A leader at sixteen, Alexander was raised to be legend. His father nurtured his ruthless love for violence and Olympia his self-discipline and endurance. Alexander was a strong willed boy who Phillip raised—albeit distantly. Alexander’s independence and characteristic leadership would contribute to Phillip’s demise. Their relationship was complex in its depth and deadly in its progression partly due to Phillip’s parenting style.
Alexander’s relationship with his father was positive when he was younger. Alexander was given a horse by the name of Bucephalas, which was initially a “vicious [and] unbroken animal.” Phillip regarded the animal as unfit for his son, but Alexander managed to tame the animal and ride it. Phillip was overjoyed by Alexander’s success and marked talent. His father “wept for joy and kissed [Alexander],” demonstrating his evident affection for the boy. He said that Alexander’s potential was boundless, and that he should in time shed the shackles of Mesopotamia to pursue greater opportunities. “…you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions [Alexander],” he said.
Such opportunities could be easily pursued with the education Alexander received through his father’s altruism and care. Philip decided that his son should have the best education possible and turned to none other than Aristotle. Alexander learned of the art of poetry, the guidance of philosophy, the passion of drama, the complexities of politics, and more. Aristotle became his inlet to intelligence, a versatile characteristic that would shine in later years. He absorbed education with relish, particularly an annotated copy of the Iliad. Alexander’s attachment to learning also carried to his instructor.
This is seemingly obvious, but has a deeper meaning given Alexander’s view on his father and teacher. “One,” he said, “had given him life,” but “the other had taught him how to live it well.” Intuitively, Philip did not teach his son how to live life. Parental guidance to a path—the cherishing nature in which a parent coaxes a child to live life through particular steps—was nonexistent. Philip may have lauded his son at times similar to when Alexander tamed the horse Bucephalas, but gave few indications of love and care for Alexander’s life and future welfare. As a result, there was a missing link in their relationship that otherwise would have brought them closer. This disconnect compounded an already distant relationship Alexander held with his parents. When Alexander was young, he was trained to abide by principles of masculinity, leadership, and strength. Characteristics or gestures that did not fit within such parameters were not tolerated, such as effusive love. Leonadis, Alexander’s mentor, prevented Alexander from possessing auxiliary items. Alexander was raised within a sphere of minimal love and restricted privileges. As Alexander conveyed, Aristotle had taught him how to live life—not Phillip. Phillip’s overall distant parenting style had far-reaching consequences.
His caretaking (or lack thereof) was one of many contributors to the decline of their relationship. At Phillip’s wedding, Attalus called for a toast at the wedding banquet. His words caused Alexander to throw a cup at Attalus’ head. Attalus had insulted Alexander by saying “may we now have a legitimate heir to the throne.” Alexander replied by saying “villain do you take me for a bastard then” and throwing the cup. A fight immediately broke out. It was not between Attalus and Alexander, however. An inebriated Phillip drew his sword and charged at Alexander, though failed as the alcohol sent him cascading to the ground. This was the most visible indicator of the depreciation of their relationship. In response to Phillip’s violence, Alexander moved his mother away from his father and lived with the Irylian tribe, the members of which were Phillip’s enemies. Alexander’s “retaliation” to Phillip’s action was distancing at worst and nonviolent at best. Alexander may not have drawn his sword and responded in kind, but he caused the relationship to continue to thin—consciously, as well.
A second act would soon occur and further disconnect the two, which Alexander would also cause. Alexander had been trained to follow ambition not entrust love to carve his path in the world. Alexander identified a threat to his future—Ahhrideus was to marry Pixadorous’s daughter, potentially endangering his position at court and in succession. Alexander hired an actor who cunningly rearranged the marriage between Alexander and Pixadorous. Phillip was enraged by such insubordinate action. The very idea that Alexander had the nerve to discreetly scheme an event in his favor and to also disregard his father’s standing was offensive. He publicly chastised Alexander and exiled four of his closest friends who Phillip regarded as bad influences. Alexander’s action was inflammatory in its nature and challenging of Phillip’s status. He no longer believed Phillip was someone deserving of only respect. Alexander’s relationship progressed insofar as he was unwilling to challenge authority; previously he had simply moved away when Phillip had attempted to kill him. Now, he schemed to have an event play out in his favor. Alexander’s relationship with his father would concurrently deteriorate as his ambition grew.
Phillip was perhaps too narcissistic to recognize close family as threats to the throne. His general blindness or unwillingness to evaluate potential threats to himself was his eventual downfall. He ordered a God-like statue to be made of himself and put on public display. His personal body guard Pausinus stabbed him in the chest while he was following his statue which was being presented. Phillip had refused to punish Attalus who orchestrated a plan for men to gang-rape Pausinus. Pausinus developed a subsequent grudge against Phillip, another distanced relationship that Phillip failed to bridge. Though this was not the most significant contributor to his death. In a conversation with Alexander, Pausinus complained about Phillip’s inaction in respect to Attalus. Alexander quoted from Euripides Media, saying that “the father, the bride and bridegroom all at once,” implying that to be avenged Pausinus needed to kill Phillip, Cleopatra, and Attalus. Certainly, Olympia had provided escape horses for Pausinus. Thus it stands to reason that Alexander was aware of the planned assassination. He may not have directly caused Phillip to die, but he took no proactive action to prevent his death. Given his awareness, Alexander could have intervened to stop the assassination of his father. Phillip had, however, drawn a sword on him, exiled four of his friends, publicly humiliated him, and more. Alexander had no motive to help his father—or at least, the motives were outweighed by the expected outcome of the assassination.
Alexander certainly regarded his father as an inept king and had strong ambitions for succession. Such was evinced when he plotted the rearrangement of Ahhrideus’s marriage to prevent potential competition for becoming king. Phillip failed to recognize the dangers of Alexander’s ambition in terms of regicide. As king, Phillip’s relationship with Alexander was complex and also distant. Phillip trained him to hold the qualities of a ruthless conqueror, but failed to protect his own interests. Among Alexander’s negative comments about his father he regarded Phillip as “forestall[ing] us…” resulting in there being “nothing of value left for us to achieve.” Alexander was driven by ambition, not love. Indeed, Phillip identified Alexander as an ambitious boy, one who needed to “find a kingdom big enough for [his] ambitions.” However, he failed to recognize the significant implications of a distanced young adult capable of rearranging marriages and leading armies, an individual who was already tracking to become king.