I finished reading The Genius of Alexander by N.G.L. Hammond (ISBN 0807823503) and ended up with mixed feelings. To me, Alexander the Great simply is a genius and I was curious to hear what Hammond's arguments on the subject would be. He seems to be an authority on Macedonian history, but I found him rather disappointing since he did little to nothing to explain where he saw Alexander's genius. Yet, who am I to question him? There are however several statements where I put a question mark as I don’t know what to think. Maybe there is someone out there who can help me?
1. After settling the interior conflicts of Greece after Philip’s death, Alexander conducted sacrifices to Zeus and organized a lavish feast constructing a huge tent with one hundred couches for his friends and commanders. Hammond says this was held at Aegae, while I am sure it was at Dion as I have read the billboard out there myself. Unless there were two celebrations?
2. Hammond writes about Alexander, “He must have been much influenced by his paternal grandmother Eurydice, who as Queen Mother was held in the highest esteem”. This is new to me. Where could this information come from?
3. He also claims that Alexander called himself Lord of Asia as soon as he crossed the Hellespont! In my mind that happened only after Gaugamela. I doubt that Alexander himself would have used this title for why else would he have gone after Darius who was still at large? That doesn’t make sense, does it?
4. A last remark about food transportation, and this happens in the chapter where Alexander is going to cross the Hindu Kush. The army had “to purchase or requisition a huge stock of basic supplies, which were transported on four-wheeled wagons, drawn by horses, mules or oxen”. He confirms that the Macedonians and the Thracians had a long history of road building and that the Persian Empire had its own roads (of course), but he makes it appear as if Alexander paved the world where there were no roads! It was Philip who kicked out all carts from the army to start with, and Alexander followed in his footsteps, I’m sure. That Alexander took advantage of existing Persian roads where available sounds logical, but I would not write that he used four-wheeled wagons as a standard means of transportation, and definitely not when he is on his way to cross the Hindu Kush.
This book leaves me with lots of questions. The most interesting part is, however, at the end when Hammond makes up the balance with the worldwide consequences of Alexander’s conquests. But then Arrian has done this before him; Hammond only puts it in a 21st century context, that's all.