Pausanias of Orestis

Pausanias of Orestis (Ancient Greek: Παυσανίας ἐκ τῆς Ὀρεστίδος) was a member of Philip II of Macedon's personal bodyguard (somatophylakes). He assassinated Philip in 336 BC, possibly at the behest of Philip's wife Olympias, or even his son Alexander the Great. Pausanias was killed while fleeing the assassination.

Drawing of Philip II's assassination by artist André Castaigne (c. 1898)

Motive as an assassinEdit

The most popular explanation of the murder comes from Diodorus Siculus, who expanded on its mention by Aristotle. According to Diodorus, the general Attalus blamed Pausanias of Orestis for the death of his friend, who confusingly was also named Pausanias. Philip and Pausanias of Orestis had once been lovers, but the affair ended, and Philip started a new affair with Pausanias, the beloved of Attalus.[citation needed]

Pausanias of Orestis, feeling spurned, insulted his romantic rival Pausanias, Attalus's lover, in public. To secure his public honor, Pausanias, the beloved of Attalus, endangered himself in battle while protecting the king. Devastated by his lover's effective suicide, Attalus sought to punish Pausanias of Orestis by getting him drunk and raping him. For any number of reasons, Philip did not punish Attalus for the rape of Philip's former lover; probably as a consolation, Pausanias of Orestis was promoted to the rank of somatophylax.[1]

It has been supposed then that Pausanias' motive for killing Philip was at least in part due to personal anger over Philip, who was the host of the party where Pausanias was raped, not having intervened in any way, nor even having reprimanded Attalus.[citation needed]

Problems with timing of the revengeEdit

However, there is a problem with the delay between the rape and the revenge: Diodorus supports the attribution of a personal motive to Pausanias, but dates the events that led to the assault on Pausanias to the time of the Illyrian Pleurias, but the last known campaign Philip conducted against the Illyria took place in 344 BC. The correspondence between these dates would put eight years between Pausanias' rape and the murder of Philip – an ostensibly long wait for a hot-blooded act of personal revenge.[citation needed]

Killed while fleeing and trial of co-conspiratorsEdit

Pausanias killed Philip at the wedding ceremony of Philip's daughter Cleopatra to Alexander I of Epirus; however, in the aftermath of the murder, whilst fleeing to the city gate in order to make his escape, Pausanias tripped on a vine root and was speared to death by several of Philip's bodyguards, including Attalus, son of Andromenes the Stymphaean, Leonnatus, and Perdiccas, who were also bodyguards and friends of Alexander.[2]

The murder was certainly premeditated, as horses were found near where Pausanias had tried to flee.[3] At the murder trial, two other men, Heromenes and Arrhabaeus, were found guilty of conspiring with Pausanias, and executed. Leonnatus, who threw the spear that killed Pausanias, was demoted, possibly under the suspicion that he was trying to prevent the assassin from being interrogated.[citation needed]


Philip's son and successor, Alexander, had Pausanias's corpse crucified. However, as soon as the new king had left Macedon, a memorial to Pausanias was erected by Olympias, Philip's widow and Alexander's mother.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Diodorus Siculus 16.93.4-16.94.4; Aristotle, Politics 5.10, 1311b
  2. ^ Diodorus Siculus 16.94.3-4
  3. ^ Justin 9.7.9-11