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Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire [Paperback]

Robin Waterfield
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Aug 2012
This is the story of one of the great forgotten wars of history - which led to the division of one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen.

Alexander the Great built up his huge empire in little more than a decade, stretching from Greece in the West, via Egypt, Syria, Babylonia, and Persia through to the Indian sub-continent in the East. After his death in 323 BC, it took forty years of world-changing warfare for his heirs to finish carving up these vast conquests. These years were filled with high adventure, intrigue, passion, assassinations, dynastic marriages, treachery, shifting alliances, and mass slaughter on battlefield after battlefield. And while the men fought on the field, the women schemed from their palaces and pavilions.

Dividing the Spoils revives the memory of Alexander's Successors, whose fame has been dimmed only because they stand in his enormous shadow. In fact, Alexander left things in a mess at the time of his death, with no guaranteed succession, no administration in place suitable for such an enormous realm, and huge untamed areas both bordering and within his 'empire'. The Successors consolidated the Conqueror's gains. Their competing ambitions, however, meant that consolidation inevitably led to the break-up of the empire.

Astonishingly, this period of brutal, cynical warfare was also characterized by brilliant cultural developments, especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and art. As well as an account of the military action, this is also the story of an amazing cultural flowering. In some senses, a new world emerged from the dust and haze of battle - the world of Hellenistic Greece.
A surprising amount of the history of many countries, from Greece to Afghanistan, began in the hearts and minds of the Successors of Alexander the Great. As this book demonstrates, their stories deserve to be better known.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (2 Aug 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0199647003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199647002
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Robin Waterfield has produced an excellent introduction...He conveys the drama of the aftermath of Alexander's death with the intensity of a novelist. (Military Times)

A briskly readable march through tumultuous events which continue to reverberate. (Daily Express)

Robin Waterfield's coruscating cultural-political narrative does full and equal justice to all the major dimensions of this extraordinary half-century. (Paul Cartledge, author of Ancient Greece, A History in Eleven Cities)

A gripping and often unsettling account of a formative period of ancient history. As Robin Waterfield points out, it deserves to be far better known than it is — and now, thanks to the author himself, it is as accessible as it has ever been. (Tom Holland, author of Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West)

About the Author

Robin Waterfield was formerly a university lecturer at the universities of Newcastle and St Andrews, before becoming a commissioning editor at Penguin Books. A freelance writer and translator since the early 1980s, he has published numerous translations of the Greek classics for both the Oxford World's Classics and Penguin Classics. He now lives in the far south of Greece on a small olive farm.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of everything? 26 Mar 2014
This is a good and a well-structured general introduction and summary to the "Wars of the Successors" (with a plural, not a singular, contrary to the book's subtitle). It is a narrative history with a broadly chronological structure that tells the story of the 40 plus years that followed the death of Alexander. The maps are great. The illustrations also and the bibliography clearly shows that the author knows his subject and his done his research work well. The book reads well and the prose is engaging. So, why not five stars? There are two main reasons for that and, for both of them, the author is only partly to "blame"

The first is that the general thrust of the book, being that all the Successors aimed to re-conquer and rule the whole of Alexander's Empire, is hardly an original view. It is very nicely presented, starting with the very engaging title ("Dividing the Spoils" meaning implicitly something like "I want it all for me"), but, in my view, an in-depth discussion of this view, which is somewhat taken for granted, is missing. For instance, arguing that Ptolemy did not expand beyond Egypt largely because he lacked the means to do so is a statement that can apply to each and every of the Successors at some point in their career: Cassander and Lysimachus, who had, at least until 301, their hands full with Greece and Thrace, respectively, or Seleukos, who, between 311 and 301, was busy securing the "Eastern Satrapies". Not having the means to expand (meaning a strong base, a full treasury and a large army and navy) does not necessarily imply that you would expand otherwise. Note for instance that Pyrrhos of Epiros mostly did not have the means to expand but nevertheless DID try to expand - and kept his whole life trying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 14 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book covering the years followed after the death of Alexander, a period not many have an idea about. And a period of some great ambitious men that should be in par of Alexander.

It doesn't include detailed battles, but does include the overall impact the process had in the geo-political and social environments across the whole of the Empire.

Great work and easy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By No More Mr. Mice Guy TOP 100 REVIEWER
This is a well-written and readable book on the wars of the Successors. Although it doesn’t go into the details of the battles, for which there are several recent volumes, it does give the flow of events and a good account of the characters involved. This is a period where the sources are slim, and although there are many specialised books on aspects or characters of the period, good narrative histories are thin on the ground. The author also manages to cover contemporary ‘culture’ as well, but not in an intrusive way, the information is dealt with at opportune points in the narrative, and at reasonable length – that is, it doesn’t distract from the story, nor is it boring or irrelevant. This is a readable and entertaining account, without any intrusive opinions or factual errors; only intrusive American spelling and use of dollar equivalents when illustrating the value of the hoards of ‘talents’ looted at frequent intervals in the story. Obviously the Oxford University Press of England think British readers are more tolerant than American ones.

Idiotai Abroad:
One of the non-intrusive cultural sections is on ‘The Ethos of Individualism’. The author discusses the nature of the Greek ‘Polis’, or ‘citizen-state’. This was quite alien to the Western idea of citizenship, almost big-brother. “The Macedonian empire, however, changed the rules… The relative disempowerment of citizens as political agents made it possible for them to see themselves, to a greater extent, as individuals, rather than just as contributors to the greater good.
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