, d. October 330 BC) was the eldest son of
most experienced and
talented general. When Alexander became king of Macedonia
(336 BC) with Parmenion's support
(Parmenion had executed Attalus, a rival claimant to the throne),
Parmenion and his relations were rewarded with offices and
commissions. Philotas was promoted, from a commander of a cavalry
squadron to commander of the Companions, the corps of Macedonian
cavalry that also provided bodyguards and attendants to the King.
(In battle, Alexander rode with and led this cavalry corps; they
were, literally, his "companions," therefore the name.) Philotas,
though a highly capable officer, was widely perceived as arrogant
and pompous; he was never able to master the role of courtier, was
often a center of conflict, and often earned the King's
In the latter part of 330 BC, Philotas was accused of conspiring
against Alexander. He had been subject to similar reports
previously, though the case against him in 330 was more serious;
his accusers included the commander Coenus, who was married to
Philotas' sister. Philotas was tried and convicted, tortured to
reveal the extent of the conspiracy, then stoned or speared to
death with other convicted plotters. His death marks one of the
darker moments in the King's history; the execution of Philotas
necessitated the removal of Parmenion, who, while innocent of any
plotting, was judged unreliable once his son and heir had been put
to death. Alexander
sent assassins to
murder Parmenion before the news of his son's execution reached
- The story of Philotas was dramatized in 1604 by the English
poet and playwright Samuel Daniel. A
performance of the eponymously-named play earned Daniel the
unwelcome scrutiny of the Privy Council, because of a perceived
resemblance between the play's protagonist and [Robert Devereux,
Earl of Essex], executed for rebellion and treason in 1601.
Philotas by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
The German dramatist and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
adapted the story; his play Philotas
dates to 1759.
written during the Enlightenment golden era and while the
Prussian Empire dominated what is
was also written during the Seven
Years' War (1756-1763) between Prussia
and Hannover, against
France, Austria, Switzerland, and Spain for control
over regions such as Silesia and Saxony.
The play tells the story of prince-commander Philotas, a young and
impulsive heir who is made prisoner during his first battle. While
captive, Philotas is visited by King Arideus, a former friend of
his father. While in warm dialogue with Philotas, Arideus tells him
his son has also been captive by the opposite side, and that both
kings were planning an exchange of prisoners.
Soon afterwards, Philotas is seen by Parmenio, his father's
messenger, who inquires him about when the exchange of prisoners
will take place. Philotas pleas Parmenio for more time, and
requests for an extra day prior to the exchange.
Philotas then begins a heavy monologue filled with moral and
ethical questions, about whether remaining alive would better serve
his father's interests, specially considering he is in possession
of Arideus' son.
Philotas concludes that the most appropriate thing to do is killing
himself to preserve his father's dominion over the lands in
dispute. He then manages to obtain a sword from Arideus, claiming
it would 'fit him better' before meeting the squadron, something
Arideus asked him to do.
The legitimacy of Philotas' suicide is a subject of discussion in
modern theatre and ethics education today. A common question is
whether Philotas' suicide was necessary, and whether Lessing
desired to praise, or else criticise, the strong moral codes that
dominated Prussia during the XVIII century, which according to many
scholars were key to the survival of the Prussian empire.
Among the values exalted by the Prussian morale were: prudence,
modesty, hard work, honesty, fairness, courage, strictness with
oneself, order, duty, punctuality, integrity, austerity, loyalty,
and subordination to power.