Ivory head of Philip II of Macedon, 4th century B.C., Ivory
Vergina Museum, Greece
We can't talk about the 4th century BCE without mentioning Alexander – but we can't mention Alexander without talking about his father, Philip II of Macedon. Philip was the king of the kingdom of Macedon, to the north of Greece, from 359 until 336 BCE, and it was Philip's vision of Macedonian expansion through Greece which was said to have developed the ambitions of his son, Alexander the Great. This small ivory head was discovered in the tomb of Philip II at Vergina in northern Greece, a fantastic archaeological discovery which we'll be exploring more in the next few days. It bears many of the traits which Alexander the Great's portraiture would later take on: the limpid upward gaze, suggesting intercourse with the divine; the slightly turned head; the full, sensuous mouth. When Philip was assassinated in 336 BCE, having placed most of the Greek city-states under Macedonian rule and turning his mind to a planned conquest of Persia, it was his son, Alexander, who would have to take up the mantle.