The Legacy of Alexander. Politics, Warfare, and Propaganda under the Successors by A.B. Bosworth. (ISBN 978-0799285150)
The years and decades after the untimely death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC always have been very confusing to me as only forty years later or so the endless bickering and mutual envy seems to have subsided when the world conquered by Alexander was finally divided in four major territories between Lysimachos, Cassander, Seleucos and Ptolemy.
Bosworth has taken on the huge task to shed a clear light on these confusing times and he deserves all the merit and appreciation one can imagine. He must have spent many a sleepless night in the process of putting this book together!
He starts with the Babylonian Settlement, i.e. the agreement made among Alexander’s generals shortly after his death. This was not an easy matter for not all commanders were in Babylon at the time. Craterus, for instance, was underway to relieve Antipater as Regent and with him was an army of 15,000 veterans, all of Macedonian stock and dedicated entirely to their dead king. Bosworth also analyses how many men in the split armies are still true Macedonians as everyone of them has his say in the matter of Alexander’s succession – with quite amazing results.
Here like in the following chapters, Bosworth quotes all the writers from antiquity that he can lay hands on and not only the most obvious ones like Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus and Curtius but many, many others whose names I often hear for the first time. He then compares notes to sift out the most plausible truth and timing of the events, adding opinions and perspectives from any and every contemporary author he can find. A colossal job!
After that, he focuses on the campaigns in Persia with its turbulent satraps, followed by a detailed account of the situation in India and the nomads of Nabataea. Each territory has its own complex structure and I can’t help wondering how Alexander would have tackled these problems had he still been alive. But then his intervention may not have been necessary for now each of his generals is fighting his fellow commander over all sorts of land disputes that would not have existed otherwise. The rise of Seleucos and the precarious rule of Lysimachos are clearly highlighted and this thorough analysis ends with a chapter about the Hellenistic Monarchy, its success and its legitimacy, starting around 306 BC. It seems that this is the time when the second generation of commanders is taking matters in hand, except for Seleucos and Ptolemy who by now have settled within their own boundaries and are merely left alone by the others.
The book concludes with a very handy chronology of events running from 323 BC to 311 BC, showing a parallel of what happened in Europe and in Asia at the same time - a most helpful tool to keep track of battlefields, rulers and constant changes of power.
I highly recommend this precious reading to anyone who is looking for a clear and thorough sketch of the difficult years that followed Alexander’s death. However, I would like to add that a good basic knowledge of Alexander’s life will be very helpful.