Alexander (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]


In Alexander, Theodore Ayrault Dodge lays out a detailed account of Alexander's spectacular life and supplies a vivid reconstruction of all of the major battles Alexander fought in his short but successful march of conquest. Dodge amply illustrates through this detailed history of the nature of warfare in the ancient world why both his contemporaries and later historians and soldiers held up Alexander as being one of the greatest commanders of all time.
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Alexander (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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In Alexander, Theodore Ayrault Dodge lays out a detailed account of Alexander's spectacular life and supplies a vivid reconstruction of all of the major battles Alexander fought in his short but successful march of conquest. Dodge amply illustrates through this detailed history of the nature of warfare in the ancient world why both his contemporaries and later historians and soldiers held up Alexander as being one of the greatest commanders of all time.
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Meet the Author

Theodore Ayrault Dodge was the paramount American military historian of the nineteenth century and an unparalleled biographer of some of history's greatest commanders and generals. Dodge fought in the Union Army in some of the Civil War's fiercest and costliest engagements, until he lost his right leg at Gettysburg. These experiences provided him with insights on the realities of warfare that are sometimes lacking in the work of purely academic or "armchair" military historians.
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The image, reinforced by epic movies and television shows, is a familiar one. The handsome, dashing, young king whose military genius and bravery conquered the known world and who tragically died just as his ambitions were turning from conquest to the consolidation of his vast, sprawling, multi-national empire. In a modern world that has become accustomed to success and fame coming early to the young and talented, Alexander the Great still endures as one of history's most admired and emulated leaders. Even in an era of dot-com millionaires, thirty-year-old corporate titans and prime ministers who have barely left graduate school, his story is unique and compelling and marks him as an individual who possessed extraordinary talents. He started life as the prince of a kingdom that was poorly regarded and resented by its neighbors, but he was able, by force of personality and outstanding military abilities, to conquer what was then seen as the civilized world in only thirteen years, before dying at the age of only thirty-three. Alexander was not only seen by many of his contemporaries as being exceptional. Historians and soldiers throughout history have consistently ranked him at the top of the list of the greatest military strategists and tacticians the world has ever seen. In his role as both a warrior and a general, Alexander enjoyed an enviable combination of great personal bravery, physical strength and endurance, skill at arms, and a charismatic personality. These qualities were coupled to an insightful and analytical mind that possessed strategic vision and an uncompromising dedication to achieving long-term goals and objectives. Alexander, who commanded his first army at only sixteen years of age, honed the already battle-tested Macedonian army that he inherited from his father, Phillip II, into the most agile, hard-hitting and effective military force of his era. The power and effectiveness of his soldiers were amply demonstrated in a string of stunning victories over numerically superior foes, victories which won for Alexander an empire the scope of which the world had never seen before. In Alexander: A History of the Origin and Growth of the Art of War from the Earliest Times to the Battle of Ipsus, 301 BC, With a Detailed Account of the Campaigns, Theodore Ayrault Dodge lays out a detailed account of Alexander's spectacular life and supplies a vivid reconstruction of all of the major battles Alexander fought in his short but successful march of conquest. Dodge amply illustrates through this detailed history of the nature of warfare in the ancient world why Alexander was held up by both his contemporaries and by later historians and soldiers as being one of the greatest commanders of all time. In only eleven short years, beginning with his sacking of the Greek city state of Thebes and followed by his crossing of the Hellespont to invade Asia, he conquered the superpower of his era, the Persian Empire. It was his military conquest coupled to an unusual sensitivity to the cultures and values of his defeated enemies that provided the catalyst and the vehicle for the spread of Hellenism, and with it the values of Greek civilization, throughout the Near East and Central Asia. By embracing local cultures and blending them with that of classical Greece, Alexander established a multicultural empire whose values and edifices, such as the city of Alexandria, continued to thrive and prosper long after his death.

Theodore Ayrault Dodge was seen by his contemporaries, as well as by many later historians, as the greatest American military historian of the nineteenth century and an unparalleled biographer of some of history's greatest commanders and generals. Dodge fought in the Union Army in some of the Civil War's fiercest and costliest engagements, through the Seven Days Battle, Second Bull Run, and Chancellorsville, until he lost his right leg at Gettysburg. These experiences provided him with insights on the realities of warfare that are sometimes lacking in the work of purely academic or "armchair" military historians. Dodge was born into an affluent family in Massachusetts in 1842, and he was sent to Europe to broaden his horizons and receive an education. Unusually for an American of his era, this education began with him studying at a military school in Berlin under the tutelage of retired officers of the Prussian army. He then went on to further studies at Heidelberg University and University College, London, graduating in 1861. The outbreak of the Civil War saw his return to the United States, and he enlisted as a private in the New York Volunteer Infantry, serving in every regimental rank with the 101st and later the 119th New York Infantry Regiments in the Army of the Potomac. Dodge was both a brave and perceptive soldier, and his journal On Campaign with the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Journal of Theodore Ayrault Dodge, published well after the war in 1898, offers a harrowing and vivid account of life--and death--in the Army of the Potomac during some of its most arduous and bloody campaigns. Wounded three times in combat, after the loss of his leg, Dodge was judged unfit for further active service. As a result, he was transferred to Washington, D.C., in 1864, and employed in a variety of administrative posts. While working at the War Department, he also studied for an LL.B. degree at Columbia University, which was conferred in 1865. After the end of the war, he continued to serve as a bureau chief in the War Department until 1870, when he retired and began his writing career. He died in 1909 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Dodge was a prolific author, writing a number of classic works of military history and biography: History of the Art of War: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Napoleon (12 volumes, 1890-1907); The Campaign of Chancellorsville (1881); A Bird's Eye View of our Civil War (1883), a detailed but concise account of the conflict; A Chat in the Saddle (1883); Patroclus and Penelope (1885); Riders of Many Lands (1894); and a series of large illustrated volumes titled A History of the Art of War, being lives of Great Captains, including Alexander (2 volumes, 1888), Hannibal (2 volumes, 1889), Caesar (2 volumes, 1892), Gustavus Adolphus (2 volumes, 1896) and Napoleon (4 volumes, 1904-1907). He also lectured extensively on both military history and his own experiences as a soldier in the Civil War and contributed numerous articles to newspapers and magazines.

Dodge authored some of the most readable military histories ever written, with his biographies of famous commanders focusing heavily on the purely military aspects of their lives and character. Dodge devoted only limited attention to such things as the upbringing, family life, and the political environment of his subjects. For example, the fact that Alexander was tutored by the great Greek philosopher Aristotle is given only a passing mention, and the impact of the education Alexander received at the feet of one of history's most original thinkers is hardly explored. Dodge preferred instead to focus on their campaigns, with particular attention given to the course of each of their battles, which he describes in intricate detail. This approach characterizes Alexander, which still ranks as one of the most comprehensive and engaging studies of one of history's greatest conquerors. Dodge was meticulous in his research. Despite the disability of a missing leg, and in an age when railroads were still a novelty in many parts of Europe and almost unknown in many places, and where roads were often little more than dirt tracks, making travel a long and arduous process, Dodge often took the time and trouble required to physically explore the terrain of a campaign or walk over a field of battle. Although such meticulous investigations were often impossible in the case of the widely separated battlefields of Alexander's campaigns in remote and inaccessible regions of Asia, Dodge carefully studied the topography of Alexander's long march of triumph, using the new and detailed maps of the vast region where Alexander campaigned, which only in his time were beginning to appear. But despite such careful research, Dodge is also the first to admit that the many maps that pepper his text are sometimes far from accurate, let alone definitive. He stresses that they are included to illustrate the course of Alexander's wars, not as the final word on their physical locations or difficulties. He even goes so far as to admit that some of the maps may be fictional, as they were drawn up more to conform to the often obscure and contradictory information contained in ancient written accounts rather than the actual topography of the location being described.

Dodge based much of his assessment of the course of Alexander's conquests on a close comparison of the accounts of Alexander's life and conquests that were available from a large number of ancient literary sources. The stature of Alexander as the greatest hero of both Greek and Roman civilizations meant that he suffered from no shortage of texts to pore over and compare and contrast. But Dodge adopted an insightful, pragmatic, and often skeptical approach in his use of the many classical accounts of Alexander's life and campaigns that he uses as source material. While Dodge, in his introduction, gives credit to the informative descriptions contained in many of the primary sources he drew on to write his book, drawing particular attention to the Anabasis of Alexander by Arrian of Nicomedia, throughout his text Dodge is also careful to illustrate where these classical sources conflict, as they often do over the size of the armies involved and the casualties suffered by the combatants. He is also careful to inform the reader that many of these histories, with their emphasis on Alexander's personal bravery in battle or wisdom as a ruler, conform more to the desire of ancient writers to portray the central figure of their narrative as a figure of heroic proportions, rather than any attempt to convey an accurate and dispassionate picture of the real history of the period. While Dodge is not entirely free from the charge that he also produced a hagiography of the great conqueror, his strength is that the focus of the book is on Alexander as a general and the battles that he fought, rather than on his popular image as a youthful, wise, and benevolent ruler. And when it comes to assessing the course of action on the battlefield, Dodge has great confidence in his analytic skills and judgment and is comfortable making detailed assessments of Alexander's strategy, the course of the Macedonian army's military operations, its tactics, equipment, morale, and the quality of the leaders that Alexander appointed to command his army and rule his empire. It is this type of attention to detail, coupled with Dodge's self-confident assertions on a wide variety of issues, that ensures that Alexander, although written at the end of the nineteenth century, remains today a gripping and informative study of a king who not only fought hard to be a great conqueror but also had aspirations to be seen as an enlightened ruler.

As Dodge is at pains to emphasize, Alexander had secured at the time of his untimely death a unique record of conquest and success, one that long inspired rulers and generals, and which more recently has served as an example to entrepreneurs of what intelligence, energy, and dedication can achieve, regardless of age or experience. Alexander enjoyed a record of victories and conquests that has rarely been matched and never surpassed. In a thoughtful and well-written analysis, Dodge shows how Alexander, starting at only twenty, when he ascended to the throne of Phillip of Macedon, his overbearing and bullying father, launched a series of wars that saw his small Greek kingdom defeat the might of the Persian Empire by the time he was twenty-three. When he died ten years later, Alexander's conquests spanned the known world, and he had begun to consolidate a multicultural empire, embracing much of what are now Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, a domain that stretched from the Aegean Sea to the gates of India. Not only did Alexander rule the largest empire the world had yet seen, but he was also worshipped as a god by many of his new subjects.

In Alexander, Dodge focuses on giving detailed accounts of all of Alexander's major battles, showing how he used the tactics and military technology of the Greeks to overcome the much larger but less well-trained and disciplined armies of his opponents. But Dodge does not merely provide a description of the wars that the king himself was engaged in, he also seeks to place them in the larger context of the military history of warfare in the ancient world, and, in particular, the long struggle for supremacy between the Greeks and the Persian Empire, the superpower of the era. The chapters covering this vast sweep of history are informative and help set the scene for Alexander's own campaigns, providing a background that, for their time, was fresh and interesting. To the more informed modern reader, they may appear to be a somewhat superficial examination of a long and complicated series of conflicts. However, taken together with the rest of Dodge's narrative, they clearly show the profound impact and long-term significance of Alexander's conquests and how, in particular, his destruction of the long established Persian Empire must be viewed as a major watershed in world history. Through Dodge's emphasis on the evolution of military technology in the ancient world, we also clearly see how Alexander, by further honing the new weapons and tactics that had first been introduced into the Macedonian army by his father, and as a result of his own innovation in the field of siege warfare, enabled the Macedonian army to develop a more flexible and capable military machine, one that was able to march and fight in all types of terrain and in a wide variety of climatic conditions. He built it into a force that consistently proved itself capable of outfighting its Greek, Persian, and Indian opponents. Indeed, one of book's most interesting elements is the series of original illustrations Dodge commissioned on various aspects of the uniforms, armor, and equipment of Alexander's soldiers.

In this history of Alexander's campaigns, Dodge also shows how Alexander spread the values and culture of the Greeks on the spearpoints of his soldiers. However, he devotes little attention to the ideas that underpinned the Hellenism of the Greece of Alexander's time or the impact of the ideas on the importance of freedom and the individual on the autocratic and repressive societies that Alexander conquered. Instead, the focus is on the clash of armies and the military power that underpinned the rulers of both sides. Furthermore, the book does not attempt to be a rounded biography of Alexander the Great. His complex relationships with his father and mother, the dynamics of his marriage to the Persian princess Roxane and his other two wives, his complicated relationship with the men who made up his personal bodyguard, the Companions, and in particular the issues of Alexander's sexuality that have been raised by recent scholarship, exemplified by his close, lifelong, and what many recent historians have claimed was an intimate friendship with his closest confident, Hephaestion, are barely scratched. Dodge, ever the military historian, and a product of the social mores of the Victorian age, shies away from these types of intimate details. He is far more focused on Alexander's military strategy and tactics, the composition of his army and those of his enemies, and the course of each of Alexander's battles than in any in-depth exploration of the personality behind the conqueror.

Alexander began his military career by first protecting Macedonia against a variety of local tribes who had been engaged in a forlorn struggle against his father's expansionist ambitions. After his father's death, Alexander set about reinforcing, through a swift campaign, his kingdom as the dominant force among the various Greek city states that made up the Hellenic League. Alexander attacked and destroyed the city of Thebes, which had risen in revolt against his rule. After whipping the Greeks into line behind what they viewed as the upstart power of Macedon, a subordinate position to which they were never truly reconciled, Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Anatolia, launching his invasion of the mighty Persian Empire. Alexander met the Persian king, Darius, in battle at the River Granicus and easily defeated him, leading to Darius' assassination by one of his own soldiers and the anointment of Alexander as the new king of Persia.

From the outset, Alexander sought to harness the power and wealth of the Persian Empire for his own plans for further conquests. As part of this consolidation, in 332 BCE, Alexander journeyed to Egypt, where he planned to rest and refit his army. The Egyptians welcomed him as a liberator, as they saw themselves as having suffered greatly under Persian rule. Hoping for more favorable treatment from their new conqueror, the Egyptians were delighted to proclaim Alexander their new pharaoh and, in keeping with ancient custom, also declared him to be a living god. While Alexander accepted both titles, his stature as a god was not one that sat well with the Hellenic component of his army. While in Egypt, to emphasize that a new era in the country's history had begun, he founded the port city of Alexandria, with the intention that it should be a base for the Hellenization of Egyptian society, serving as both a trading center and a seat of learning where Greeks would introduce the locals to the grandeur of their civilization. His relatively gentle treatment of his defeated enemies, and his determination to rule an empire that united both Greeks and Persians as equals, was not always well received by the Macedonians and Greeks of his own army. In a time when soldiers went to war expecting loot and booty from their victories, Alexander's refusal to despoil his new subjects to, as the soldiers saw it, properly reward his veterans for their efforts was a source of continuing friction. It may have contributed to his army's refusal to continue to follow him to the doorstep of India, when they were already exhausted and strung out at the end of an impossibly tenuous logistical line.

While a number of Dodge's observations and assumptions can now be characterized as anachronistic, and more modern research has shown some to have simply been incorrect, Dodge's narrative is still compelling, relevant, and charming. The difference between Dodge's detailed description of warfare in the ancient world and that of more contemporary writers is that he unselfconsciously embraces a now anachronistic view of war as a somewhat romantic, indeed valiant, adventure. It is not an assumption that will be found in histories written in an age when war has been a vehicle for industrialized genocide. Dodge's outlook on and experiences of combat, despite the rifles and cannons that populated his battlefields, remained closer to the attitudes and sensibilities of Alexander and his hoplites than they are to those of the modern reader. Dodge presents an idealized and, to modern readers, nostalgic portrait of captains and kings, of brave soldiers and valiant foes. Dodge saw many aspects of warfare, from the importance of individual courage on the battlefield to the nearly insurmountable difficulties posed by rough terrain, to what it felt like to be too hot or cold, thirsty and frequently hungry at the end of severed logistical links, through emotional and societal lenses that Alexander and his contemporaries would have found familiar. Dodge was thus able to see the world in much the same way as Alexander and his army, to whom soldiering and battle were markedly different experiences to those seen in today's conflicts.

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  • Posted December 14, 2013

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    This is a well researched text, it provides a deeper look into A

    This is a well researched text, it provides a deeper look into Alexander beyond Hollywood stuff. For the Greek military fans and history buffs a very good read.  Be prepare to read footnotes and keep all the names and places in order - it can be be heavy on the details.

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