Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Alexander the Great and his Empire by Pierre Briant

Alexander the Great and his Empire (ISBN 9780691141947) certainly is an all-encompassing title covering every aspect of the person of Alexander and of the Empire he created, although for the purpose of making the reading easier Pierre Briant has divided his book in a handful of chapters:
  • A brief overview of Alexander’s major conquests;
  • Alexander’s objectives (not only his pothos as reported by Arrian);
  • The resistance Alexander met during his different conquests;
  • How Alexander administered and exploited his new conquests;
  • Alexander’s changing relations with the Macedonians, the Greeks and the Persians;
  • A few words about Alexander’s succession.
At the end of this highly interesting book, he inserted an Appendix summarizing the current state of scholarship and several hints for future research on this vast subject.

In short, Pierre Briant gives the reader a fully up-to-date account of what has been written and excavated about Alexander the Great. His book dates from 2005 (in French) and was translated and updated again in 2010 by nobody less than Amélie Kuhrt.

Up to now, I was familiar with Pierre Briant’s “Alexander the Great, Man of Action/Man of Spirit where he skillfully manages to give a complete insight into the life of this Macedonian King with endless details, although here the history is being summarized. In a way, he has done the same in his present book, depicting Alexander against the Achaemenid Persians on one side and against the Macedonians on the other side, both within his army and on the home front.

For instance, he underlines the threat of a revolt in Greece led by Sparta, a realistic fear for Alexander as it might coincide with a major Persian attack during the years 333-331 BC where he would be caught in the middle. He puts history back in its own context, including the position of King Darius who was a worthy opponent rather than a coward as so often related in other tales.

Or the fact that Alexander always tried to gain the support of the elite of the lands he conquered – a crucial aspect of his strategy where he gladly copied Cyrus the Great. He aimed at a full cooperation between the conquerors and the conquered as proven by an astronomical clay-tablet found in Babylon – something his contemporaries didn’t understand and neither do our modern authors.

Pierre Briant also sheds a new light on the Philotas Affair, which may simply have originated in his Companion’s opposition to Persian customs rather than from a conspiracy, adding that by 330 BC even Parmenion no longer served Alexander’s needs. Another eye-opener I find is about the Opis Mutiny when Alexander sent the veterans home while the real grudge may well have been the fact that the army wanted to go home altogether and with their King.

Even about Alexander’s succession Pierre Briant has an interesting remark: If Alexander had produced an heir before leaving for Asia, the boy (assuming it would have been a boy) would have been ten years old by the time of his death in Babylon in 323 BC. The problem to appoint a successor would have been the same, meaning that a joint kingship of his half-brother Arrhidaeus and the boy (like now with his son by Roxane) would have been inevitable.

He also stops at the idea that is generally developed that Alexander aimed to create a universal brotherhood. Although he evened the gap between Greeks (read “civilized”) and Barbarians, Pierre Briant stresses Alexander’s remarkable political intelligence and his wish to take lasting long-term decisions. Another astonishing fact is that Alexander managed in two years time (324-323 BC) to reorganize his army, creating an entirely new joint Macedonian and Persian force. 

A treasure of information and a most pleasant reading as can be expected from this author. Personally, I found his updated map of Alexander’s conquest highly interesting, especially the enlargement of his march through Bactria and Sogdiana (at last a clear outline of his route to go by!). In short, this book is a must on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to read a serious study of Alexander the Great.

Also available as an e-book

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