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Literature / Funeral Games

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I foresee great contests at my funeral games.
Alexander the Great

Funeral Games is the final book in Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy. Released in 1981. While Alexander himself appears only briefly at the beginning of the story, his presence hangs over it and his death acts as the catalyst for the events of the novel.

The king is dead. Having conquered Persia and beyond, Alexander falls ill and dies while in Babylon, the capital of his new empire. Having left no heir and no instructions for a regent, his deaths sparks a succession crisis which swiftly engulfs the Macedonian Empire. With everyone staking their claim for the throne or the regency, Greece and Persia are torn asunder by in-fighting and political scheming. When the dust settles, many are dead, and the empire is irreversibly fractured into several warring factions. It took Alexander seven years to carve out his empire; it would collapse in as many years.



Warning: Spoilers Ahead...

  • Big Bad: Although he doesn't emerge until the third act, Kassandros is the closest thing to a villain in the novel.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Several characters lament that, if Alexander had simply conceived a child before he left for Asia, the child would be grown-up by the time he died and the succession would have passed on smoothly, preserving the Macedonian Empire and preventing all the political feuding.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Everyone.
  • Defector from Decadence: Ptolemy chooses to eschew from making a bid for supreme power, allowing him to keep his hands clean while the rest of Alexander's generals start kicking dogs.
  • The Empire: Macedon has become this by the time of Alexander's death, although it eventually Balkanises by the end of the story.
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  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Having seized control of Macedon, Olympias precedes to wipe out the Antipatrids, causing her popularity to swiftly decline.
  • Karmic Death: Roxanne and her son, Alexander IV, are poisoned in an identical way to how Roxanne murdered Stateira.
  • Kick the Dog: Anyone significantly involved in the succession crisis has at least one moment like this.
  • Kill 'Em All: Suffice to say, by the end of the story, almost all of the main characters are dead, and only a few by natural causes.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Shortly after Alexander's death, Roxanne has Stateira - his other wife - poisoned, along with her sister.
  • Shaming the Mob: Olympias pulls this off when she shames the soldiers sent by Kassandros to execute her by confronting them in her regal dress. Unfortunately, this doesn't work as well when she is later confronted by a mob of the families of her victims...
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  • Succession Crisis: The central issue of the entire story is finding a successor to Alexander, who has left no designated heir. Had he done so, much bloodshed and conflict could have been avoided.