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Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire

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Overview

This is the story of one of the great forgotten wars of history, a war which led to the disintegration of Alexander the Great's vast empire. Alexander built up his empire in little more than a decade, stretching from Greece in the West, via Egypt, Syria, Babylonia, and Persia through to the Indian sub-continent in the East. After his death in 323 BC, it took forty years of world-changing warfare for his heirs to finish carving up these huge conquests. These years were filled with high adventure, intrigue, ...

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Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire

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Overview

This is the story of one of the great forgotten wars of history, a war which led to the disintegration of Alexander the Great's vast empire. Alexander built up his empire in little more than a decade, stretching from Greece in the West, via Egypt, Syria, Babylonia, and Persia through to the Indian sub-continent in the East. After his death in 323 BC, it took forty years of world-changing warfare for his heirs to finish carving up these huge conquests. These years were filled with high adventure, intrigue, passion, assassinations, dynastic marriages, treachery, shifting alliances, and mass slaughter on battlefield after battlefield. And while the men fought on the field, the women, such as Alexander's mother Olympias, schemed from their palaces and pavilions.

Robin Waterfield's fast-paced narrative revives the memory of Alexander's Successors, whose fame has been dimmed only because they stand in his enormous shadow. In fact, Alexander left things in a mess at the time of his death, with no guaranteed succession, no administration in place suitable for such a large realm, and huge untamed areas both bordering and within his "empire." It was the Successors—battle-tested companions of Alexander like Ptolemy, Perdiccas, Cassander, and Antigonus the One-Eyed—who consolidated the Conqueror's gains. Their competing ambitions, however, meant that consolidation inevitably led to the break-up of the empire.

Astonishingly, this period of brutal, cynical warfare was also characterized by brilliant cultural achievements, especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and art. A new world emerged from the dust and haze of battle, and, in addition to chronicling political and military events, Waterfield provides ample discussion of the amazing cultural flowering of the early Hellenistic Age.

The histories of many modern countries in the eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, Near East, and Central Asia, began in the hearts and minds of the Successors of Alexander the Great. As this book demonstrates, their lives and legacies deserve to be better known.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

When Alexander the Great died in early June 323 B.C.E., the world didn't just mourn; it went to war. With an empire that stretched from Greece to the Indian subcontinent, Alexander's empire was a treasure trove waiting to be captured and plucked. Robin Waterfield's Dividing the Spoils unfolds the scheming and warfare that, surprisingly enough, consolidated the gains of the global conqueror. Major history written on a grand scale.

Library Journal
Biographies of Alexander the Great (e.g., those by Philip Freeman) abound, but what happened after the death of the world conqueror in 323 B.C.E.? Classicist Waterfield (Why Socrates Died) narrates 40 years of war over who would rule next among the Macedonian's companions. Meanwhile, across the far-flung empire from Egypt to Afghanistan, the vying warlords were spreading a new Hellenistic culture, which Waterfield sees as a Romantic successor to ancient Greek classicism. From the people they conquered, the new rulers absorbed an absolute, Eastern model of kingship that remained the standard for centuries. Nearly limitless treasuries funded the decades of war among Alexander's "successors"—most prominently Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus in Babylonia, Antipater in Macedonia, and Antigonus (everywhere). In the end, a few large monarchies remained where there had briefly been one empire. Then the Romans absorbed the whole region, which became the Greek east, the legacy of Alexander. VERDICT Waterfield efficiently traces the endlessly shifting military and marital alliances among the great successor families. His spare account manages to serve both as a military and as a cultural history of a great age of transition. Recommended for anybody interested in the classical era.—Stewart Desmond, New York
From the Publisher

"Well-paced and often dramatic...up-to-date research and thorough documentation...well-placed interludes summarizing Hellenistic developments in social life, literature, art, economics, philosophy and religion." -The Wall Street Journal

"A well-researched book that offers a wealth of information about the period between Alexander the Great and the coming Roman Empire."-HistoryNet

"Mass battlefield slaughter, treachery, assassinations, intrigues--ancient Greek politics as usual? Not quite: for this is the Age of the Wars of the Succession to Alexander the Great, on the cusp between eastern and western civilization and the Greek and Roman worlds, and also an epoch of unusual creativity especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and the visual arts. Dr. Robin Waterfield's coruscating cultural-political narrative does full and equal justice to all the major dimensions of this extraordinary half-century."-Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, Cambridge University, and the author of Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past

"Waterfield efficiently traces the endlessly shifting military and marital alliances among the great successor families. His spare account manages to serve both as a military and as a cultural history of a great age of transition. Recommended for anybody interested in the classical era."-Library Journal

"A superb examination of a critical but often neglected period of ancient history."-Booklist

"Politics, warfare, and culture are brilliantly captured in this fascinating account, fully supported by maps, genealogies, and mini-bios of key players, together with black-and-white plates, bibliography, and index. An essential Who's Who for any student of this remarkable transformational period." -ForeWord

"This history pays careful attention to the broad scholarship extant ... is readable and engaging, and introduces well these people highly influential to Hellenistic Greek life. I absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in this time period..."-San Francisco Book Review

"[C]larifies and gives modern relevance to an era often overlooked in the classical historical record." --Irmy History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195395235
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/4/2011
  • Series: Ancient Warfare and Civilization Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 464,374
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Waterfield was formerly a university lecturer at the universities of Newcastle and St Andrews, before becoming a commissioning editor at Penguin Books. A freelance writer and translator since the early 1980s, he has published numerous translations of the Greek classics for both the Oxford World's Classics and Penguin Classics. He now lives in the far south of Greece on a small olive farm.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations List of Maps Preface Acknowledgements Maps
1. The Legacy of Alexander the Great
2. The Babylon Conferences
3. Rebellion
4. Perdiccas, Ptolemy, and Alexander's Corpse
5. The First War of the Successors
6. Polyperchon's Moment
7. The Triumph of Cassander
8. Hunting Eumenes in Iran
9. Antigonus, Lord of Asia
10. The Restoration of Seleucus
11. Warfare in Greece
12. The End of Antigonus
13. The Kingdoms of Ptolemy and Seleucus
14. Demetrius Resurgent
15. The Fall of Demetrius
16. The Last Successors Timeline Cast of Characters Genealogies Notes Bibliography Index

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