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Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 B.C.

Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 B.C.: A Historical Biography

PETER GREEN
Foreword by Eugene N. Borza
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 672
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt2855mn
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    Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 B.C.
    Book Description:

    Until recently, popular biographers and most scholars viewed Alexander the Great as a genius with a plan, a romantic figure pursuing his vision of a united world. His dream was at times characterized as a benevolent interest in the brotherhood of man, sometimes as a brute interest in the exercise of power. Green, a Cambridge-trained classicist who is also a novelist, portrays Alexander as both a complex personality and a single-minded general, a man capable of such diverse expediencies as patricide or the massacre of civilians. Green describes his Alexander as "not only the most brilliant (and ambitious) field commander in history, but also supremely indifferent to all those administrative excellences and idealistic yearnings foisted upon him by later generations, especially those who found the conqueror, tout court, a little hard upon their liberal sensibilities." This biography begins not with one of the universally known incidents of Alexander's life, but with an account of his father, Philip of Macedonia, whose many-territoried empire was the first on the continent of Europe to have an effectively centralized government and military. What Philip and Macedonia had to offer, Alexander made his own, but Philip and Macedonia also made Alexander form an important context for understanding Alexander himself. Yet his origins and training do not fully explain the man. After he was named hegemon of the Hellenic League, many philosophers came to congratulate Alexander, but one was conspicuous by his absence: Diogenes the Cynic, an ascetic who lived in a clay tub. Piqued and curious, Alexander himself visited the philosopher, who, when asked if there was anything Alexander could do for him, made the famous reply, "Don't stand between me and the sun." Alexander's courtiers jeered, but Alexander silenced them: "If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes." This remark was as unexpected in Alexander as it would be in a modern leader. For the general reader, the book, redolent with gritty details and fully aware of Alexander's darker side, offers a gripping tale of Alexander's career. Full backnotes, fourteen maps, and chronological and genealogical tables serve readers with more specialized interests.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95469-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Eugene N. Borza

    In a revealing autobiographical interview published in the newsletter of the Classical Association of Iowa, Peter Green once described himself as “basically I’m a writer.” He went on to quote Hamlet’s response to the question “What do you study, my lord?” Hamlet replied, “Words, words, words.” Words indeed! And for Green not only English words, but words in Latin, ancient and modern Greek, German, Italian, and French. He trained as a classicist at the renowned Charterhouse public school, but several years of military service with British armed forces in the Far East during World War II interrupted his formal education....

  4. Preface to the 2012 Edition
    (pp. xv-xxii)
    Peter Green
  5. Preface to the 1991 Reprint
    (pp. xxiii-xxviii)
    Peter Green
  6. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xxix-xxxii)
    Peter Green
  7. List of Maps and Battle Plans
    (pp. xxxiii-xxxiv)
  8. Key to Abbreviations
    (pp. xxxv-xliv)
  9. Table of Dates
    (pp. xlv-l)
  10. 1 Philip of Macedon
    (pp. 1-34)

    The story of Alexander the Great is inexorably bound up with that of his father, King Philip II, and with his country, Macedonia. Philip was a most remarkable and dominating figure in his own right; while Macedonia, as has recently been observed,¹ ‘was the first large territorial state with an effectively centralized political, military and administrative structure to come into being on the continent of Europe’. Unless we understand this, and them, Alexander’s career must remain for us no more than the progress of a comet, flaring in unparalleled majesty across the sky: a marvel, but incomprehensible. Genius Alexander had,...

  11. 2 The Gardens of Midas
    (pp. 35-65)

    On the night of Alexander’s birth, tradition alleged, the temple of Artemis was burnt down. The local Persian Magi interpreted this as an omen of further disasters to come. They ‘ran about beating their faces and crying aloud that woe and great calamity for Asia had that day been born’, a firebrand that was destined to destroy the entire East. The night before her wedding, similarly, Olympias dreamed she was penetrated by a thunderbolt, so that fire gushed out of her womb, spreading far and wide before it was extinguished. A month or two later Philip also had a dream:...

  12. 3 From a View to a Death
    (pp. 66-110)

    Alexander’s schooldays were over. From now on the young crown prince was to be trained in a harder school, and with greater responsibilities, than even Isocrates would have dared to prescribe. This may well have been a deliberate ‘hardening’ policy on Philip’s part. Both he and Olympias (according to Theophrastus)¹ were worried by, among other things, the boy’s lack of heterosexual interests. They feared he might be turning out a girlish invert (gynnis), and even went so far as to procure a beautiful Thessalian courtesan named Callixeina to help develop his manly nature. Olympias herself, we are told, frequently begged...

  13. 4 The Keys of the Kingdom
    (pp. 111-151)

    As soon as Philip’s body had been removed from the arena, and some degree of order restored, Antipater, with admirable speed, presented Alexander before the Macedonian army, which at once acclaimed him king.¹ Among the first barons to render the new monarch homage was his namesake, Alexander of Lyncestis, one of the three sons of Aëropus. It is sometimes assumed by scholars that Aëropus’ sons themselves had a plausible claim to the throne. Such a view has lately been challenged,² with very compelling arguments. It is far from certain whether these Lyncestian brothers were in fact of royal stock; they...

  14. 5 The Captain–General
    (pp. 152-181)

    Having thus summarily dealt with the Greek revolt, Alexander left the smoking ruins of Thebes behind him, and hurried back north to Pella. There was much to be done, and little enough time in which to do it. His arrival seems to have been marked by fresh purges, this time of Cleopatra’s more highly placed relatives: clearly he was taking no chances while abroad.¹ Parmenio was recalled from Asia Minor: as Philip’s best and most experienced general, he was to become Alexander’s second-in-command. If the king could have found anyone else for the job he almost certainly would have done...

  15. 6 The Road to Issus
    (pp. 182-235)

    At the outset of his campaign, how far ahead had Alexander planned, and how clear-cut were the policies which he envisaged? This is a perennially debated point, to which there can be no final answer. At one time it was fashionable to credit him with ‘firm long-range intentions and sweeping general policies’; now it is more commonly accepted that ‘he almost certainly had no idea how far he would go or what the end would be’.¹ But the Persian Empire, as he well knew, was a vast conglomeration, stretching from the Red Sea to the Caspian, from the Hellespont to...

  16. 7 Intimations of Immortality
    (pp. 236-296)

    Hour after hour Darius kept up his headlong flight, over bad mountain roads, in pitch darkness, accompanied only by a few staff officers and attendants, determined to put as many miles between himself and Alexander as he could before daybreak. Next morning he was joined by other disorganized groups of fugitives, including some 4,000 Greek mercenaries. With this scratch force he rode on eastward, never slackening rein until he had crossed the Euphrates and reached Babylon (Arrian 2.13.1; QC 4.1.1–3; Diod. 17.39.1). The Great King was, for the moment, a very frightened man. He clearly expected Alexander to be...

  17. 8 The Lord of Asia
    (pp. 297-349)

    The oracle at Gordium had foretold that Alexander would become ‘lord of Asia’ – that is, king of the Persian Empire and Darius’ legitimate successor. It was thus, somewhat prematurely, that he had bidden Darius address him when they exchanged letters. After Gaugamela the claim looked a good deal more plausible. As Plutarch says, ‘the empire of the Persians was thought to be thoroughly dissolved’. Alexander made his wishes known to the army, which thereupon acclaimed him ‘lord of Asia’ as part of the victory celebrations. Thus Gaugamela marked a turning-point for Alexander in more ways than one. The Greeks,...

  18. 9 The Quest for Ocean
    (pp. 350-411)

    It was winter by the time Alexander resumed his march. If he had simply wanted to pursue Bessus, with no other considerations in mind, he could have back-tracked north to the point where he left the Murghab (or the Kushk) River, and then have continued his advance on Zariaspa. Instead, he swung north-east through Arachosia, which meant that he would now be forced to cross the Hindu Kush. His main reason for picking this long, difficult route seems to have been the still-unpacified state of the southern satrapies, including Arachosia itself. Dissension, indeed, was widespread. No sooner had he set...

  19. 10 How Many Miles to Babylon?
    (pp. 412-488)

    Alexander’s return march to the Jhelum began in autumn 326. While the army lay at the Chenab, a fresh embassy arrived from Abisares, with thirty elephants and other rare gifts. Once again the rajah of Kashmir failed to present himself in person: this time he pleaded illness as an excuse. (The illness may have been more than diplomatic, since a year later Abisares was dead.) Alexander, however, proved surprisingly lenient. He not only accepted the rajah’s apologies, but confirmed him as governor of his own ‘province’. In point of fact there was little else he could do. To whip Abisares...

  20. Appendix: Propaganda at the Granicus
    (pp. 489-512)
  21. Notes and References
    (pp. 513-568)
  22. Sources of Information
    (pp. 569-585)
  23. Genealogical Table
    (pp. 586-588)
  24. General Index
    (pp. 589-617)