

This, to me, is elegant menswear. Philip's helmet was buried with him in his tomb, in Vergina, and can be seen today in the museum there. Philip inherited a kingdom in perilous disarray; by the end of his life, Macedon ruled all of Greece, and Philip's troops were preparing to invade Persia. Were he not subsequently overshadowed by his more famous son, Philip would be remembered today as one of the most brilliant rulers of the ancient world. He was a fun character to create, a likeable rogue: a fierce soldier, canny politician, drinker, womanizer, and surprisingly pragmatic diplomat.

His conflict with Alexander sprang, I think, from the fundamental difference in their characters: Philip wanted to conquer the known world, but Alexander wanted to conquer the unknown world. For all their similarities, he lacked his son's compulsive curiousity. The Oedipal conflict is also vivid in Philip and Alexander's relationship. Freud read Shakespeare; Shakespeare read Plutarch; and Plutarch, one of Alexander's earliest biographers, would have known his Sophocles.

Philip was stabbed to death at his daughter's wedding by one of his bodyguard, a man named Pausanias. Historians have speculated the assassin was hired by Alexander, impatient to assume the throne; or his mother, Olympias, jealous of Philip's recent marriage to a much younger wife; or both of them together. Conveniently, Pausanias is supposed to have tripped as he ran across a vineyard toward his getaway horse, and was caught and torn to pieces before he could be questioned.

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