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Alexander the Great and His Empire

Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction

Pierre Briant
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 216
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    Alexander the Great and His Empire
    Book Description:

    This is the first publication in English of Pierre Briant's classic short history of Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian empire, from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. Eschewing a conventional biographical focus, this is the only book in any language that sets the rise of Alexander's short-lived empire within the broad context of ancient Near Eastern history under Achaemenid Persian rule, as well as against Alexander's Macedonian background. As a renowned historian of both the Macedonians and the Persians, Briant is uniquely able to assess Alexander's significance from the viewpoint of both the conquerors and the conquered, and to trace what changed and what stayed the same as Alexander and the Hellenistic world gained ascendancy over Darius's Persia.

    After a short account of Alexander's life before his landing in Asia Minor, the book gives a brief overview of the major stages of his conquest. This background sets the stage for a series of concise thematic chapters that explore the origins and objectives of the conquest; the nature and significance of the resistance it met; the administration, defense, and exploitation of the conquered lands; the varying nature of Alexander's relations with the Macedonians, Greeks, and Persians; and the problems of succession following Alexander's death.

    For this translation, Briant has written a new foreword and conclusion, updated the main text and the thematic annotated bibliography, and added a substantial appendix in which he assesses the current state of scholarship on Alexander and suggests some directions for future research. More than ever, this masterful work provides an original and important perspective on Alexander and his empire.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3486-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Translator’s Note
    (pp. ix-x)
    A. K.
  5. Foreword to the American Edition
    (pp. xi-xx)
    Pierre Briant

    The first edition of this book was published in 1974 in Paris by the Presses Universitaires de France in its well-known seriesQue-sais-je?(no. 622), replacing an earlier book with the same title by Paul Cloché, which had appeared in 1954. Since then there have been five new French editions (published between 1976 and 2005), as well as translations into several European languages (Italian, Danish, Swedish, Bulgarian-Macedonian, Romanian, Greek, Portuguese-Brazilian), as well as Chinese and Japanese.

    In terms of structure and basic ideas, the present book is very similar to the one published in French in 1974. I remain committed...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  7. Introduction Alexander before the Expedition to Asia Minor (356–334)
    (pp. 1-6)

    Alexander was born in July 356 at Pella, capital of the Macedonian kingdom.¹ His parents were Olympias, daughter of the king of the Molossians, and Philip II, king of Macedon since the death of King Perdiccas in 359. Much has been written about Alexander’s psychological heritage, but it is impossible to determine with any certainty which aspects of his character he inherited from his parents, still less which came from one parent rather than the other. His first teacher was Leonidas, a kinsman of Olympias, who had a team of tutors under his direction. When Leonidas’s brutal methods did not...

  8. Chapter I The Major Stages of the Conquest (334–323)
    (pp. 7-23)

    This chapter is no more than a narrative and chronological introduction, in a very stripped down form. In my discussion of each of the major stages, I am indebted on the one hand to Arrian’s chapters, which remain fundamental to all reconstructions of events, and, on the other, to current historical commentaries on Arrian (Bosworth), Quintus-Curtius (Atkinson), Justin (Yardley-Heckel), and Plutarch (Hamilton).

    The landing took place in spring 334, with the Persians apparently making no attempt to use their maritime superiority. The satraps of Asia Minor drew up their army on the bank of the Granicus, where they were defeated...

  9. Chapter II The Origins and Objectives of the Conquest
    (pp. 24-41)

    No sooner do we broach the question of Alexander’s projects and aims than we enter a territory that is very poorly sign-posted. The ancient sources outdo each other in the superlatives extolling Alexander’s ambition and the enthusiasm for conquest with which he treads in the footsteps of his “divine ancestors.” But not a single writer considers the question that most exercises the modern historian: What exactly was Alexander’s objective? We read, for example: “In early spring Alexander marched to the Hellespont. . . .”¹ or “Alexander assembled his military commanders and his noblest Friends and put forward for discussion the...

  10. Chapter III Resistance to the Conquest
    (pp. 42-66)

    Neither Alexander’s steadfast advance nor his ultimate success should mislead one into thinking that his campaign proceeded smoothly, with no setbacks. On the contrary, he had to cope with prolonged resistance from Darius and the Achaemenid forces (334–330). The danger was increased by the very real possibility that a revolt in European Greece might coincide with the Persian counterattacks (333–331). During the three years following Darius’s death (330–327), the Macedonian army faced the threat of defeat in Bactria and Sogdiana. At the same time, opposition developed among the Macedonian nobility, as well as growing reluctance among rank...

  11. Chapter IV The Administration, Defense, and Exploitation of the Conquered Lands
    (pp. 67-100)

    When we look at the material that is available to us on the empire’s administration and the policies Alexander adopted, we find ourselves engaging with a question that has been raised more than any other since antiquity. Was Alexander always led by the demands of war and conquest and by a taste for them, or was he also aware of the need to consider what Xenophon (Oikon.IV.4–25) called “the works of peace”? Xenophon created the prototype of such a ruler, a Great King who was as much concerned with maintaining peace and developing the prosperity of his lands...

  12. Chapter V Alexander among Macedonians, Greeks, and Iranians
    (pp. 101-138)

    In the rhetorical text he dedicated to Alexander’s glory (De Fortuna Alexandri), Plutarch tried to account for Alexander’s decision to adopt the Persian kings’ official dress. His explanation is imaginative and rich in picturesque detail:

    When men hunt wild animals, they put on the skins of deer, and when they go to catch birds, they dress in tunics adorned with plumes and feathers; they are careful not to be seen by bulls when they have on red garments, nor by elephants when dressed in white; for these animals are provoked and made savage by the sight of those particular colours....

  13. Conclusion The King Is Dead! Long Live the King?
    (pp. 139-144)

    Drawing up a balance sheet of Alexander’s achievements as of June 323 is difficult, perhaps even impossible. We can see that a substantial number of problems were beginning to arise at the very moment when the Arabian expedition was about to get under way. There were, for example, disturbances within the Greek cities, and there was resistance to his project of reaching an entente with the elites of the former empire of his defeated and assassinated adversary. Should we perhaps conclude that Alexander’s conquests had reached a historical impasse?

    This is one of the current historiographical trends, and is on...

  14. An Introductory Bibliography
    (pp. 145-152)
  15. Appendix The History of Alexander Today: A Provisional Assessment and Some Future Directions
    (pp. 153-186)
  16. Index of Toponyms
    (pp. 187-189)
  17. General Index
    (pp. 190-192)