Cynane – d.323 BCE – Illyria

Ancient Illyria


She was half-sister to the greatest conqueror of the classical world, Alexander the Great, and daughter of King Philip II, but Cynane owed much of her tactical knowledge to her mother Audata, an Illyrian princess.

Audata trained her daughter in riding, hunting, and fighting in the Illyrian tradition. This unusual education prepared her Cynane for a life which would be fraught with conflict and political intrigue.

Her father Philip gave her in marriage to her cousin Amyntas, by whose death she was left a widow in 336 BCE. In the following year, her brother promised her hand, as a reward for his services, to Langarus, king of the Agrianians, who became ill and died before the wedding could take place.

Cynane, probably sick of being bartered for, continued unmarried, and devoted herself to the education of her daughter, Eurydice.

Much like Audata, Cynane trained Eurydice in martial arts and groomed her for a life in politics. When Cynane’s other half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus was chosen king in 323 BCE, Cynane determined to marry Eurydice to him, and crossed over to Asia accordingly.

Polyaenus wrote:

“Cynane, the daughter of Philip was famous for her military knowledge: she conducted armies, and in the field charged at the head of them. In an engagement with the Illyrians, she with her own hand slew Caeria their queen; and with great slaughter defeated the Illyrian army.”

Her military prowess and influence was famous throughout the ancient world, and the idea that her daughter might marry a King was alarming to many. Perdiccas, Alexander the Great’s General, was particularly concerned and sent his brother Alcetas to meet Cynane on her way to Asia and have her killed.

Alcetas’ troops were against the murder of Cynane, but she was killed either way, and is said to have ‘met her doom with an undaunted spirit’.

Eurydice’s wedding still took place, but both daughter and son-in-law were eventually killed by Olympias. In 317 BC, Cassander, after defeating Olympias, buried Cynane with Eurydice and Arrhidaeus at Aegae, the royal burying-place.

In Fiction:

Cynane appears as a character in the historical novel Funeral Games by Mary Renault. Renault calls her Kynna.


Polyaenus on Cynane

On Wikipedia:


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