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Antigonos the One-Eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State (Hellenistic Culture and Society) [Paperback]

Richard A Billows
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

18 Jun 1997 Hellenistic Culture and Society
Called by Plutarch 'the oldest and greatest of Alexander's successors,' Antigonos the One-Eyed (382-301 BC) was the dominant figure during the first half of the Diadoch period, ruling most of the Asian territory conquered by the Macedonians during his final twenty years. Billows provides the first detailed study of this great general and administrator, establishing him as a key contributor to the Hellenistic monarchy and state. After a successful career under Philip and Alexander, Antigonos rose to power over the Asian portion of Alexander's conquests. Embittered by the persistent hostility of those who controlled the European and Egyptian parts of the empire, he tried to eliminate these opponents, an ambition which led to his final defeat in 301. In a corrective to the standard explanations of his aims, Billows shows that Antigonos was scarcely influenced by Alexander, seeking to rule West Asia and the Aegean, rather than the whole of Alexander's Empire.


Product details

  • Paperback: 536 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (18 Jun 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520208803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520208803
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 14.9 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,194,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

Richard A. Billows is Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book, derived from the author's dissertation, is a masterpiece and a must for anyone with a deep interest in the Hellenistic Kingdoms in general, and Alexander's Successors in particular. As another reviewer on the US site has already mentioned, it is - almost - two books in one. The first part (Antigono's Life and Career) is a political and military history, with as many bibliographical elements of the life and character of Antigonus the One-Eyed as can be pieced together from the surviving sources. The second part (Antigonos as Ruler of a Hellenistic Empire) is an assessment of his rule, of his relations with his subjects and in particular with the Greeks, and of his considerable legacy.

One of the author's main merits is to manage to bring to life a rather extraordinary character, the father of the flamboyant Demetrios, and the founder of the Antigonid dynasty who would take-over the ancestral heartland of Macedon under his grand-son (Antigonos II Gonatas) and rule the Kingdom of Macedonia until its conquest by the Romans. Given the limited source material and its often biased nature - then, as know, history tended to be written by the victors - and Antigonos the One-Eyed was killed in the final battle of Ipsos in BC 301 against a coalition of all of his four main rivals. This, in itself, shows how powerful the old Macedonian veteran of Philip's wars (he was an almost exact contemporary of Alexander's father) had become by the time he died in battle at over 80 years of age.

Another merit of this book is to show how powerful he had become in building what can only be seen as his Empire. At its peak, he controlled all of Anatolia (Asia Minor, most of modern Turkey), Syria, Phoenicia and Coele Syria (modern Lebanon, Palestine and most if not all of Jordan).
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Biography of the Most Intriguing Diadochi 16 Jan 2000
By jeffergray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a remarkably interesting scholarly biography of the man I've always found to be the most interesting of the Successors of Alexander. Antigonus the One-Eyed originally seemed one of the least likely of Alexander's generals to come into the dead King's inheritance, but thanks to his shrewdness, military skill, and the mistakes of others, within ten years of Alexander's death he had taken control of two-thirds of the dead King's former realm. Twelve years later, all of the other Successors united against him in a great coalition, and Antigonus went down fighting (at the age of 80) at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 B.C. The ancients saw Antigonus's life as a cautionary tale about the dangers of hubris and vaulting ambition; Billows takes a more positive view.

If your interest in this book comes from the standpoint of an ancient history buff rather than an academic, you should understand that Billows's book started out life as a dissertation, and it's really two books in one. The first book -- which consists of the first 190 pages -- is essentially a well-researched biography that treats Antigonus's life and career in chronological order. The second book -- consisting of the last 120 pages -- treats Antogonus's foreign relations, economic and social policies, etc., and will be of more interest and utility to scholars. Billows argues that Antigonus should be better known not merely because of his dramatic life story and his status as the founder of the Antigonid line that eventually ruled Macedon from 277-167 B.C., but also because he laid the foundations upon which Seleucus I built the Seleucid Empire. It seems to me there is some truth to this, but Billows may push the argument farther than it can really be sustained, given that Antigonus controlled large swatches of the area that became the Seleucid Empire for as little as five or six years.

The University of California Press is to be commended for including excellent maps of the vast area of the Middle East across which Antigonus played out his life story, as well as including detailed plans of such Diadochoi battles as Paraitakene, Gabiene, and Gaza that show the composition of the rival armies in detail. The account of Antigonus's dramatic struggle with the wily Eumenes of Cardia -- a running series of battles and campaigns fought over a huge stretch of the Middle East -- is a high point of the book. Finally, the detailed bibliography in Billows's book will point the scholar or ancient history buff to numerous other references and scholarly discussions of individual battles and commanders.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of a military history than you might think... 30 May 2007
By Dirk Nomad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For anyone interested in immersing themselves into the early Hellenistic period, this book that focuses on the life of Antigonus the One-Eyed is a good place to turn to. I expected a dry scholarly biography and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of space and detail allotted to military and naval campaigns and battles. These battles were interesting in many respects, including the fact there were clever, tactically adept Macedonian generals on either side of the battle matching wits against each other - men who had fought alongside Alexander. The book left me with a vivid impression of the wealth of the Hellenistic kings. Antigonus and the others had access to treasuries crammed with thousands of talents from which they could easily outfit armies and build fleets.
5.0 out of 5 stars The most powerful and one of the least well-known Successors 14 Jan 2013
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book, derived from the author's dissertation, is a masterpiece and a must for anyone with a deep interest in the Hellenistic Kingdoms in general, and Alexander's Successors in particular. As another reviewer on the US site has already mentioned, it is - almost - two books in one. The first part (Antigono's Life and Career) is a political and military history, with as many bibliographical elements of the life and character of Antigonus the One-Eyed as can be pieced together from the surviving sources. The second part (Antigonos as Ruler of a Hellenistic Empire) is an assessment of his rule, of his relations with his subjects and in particular with the Greeks, and of his considerable legacy.

One of the author's main merits is to manage to bring to life a rather extraordinary character, the father of the flamboyant Demetrios, and the founder of the Antigonid dynasty who would take-over the ancestral heartland of Macedon under his grand-son (Antigonos II Gonatas) and rule the Kingdom of Macedonia until its conquest by the Romans. Given the limited source material and its often biased nature - then, as know, history tended to be written by the victors - and Antigonos the One-Eyed was killed in the final battle of Ipsos in BC 301 against a coalition of all of his four main rivals. This, in itself, shows how powerful the old Macedonian veteran of Philip's wars (he was an almost exact contemporary of Alexander's father) had become by the time he died in battle at over 80 years of age.

Another merit of this book is to show how powerful he had become in building what can only be seen as his Empire. At its peak, he controlled all of Anatolia (Asia Minor, most of modern Turkey), Syria, Phoenicia and Coele Syria (modern Lebanon, Palestine and most if not all of Jordan). At one point, he also held all of Mesopotamia, Cyprus and Greece up to the Thessaly. Between him and his sons (and not only Demetrios), his military resources were larger than what any of his rivals could field, his financial resources almost equalled those of Egypt and his fleet was unrivalled once the Egyptian fleet had been crushed by Demetrios at Salamis (Cyprus) in BC 306. During most of the fifteen years between BC 316, once Eumene had been eliminated and BC 301, he was also the main employer of mercenaries in the Greek and Macedonian world. His military resources are layered out in detail in one of the book's annexes. Another annex includes a list of vignettes of all the main officers and officials who served him at one time or another, showing his ability to attract talent and rally support, including from the former supporters of some of his enemies.

A third merit is the thorough and in-depth discussion of his achievements, his legacy and his key role in the formation of Hellenistic Monarchies. This second part of the book, is perhaps the most innovative but also the most controversial. The importance of the old Successor in the formation of the Hellenistic Monarchies was largely underestimated prior to Richard Billows remarkable piece of scholarship, with the merits being mainly divided between Alexander himself and mainly Seleukos and Ptolemy (and Cassandre and Lysimachus to a lesser extent). The author shows that Alexander's city founding mainly had strategic and military objectives and, anyway, he had little time to go beyond this. He also shows to what extent Seleukos mat have taken over and appropriated Antigonos' legacy. This is perhaps where, at times, the author may have gone too far because it is extremely difficult, in many cases, to determine to what extent an initial city foundation by Antigonos was just taken-over (and possibly renamed) or whether it was substantially modified and expanded, apart from a few specific and well-known cases, such as that of Antioch which was built from materials taken from Antigonos' foundation located a few miles away.

This is something that the author acknowledges, mentioning that as he studied his subject more and more in depth, he warmed up to it and had to make a conscience effort to remain objective. This warning in itself, tells you something about the author's ethics and honesty. Not all historians are able to acknowledge their limitations and admit that they might have developed a favourable bias for a topic that they so obviously enjoyed in writing about.

This major and superb book is well worth five stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Work on Antigonos Monophthalmos 15 Jun 2011
By William - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books I have read on any aspect of the Hellenistic world. Richard Billows takes the evidence as far as it can be taken in presenting an accurate and fascinating account of the life and times of Antigonos the One Eyed. Billows references his facts and explains his logic throughout the book and he notes where his views and interpretations differ from those of other scholars. In addition to his very strong background in the subject, Billows uses and cites primary sources throughout his work, while noting that even primary sources can be skewed to biased points of view. This is a must read book for all who are interested in Antigonos Monophthalmos, his contemporaries, and the era in which they lived.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For a select audience 17 Dec 2010
By N. Perz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
3.5 stars.

Let's be very clear: AtOE is not for the general reader. It's a rather dry work geared for an academic audience. It presumes a certain level of knowledge about the times and the geography. (At least a few maps were included.) That being said, it's a useful resource; material on the Diodochi seems rather sparse. The first half of the book is a narrative of Antigonos's life while the second half deals with the manner of his administration. The two were obviously cobbled together and not conceived as a single project.

Recommended (if you have a particular interest in the subject).
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