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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and well written look at a key element of Alexander's military career.
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This is the second entry in a three book series looking at the career of Alexander the Great, and comes between the first volume, on his army, and the third, which will look at his field campaigns and battles (although it...
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars siege techniques
The Sieges of Alexander the Great is an interesting book although not one that really sticks to your mind. It handles not so much about Alexander's strategies but takes a close-up look at his siege technology: catapults, rams, ladders, siege towers, sappers and even his naval siege equipment. A matter of detail, one may think but details that really matter and demand...
Published on 17 Nov. 2011 by Argyraspid


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and well written look at a key element of Alexander's military career., 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Sieges of Alexander the Great (Hardcover)
The perfect companion for all military history enthusiasts is: THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

This is the second entry in a three book series looking at the career of Alexander the Great, and comes between the first volume, on his army, and the third, which will look at his field campaigns and battles (although it isn't necessary to read book one before coming to this one). Alexander's career was littered with famous sieges, from the attack on Tyre that turned it from an island into a peninsula, to the attacks on mountain top fortresses on the eastern fringes of the Persian Empire - indeed he fought many more sieges than major battles.

English starts with a look at the development of siege weapons during this period, including the first use of torsion powered catapults, a technological breakthrough which ended a period in which strong stone walls had been seen as impervious to attack. Alexander was thus able to take advantage of a technological leap to attack some of the strongest fortifications in the Ancient World, without having to rely on starvation or trickery.

English is willing to acknowledge the limits of our sources, none of which are contemporary with Alexander (rather ironically considering how concerned Alexander was with the historical record). In several cases the main sources disagree on the details of events, and we are presented with both versions as well as the author's views. This ensures that we are aware of the amount of uncertainty in any study of Alexander.

English is also willing to admit to Alexander's failings and his willingness to learn from them - mistakes being made as late as the famous siege of Tyre, where Alexander failed to protect his own siege works.

This is a well researched and well written look at a key element of Alexander's military career, making it clear where we can't be sure about exactly what happened, while at the same time putting forward credible and well argued suggestions for the most likely course of events
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars siege techniques, 17 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: The Sieges of Alexander the Great (Hardcover)
The Sieges of Alexander the Great is an interesting book although not one that really sticks to your mind. It handles not so much about Alexander's strategies but takes a close-up look at his siege technology: catapults, rams, ladders, siege towers, sappers and even his naval siege equipment. A matter of detail, one may think but details that really matter and demand serious consideration.

It never occurred to me, for instance, that the ladders used for a siege could not be higher than three-four meter simply because that was the maximum height of the trees used for their construction. By logical deduction this means that in case of such an attack the city walls cannot have been higher than those three-four meters, unless the wall had been breached and the ladders were used to climb over the debris. In my mind, any city wall would be at least three to five stories high - probably due to common images I have of medieval towns - but that would imply a height of seven to twelve meters which the Macedonian ladders could not reach. That explains why catapults and siege towers were so important, I understand now.

English describes a number of interesting siege details, referring mainly to the texts of Arrian and Curtius Rufus. He analyzes the exact meaning or bearing of their story adding comments made mainly by other modern writers like A.B. Bosworth, David Engels (Logistics) or Aurel Stein. Not very original, is it?

In my opinion however, English often is too back-and-white in his conclusions. On one hand he praises Alexander because he is the first ever to use this or that military equipment or technique, while on the other hand he condemns him without mercy if he fails to act as a "perfect" commander. This is the case for instance at Tyre when Alexander is building the first mole to connect the island to the mainland and is being attacked by the enemy fleet - a failure according to English, for Alexander should have expected and prevented such an attack. My personal belief is that Alexander most certainly will have considered this possibility but has not acted on it for reasons unknown to us. We have no way knowing what was going on in Alexander's mind, have we? English also likes to repeat previous remarks or conclusions, which I find annoying for I feel as if I were treated like a child. Well, my modest opinion, of course, for all in all this book is not unpleasant reading.

The Sieges of Alexander the Great is in fact the second book of a trilogy by Stephen English. In Book 1, The Army of Alexander the Great, he takes a close look at Alexander's army, and in Book 3, The Field Campaigns of Alexander the Great, he analyzes his battlefields.
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The Sieges of Alexander the Great
The Sieges of Alexander the Great by Stephen English (Hardcover - 18 Mar. 2010)
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