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 Dragiana/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 OR 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 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)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Alexander the Great by Robin Lane Fox

For several years, I used Robin Lane Fox’s Alexander the Great (ISBN 0-141-02076-8) as a reference book but it is not until now that I really read it cover to cover. It turned out to be a most captivating experience.

Before writing down my own impressions on this book, I looked at previous comments made by other purchasers on Amazon and I am truly appalled to see it qualified as “very badly written” and “hard to understand”. This is not a novel and cannot be compared to Manfredi’s tales. On the contrary, this is a serious work in which Robin Lane Fox put his entire heart and soul, together with his thorough knowledge of one of the most enigmatic persons who ever lived.

The book is not a quick history of Alexander’s life and conquests but an in-depth study of his actions set against the background of the world he lived in and to which he had to adapt time and again as he met other civilizations and foreign tribes during his march east.

While the author follows Alexander’s steps, he often stops to analyze the whole context and to place the story against the background which the king encountered. It is so easy to judge Alexander based on our own experiences but to judge him in the frame of so many new elements and circumstances is a totally different matter.

For instance, Robin Lane Fox takes the time to explain the Macedonian military machine and armory as put into place by Philip, Alexander’s father. He does the same for Persia where he highlights the court system and the complexity of its government – most of it not unknown to Alexander but an aspect that is more often than not skipped in our western literature. He explains Persian customs and court protocol, including the meaning of being the “King of kings”. He also reminds us of the fact that Alexander had no maps and no more directions to guide him than what Herodotus had written in his Histories (something like the maps of the stars used by the first astronauts flying to the moon in the 1960s).

Although some parts of Alexander’s march east are passed by quickly, the author certainly takes the time to discuss the main events. There is, for instance, Siwah, where he not only describes the voyage and Alexander’s reception by the priests but also the significance of the god Amon and the idea behind the title “son of Amon”. Lane Fox also analyses the battles of Issus and Gaugamela including Alexander’s preparations but also looks at the tactics from Darius point of view. The Philotas’ Affair implicating his father, Parmenion, as well as the conspiracy of the Pages and the murder of Cleitus are discussed extensively and weighed up against the circumstances and the irrefutable evidence with which Alexander was confronted. Other battles and sieges, especially the attack of the Aornos Rock, the decisive Battle on the Hydaspes and the Mallian fight in which Alexander is deadly wounded are clearly explained with all pros and cons. And let us not forget the mutiny of Alexander’s Macedonians at the Hyphasis and at Opis – how masterly the king addressed his men in both cases.

It is clear that Robin Lane Fox has a great admiration for Alexander and it shows but he also approaches this great king without prejudice and with a great effort to merely analyzing the facts. Considering that Alexander covered almost 20,000 kilometers in eight years coping with battles and sieges, crossing the widest rivers and the highest mountains, taking the responsibility to feed and care for one hundred thousand of people if we include the baggage train, Robin Lane Fox did an extremely good job to present Alexander as a human being, king, general and faithful friend.

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