As part of a self-improving attempt to actually read ancient historical sources (albeit translated into English), I read Appian‘s Campaigns of Alexander recently. Given some of the dry stuff out there, I was surprised at how well it stood up. It reads like the more narrative end of modern military history. It would be pushing it to compare it to historical fiction, but there is elements of that.
I also listened to Jamie Redfern‘s A History of Alexander podcast for some commentary on the source. Originally from 2011-2012, it’s probably in the first wave of podcast inspired by Mike Duncan’s History of Rome. As with many of these, initially the production can be a little rough but it settles down (I think there’s even a remastered version that I somehow missed).
There were some nice comparisons of the sources (Appian being his favourite) and discussions where things may have been obscure, as well as the occasional bit of humour. Actually, with the most exciting scenes quoted on the podcast it almost worked as an audiobook alternative.
What else is there to add? The story of Alexander is a classic. There are battles, intrigue, a clash of cultures. In either form, it’s very enjoyable.
This book by Michael Scott, published in 2009 by Icon, picks up from where one of my recent reviews, Alciabiades by P.J Rhodes, left off1. In 404 B.C. Sparta, with Persian backing, have triumphed in the Peloponnesian War and Athens was left on its knees, with its unique system of democracy replaced by a set of pro-Sparta oligarchs. Athens will rebound quickly however, and the next century will be filled with even more power struggles between the Greek city states and by the introduction of new major players to this drama. It ends with one of these rising powers, Macedon, uniting Greece and much of the known world under the rule of its warrior kings – Philip and Alexander2.
Continue reading Post 22: From Democrats To Kings
Dividing The Spoils
The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire
Another book review here – this time Dividing the Spoils by Robin Waterfield, published in 2011 by Oxford University Press. I thought this was a particularly interesting topic for a book – there’s often a bit of a gap left in history between Alexander conquering the world and the successor kingdoms that made up the world during Rome’s rise. How these kingdoms came to be is rarely filled in but it’s a fascinating tale, full of battles, intrigue, murder and all kinds of twists and turns. The book takes the narrative from Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. until ~280 B.C. when the founders of the successor dynasties conveniently die within a few years of each other, providing both a natural beginning and ending to the book. The book sets out to be accessible and enjoyable, focusing on the major personalities of that period of history. I gather that the study of history has moved on a bit from “the great man theory” (as the author acknowledges in his introduction) but this is perhaps one case where it may be a useful approach. The book does also have asides on economic and cultural developments during this period – though these could have been covered in a little more detail.
Continue reading Post 3: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire