Archelaus I of Macedon

Archelaus I (/ˌɑːrkɪˈl.əs/; Greek: Ἀρχέλαος Archelaos) was a king of the kingdom of Macedonia from 413 to 399 BC. He was a capable and beneficent ruler, known for the sweeping changes he made in state administration, the military, and commerce. By the time that he died, Archelaus had succeeded in converting Macedon into a significantly stronger power. The Ancient Greek Thucydides credited Archelaus with doing more for his kingdom's military infrastructure than all of his predecessors together.[1]

Archelaus I
Didrachm of Archelaos I King of Macedonia.jpg
Didrachm of Archelaus I
King of Macedonia
Reign413–399 BC
PredecessorPerdiccas II
Archelaus II
Argaeus II
several daughters
HouseMacedon (Ancient Greece)
FatherPerdiccas II
Motherunknown slave
Archelaus I of Macedon
Personal information
Medal record



Archelaus was a son of Perdiccas II by a slave woman. He obtained the throne by murdering his own uncle Alcetas II and cousin Alexander, such that his father became king, and his half-brother, a child of seven years, the legitimate heir.[2] It is speculated that his mother might be the descendant of Gygaea of Macedon and the Persian general Bubares furthermore that she was enslaved and sent back to Macedonia to marry the Macedonian king Perdiccas II of Macedon as a Gesture of good will between the Macedonian state and the Achaemenid Empire.


Almost immediately after he took power, Archelaus was faced with a situation which allowed him to completely reverse Macedon's relationship with Athens, which had been a major threat for the past half century. The Athenians experienced a crushing defeat at Syracuse in late 413 during which most of their ships were destroyed. This left the Athenians in desperate need of a huge amount of timber to build new ships and Archelaus in a position to set the price. Archelaus generously supplied the Athenians with the timber they needed. In recognition of this, the Athenians honored Archelaus and his children with the titles of proxenos and euergetes.[3]

Archelaus went on to institute many internal reforms. He issued an abundance of good quality coinage. He built strongholds, cut straight roads (important for movement of the military), and improved the organization of the military, particularly the cavalry and hoplite infantry.


The bust of Euripides, who was hosted by Archelaus

Archelaus was also known as a man of culture and extended cultural and artistic contacts with southern Greece. In his new palace at Pella (where he moved the capital from the old capital at Aigai), he hosted great poets, tragedians, including Agathon and Euripides (who wrote his tragedies Archelaus and The Bacchae while in Macedon), musicians, and painters, including Zeuxis (the most celebrated painter of his time).[4] Archelaus reorganized the Olympia, a religious festival with musical and athletic competitions honoring Olympian Zeus and the Muses at Dion, the Olympia of Macedon. The greatest athletes and artists of Greece came to Macedon to participate in this event. In addition, Archelaus competed and won in Tethrippon in both Olympic and Pythian Games.[5]


According to Aelian, Archelaus was killed in 399 BC during a hunt, by one of the royal pages, Crateuas.[6] According to Constantine Paparrigopoulos,[7] there were three accomplices: two Thessalians (Crateuas and Ellanokratis) and one Macedonian, Decamnichos. The latter used to be Archelaus' favorite (Aristotle says all three were, at some point.[8]) However Decamnichos once insulted, in front of Archelaus, the tragic poet Euripides for the smell of the poet's alleged bad breath. This outraged Archelaus who allowed Euripides to flog Decamnichos (or have him flogged) in punishment. Decamnichos was permitted to remain in the court of Archelaus; however, he did not forget about this treatment and thus participated in the killing of his king a few years later. Other versions of the king's death are reported by differing sources.


Archelaus had several daughters and sons, including Orestes of Macedon and Archelaus II of Macedon.


  1. ^ Thucydides, Peleponnesian War II, 100.
  2. ^ Plato, Gorgias 471a-d.
  3. ^ In the shadow of Olympus by Eugene N. Borza, page 163 .ISBN 0691008809
  4. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ Solinus, 9.16. Pythias et Olympiacas palmas quadrigis adeptus (Hammond and Griffith. A History of Macedonia, 150n5).
  6. ^ Aelian. Varia Historia, 8.9.
  7. ^ Paparrigopoulos, Constantine. History of the Hellenic nation, 6 volumes, 1860-1877. Athens: N. G. Passari.
  8. ^ Aristotle, Politics, 1311a.


External linksEdit

Preceded by King of Macedon
413–399 BC
Succeeded by