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 in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 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)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Sieges of Alexander the Great by Stephen English


The Sieges of Alexander the Great (ISBN 184884060-8) is an interesting book although not one that really sticks to your mind. It handles not so much about Alexander’s strategies but takes a close-up look at his siege technology: catapults, rams, ladders, siege towers, sappers and even his naval siege equipment. A matter of detail, one may think but details that really matter and demand serious consideration.

It never occurred to me, for instance, that the ladders used for a siege could not be higher than three-four meters simply because that was the maximum height of the trees used for their construction. By logical deduction this means that in case of such an attack the city walls cannot have been higher than those three-four meters, unless the wall had been breached and the ladders were used to climb over the debris. In my mind, any city wall would be at least three to five stories high – probably due to common images I have of medieval towns – but that would imply a height of seven to twelve meters which the Macedonian ladders could not reach. That explains why catapults and siege towers were so important, I understand now.

English describes a number of interesting siege details, referring mainly to the texts of Arrian and Curtius Rufus. He analyzes the exact meaning or bearing of their story adding comments made mainly by other modern writers like A.B. Bosworth, David Engels (Logistics) or Aurel Stein. Not very original, is it? What I miss however is a map of Alexander's conquests, not that I don't know the story but it would have been helpful to pinpoint the sites of the sieges all along the route.

In my opinion however, English often is too black-and-white in his conclusions. On one hand he praises Alexander because he is the first ever to use this or that military equipment or technique, while on the other hand he condemns him without mercy if he fails to act as a “perfect” commander. This is the case for instance at Tyre when Alexander is building the first mole to connect the island to the mainland and is being attacked by the enemy fleet - a failure according to English, for Alexander should have expected and prevented such an attack. My personal belief is that Alexander most certainly will have considered this possibility but has not acted on it for reasons unknown to us. We have no way knowing what was going on in Alexander’s mind, have we? English also likes to repeat previous remarks or conclusions, which I find annoying for I feel as if I were treated like a child. Well, my modest opinion, of course, for all in all this book is not unpleasant reading.

The Sieges of Alexander the Great is in fact the second book of a trilogy by Stephen English. In Book 1, The Army of Alexander the Great, he takes a close look at Alexander’s army, and in Book 3, The Field Campaigns of Alexander the Great, he analyzes his battlefields.

Also available as e-Book (click here)

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