Awkward Correspondence on Paternity: Alexander and Olympias

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.iv

A transcript of a letter from Alexander to his mother Olympias; and what Olympias wrote back to him.

“In the majority of the records of the deeds of Alexander and rather recently in the book of Marcus Varro, which is called “Orestes” or “On Insanity”, we find that Olympias, the wife of Philipp, most cleverly replied to her son. For, when he wrote to his mother, “King Alexander, the son of Zeus Ammon, sends his greetings to his mother Olympias”, she said “My son, hush! lest you defame me or incriminate me before Juno! She will certainly allot me some great harm once you have confessed in your letters that I am her husband’s adultress.” This courtesy from a wise and prudent woman to a boastful son moderately and elegantly warned him that his puffed-up belief, which he had inflated from great victories, the charms of praise and from successes beyond belief–the idea that he was the offspring of Zeus–ought to be abandoned.”

Descripta Alexandri ad matrem Olympiadem epistula; et quid Olympias festive ei rescripserit.

In plerisque monumentis rerum ab Alexandro gestarum et paulo ante in libro M. Varronis, qui inscriptus est Orestes vel de insania, Olympiadem Philippi uxorem festivissime rescripsisse legimus Alexandro filio. 2 Nam cum is ad matrem ita scripsisset: “Rex Alexander Iovis Hammonis filius Olympiadi matri salutem dicit”, Olympias ei rescripsit ad hanc sententiam: “Amabo”, inquit “mi fili, quiescas neque deferas me neque criminere adversum Iunonem; malum mihi prorsum illa magnum dabit, cum tu me litteris tuis paelicem esse illi confiteris”. 3 Ea mulieris scitae atque prudentis erga ferocem filium comitas sensim et comiter admonuisse eum visa est deponendam esse opinionem vanam, quam ille ingentibus victoriis et adulantium blandimentis et rebus supra fidem prosperis inbiberat, genitum esse sese de Iove.

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