Alexander the Great’s Children

Alexander the Great had one son, Alexander IV, who is recognized as a true son by historians. However, he apparently had another son named Heracles, whose historical authenticity scholars are not certain.

Alexander IV

Alexander IV was Alexander’s son by the Bactrian princess, Roxana. When Alexander the Great died on the 11th of June, 323 B.C., two more months would pass before Alexander IV was born. As no one knew at the time whether Roxana’s child was a boy or a girl, Alexander’s generals argued about who should be the king’s successor. Some proposed that the heir should be Alexander’s half-brother, Philip III Arrhidaeus. But some did not want him to rule because he had some form of mental incapacity. And so, others, like the general, Perdiccas, suggested that it would be best to wait for the birth of the child. Consequently, the generals agreed that Philip III Arrhidaeus would inherit the throne, while Perdiccas would be regent, but only titular with no imperial power. Then, if the child turns out to be a boy, he would be proclaimed king as well. Around 322 B.C., Roxana’s son, Alexander IV, was born.

In 321 B.C., Perdiccas tried to invade another general, named Ptolemy, in Egypt. He tried to cross the Nile River thrice, and he failed each time. Around 2,000 of his men died in the process, and so they mutinied. Eventually, three of Perdiccas’ officers entered his tent and stabbed him. After this, another general named Antipater assumed the regency. He then took Roxana and Alexander IV with him to Macedonia. In 319 B.C., Antipater died of natural causes at age 81. He appointed a general named Polyperchon as his replacement and overlooked his son, Cassander. Cassander felt insulted and issued a declaration of war against the new regent. He forged an alliance with other commanders like Antigonus, Ptolemy Soter, and Euridyce, the wife of Philip III Arrhidaeus. In response, Polyperchon joined forces with the general, Eumenes, and the mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias.

Polyperchon gained an initial advantage and was able to establish control over some cities, but Antigonus eventually overcame him. As a result, Cassander claimed Macedonia and Polyperchon, along with Roxana and Alexander IV, was forced to escape to Epirus. Soon, Olympias convinced the king of Epirus, Aeacides, to help Polyperchon reclaim Macedonia. Olympias stepped onto the field to face Euridice’s army, but the enemy’s soldiers did not want to clash against the mother of Alexander the Great and shifted their loyalty to her side. Consequently, Polyperchon and Aeacides were able to reclaim Macedonia. In 317 B.C., Alexander IV was proclaimed king following the arrest and execution of Philip III Arrhidaeus and his wife, Eurydice. Olympias acted as the young king’s regent, being her grandmother.

Unfortunately for Olympias and Alexander IV, Cassander came back the following year and retook Macedonia. He had Olympias executed and ordered Roxana and Alexander to be taken as prisoners and held at Amphipolis. When the third war of the diadochis ended in 311 B.C., the agreement that ensued stated that he would replace Cassander when Alexander reached sufficient age. Because of this, many voiced their opinion that Alexander IV, then 14 years old, should already be ruler without the need for a regent.

However, Cassander clearly had only the consolidation of his power in mind. He ordered his officer, Glaucas, to poison Roxana and Alexander. In 309 B.C., Glaucas implemented the order, which led to the death of Alexander IV and his mother. This murder allegedly happened shortly after the killing of Alexander IV’s rumored half-brother, Heracles.


Heracles was believed to be the son of Alexander the Great and the Persian princess, Stateira II, also known as Barsine. Historians have not been unanimous about the authenticity of Heracles’ existence, but the Greek historian Plutarch and the Latin writer Justin wrote about Heracles and Barsine.

According to Plutarch, Alexander and Barsine came to know each other because the Macedonian general, Parmenion, suggested Barsine to the king. However, the English writer Mary Renault disagrees with this and states that there are no records that a woman named Barsine ever lived with Alexander. She added that there are also no records that Barsine, nor any of her relatives, mentioned she had a child with Alexander. She suspiciously narrates how Heracles suddenly came into being twelve years after the death of Alexander. 

Next, she mentions how surprising it was that Philip Arrhidaeus was considered in the argumentation about Alexander’s rightful heir to the throne when he was only Alexander’s half-brother. Meanwhile, Heracles, if he was indeed a son of the king and therefore a direct descendant, was not even considered seriously.

Heracles became prominent in historical narratives only after Cassander had him killed around 309 B.C. According to Plutarch’s narration, Cassander handed Polyperchon 100 talents to murder Heracles. Polyperchon then invited Heracles to dinner, an invitation that the young man did not entertain, perhaps because he feared Polyperchon. Acting as if he was offended, Polyperchon then came to talk to Heracles and told him that he should imitate his father, who was always ready to mingle with his friends. After this, Heracles reluctantly sat at the dinner table, where Polyperchon strangled him.