This is the fourth book by this author that I have read recently, and I have developed a high opinion of his work. This book is targeting a more general readership than some of his academic studies (see further reading list below). The book itself is as well written and researched as the previous ones. The Notes however are mainly straightforward citation references, without as much of the in-depth criticism of the sources you find in the academic volumes, though he still gets a few barbs in:
"...on 10 June, 323, he [Alexander], died. Conspiracy theories surround this event: one has it that Antipater organised the assassination all the way from Macedon and involved half the imperial administration in the plot. These can be dismissed as the imaginings of desk-bound historians and over-imaginative novelists"; and he carries on in the footnotes. Philip's death has also attracted attention:
"During the celebration of [his daughter's] marriage Philip was murdered. His assassin was Pausanias, a man who had a grievance against Attalos, the uncle of Philip's new queen, a grievance which Philip had refused to deal with... Pausanias ran off, but was chased and killed by members of Philip's bodyguard. Conspiracy immediately comes to mind, probably unnecessarily. Almost everyone of any note in Philip's family and court has come under suspicion, but the main accused are Alexander, Olympias, Antipater and perhaps Parmenion; and superficially plausible cases can be constructed against all of them. There is even one theory which sees a plot by men of Upper Macedon against domination from the original kingdom. None of the theories stands up very well, and the most that can be said is that no one shed tears at the king's killing.... The fact is that the murderer was Pausanias, a man who had nursed a grievance for a year and had been unable to get redress. His abuser had been Attalos, who was away in Asia and was the uncle of Philip's new wife; Attalos was also the sworn enemy of Alexander. In Pausanias's grievance-filled mind, the only available man on whom he could gain revenge was Philip, who had refused to take action. It cannot have been absent from Pausanias' mind that killing Philip would benefit Alexander; perhaps he expected to get away with it. The question of 'cui bono' used to accuse Alexander, is, given Pausanias' state of mind, irrelevant".
The first chapter covers the history of Macedon from 370-359 BC, before the reign of Philip II. The state has almost collapsed from neighbours taking advantage of succession disputes. Macedon has a blood-soaked history of disputed successions, and Philip no doubt learned important lessons from this, as did Alexander.
Chapters 2-5 cover Philip's establishment of Macedon as a major power, up to his death in chapter 5 during the 'Conquest of Greece'. Alexander shares chapter 5 and has chapter 6 and 7 to himself. Chapters 8-15 cover the period of the first generation of Successors. There are a Conclusion, Notes, Bibliography, Index and 5 pages of maps.
While the book covers the story of the rise of Macedon and its acquisition of an empire, it does focus in particular on the effect this has on Macedon, often lost or ignored in histories of the early Hellenistic period. The problems of succession are also highlighted, and the many deaths that accompany the event, at Philip's, at Alexander's, at the establishment of the regency in Babylon, at the death of the regent, and at the several subsequent kings of Macedon, successful or not. Eventually Antigonos Gonatas marries a surviving female member of the royal house and spends his reign rebuilding Macedon, which as been invaded and divided several times. The Persians also had the same problem, and Philip's control of Greece co-incided with major dynastic upheavals, which meant there was little Persian intervention: "In 338, Artaxerxes III was murdered on the orders of his vizier, Bagoas, who had been one of the commanders of the invasion of Egypt. Bagoas killed off all Artaxerxes' sons as well, except for Arses, who became the new Great King as Artaxerxes IV. Not surprisingly Arses and Bagoas could not work together, and soon Arses and all his sons were also murdered. A distant member of the royal family was placed on the throne as Dareios III. Well warned, Dareios murdered Bagoas". And so it goes. You'd think that a Jacobean playwright would have found some inspiration here.
The problem the empire and its rulers - actual or hopeful - face is administration. Alexander didn't seem to be interested in establishing an administration (or it was too difficult) - Julius Caesar allegedly faced the same problem, and was going off on a Parthian war so he wouldn't have to deal with it, just as Alexander was proposing to invade Arabia. Eventually Seleukos established control of a large part of the former Akhemenid empire and re-established much of their administration.
Page 193: "...It bears repeating that the accession to power of Alexander on the killing of his father in 336 was the first time in two centuries that a royal succession in Macedon did not see a civil war or a collapse of the state, or both. Even then, Alexander had to drive off invaders and indulge in several murders to ensure peace. It is scarcely surprising that Alexander's own death resulted in civil war and political collapse. The problem was repeated on the deaths of Antipater, Kassander, Kassander's sons, Demetrios and Seleukos. Only the horrifying experience of the Galatian invasions and the careful manipulations and innovations of Antigonos Gonatas ensured that his dynasty succeeded in overcoming the problem for the next century.... The problem lay with the Macedonians. Kassander tried to appoint his successor, but his widow then interfered. The Macedonians whom Kassander ruled were those who had not gone overseas, the traditionalists who disliked any innovation. Only their experience of the Galatian invasion - another drastic winnowing process - finally compelled the abandonment of their indulgence in succession disputes. In the meantime they had, by their self-centredness and obduracy, effectively wrecked their own empire". One of Alexander's murders was Attalos - if you have seen Oliver Stone's film, he is the man with the evil grin at the wedding-feast when Philip banishes Alexander. The man being raped by Philip at the feast is meant to be Pausanias, according to some writers.
Further recommended reading by John D. Grainger:
The Cities of Seleukid Syria
The Cities of Pamphylia
The League of Aitolians (Mnemosyne, Supplements)
The Syrian Wars (Mnemosyne, Supplements)
The Roman War of Antiochos the Great (Mnemosyne, Supplements)
Hellenistic and Roman Naval Warfare 336BC - 31BC
Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom
An Aside - the Hellenistic period (Philip and Alexander to Actium) can be confusing, especially when there are both Greek and Roman versions of names. I have found that playing historical board games help in learning names & places. The following are particularly useful for this period.
Sword of Rome (GMT Games)
Successors (GMT Games)
Hannibal (Valley Games)
Julius Caesar (Columbia Games)
Spartacus (Compass Games)
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