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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of everything?, 26 Mar 2014
By 
JPS - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Paperback)
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.

The conventional idea that each of the Successors essentially "wanted it all" is derived from some of the sources and assumes that Alexander was necessarily the role model that each of them would try to emulate and imitate. This is very plausible, but other explanations are possible and are based on common sense. The Successors were also "survivors". They wanted to continue that way and were very aware that any display of weakness would be taken advantage off. They were also aware that all had to gang up against the one that became too powerful, precisely to ensure survival. So, while greed and ambition certainly played a big role when it came to "dividing the spoils", so did paranoļa and survival instincts. At times, the book alludes to this, such as when Waterfield discusses the need for each monarch to make his kingdom self-sufficient, deny resources to his competitors and make them pay for them. Unfortunatly, it is not really discussed.

The other point which is a bit (but only a bit) problematic is that the book is essentially a bit of everything. It's a narrative history of the main evolutions, but not either a political or a military history only. It also has short pieces of multiple cultural developments. As a result, there are some uncertainties as to the exact subject covered by the book: only the war(s) for Alexander's Empire? A summary of the first 40+ years of the Hellenistic period? At times, it almost seems that the author has tried to do a bit of everything but has been restrained because of size limits. The same limits probably also explain the relative lack of in-depth discussion about the main theme - a theme that in itself could have been the subject of a 200 to 300 pages book...

A good, solid introduction that is easily accessible to all, and which I certainly recommend to read (and enjoyed reading!), despite my two little gripes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the wars of Alexander’s Successors, 13 Mar 2013
By 
Gareth Simon (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Paperback)
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. Of course, people had chosen not to play a part in the public life of their cities before – they were known as ‘idiotai’, the remote origin of our word ”idiot” – but as the Hellenistic period progressed, fewer citizens played a significant part in the political life of the city and larger numbers gained more of a private life, and hence the context within which the value of the individual might be recognised (pp52-53)”. Another section notes the beginning of the recognition of women as individuals with rights, as opposed to being in effect the property of their male relatives or husbands.

Further reading:
Alexander the Great Failure: The Collapse of the Macedonian Empire (Hambledon Continuum)
The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323 - 281 BC: Commanders and Campaigns v. 1
Hellenistic and Roman Naval Warfare 336BC - 31BC
Great Battles of the Hellenistic World
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexander, 25 April 2013
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This review is from: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Paperback)
Brillant, a great understanding of what happened when Alexander died and how his shortlived Empire crumbled as his generals fought each other in a murderous contest to size what they could. The eventually successor states of Egypt, Syria and Macedonia dominated the Middle East until the arrival of the Romans.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent description of a complex period, 23 Dec 2013
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A well written account of the first successors and the foundation of the Hellenistic kingdoms that would survive until the coming of Rome. The author mostly succeeds in describing this complex food, there are numerous characters here. One problem with the kindle is it is relatively more difficult to flip back and forth to pages with maps or family trees, this can be an issue with a work like this, covering a vast Geographic area, using archaic names. I only have three criticisms: the author occasional makes preferable to modern recent historical events which can be distracting; the author states that the successors were tolerant of the native populations, then later mentions how several were persecuted; the author uses the BCE / AC dating system which I find very irritating. Overall a good read, recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 14 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Paperback)
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 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, 15 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Paperback)
It is interesting to see how the rivals needed a strong leader to hold them together however after Alexander this almost but never happened.
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Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire
Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire by Robin Waterfield (Paperback - 2 Aug 2012)
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