Strategy, Leonnatus, and Selective Sourcing

This week’s Alexanderland post is a day late. That’s because yesterday, I spent a bit of time on Tumblr answering an enquiry about Alexander’s relationship with his mother, Olympias; did he love or hate her? If you would like to read the Q & A, you can do so by clicking here.

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For the second half-week in a row I have managed to read a little more of Alexander the Great’s Art of Strategy by Partha Bose and The Marshals of Alexander’s Empire by Waldemar Heckel.

In the sub-chapter ‘Defenders Are Toast’, Bose states,

Napoleon, too, believed in the principle ‘When possible, always attack’. The function of strategy, according to generals like Napoleon and Alexander, was to make decisive contact with the enemy as soon as possible; everything would fall into place once that was done.
(Alexander the Great’s Art of Strategy, p.151)

There are two senses in which this statement can be understood – once the armies meet on the battlefield and as a general military principle. I am not quite certain which sense Bose has in mind. If he means ‘on the battlefield’, I agree with him. In his four major battles, Alexander never waited for either the satraps, Darius’, or Porus’ armies to come to him. He went to them. In doing so he took the initiative and never lost it. To give Porus his due, he at least managed to neutralise the advantage that taking the initiative gave Alexander, as may be seen by the scrum that developed between the two armies following the opening movements.

However, if Bose’s statement applies to Alexander’s general strategy, I disagree. After Issus, Darius fled east and Alexander headed south to Tyre and Egypt. After Gaugamela, both kings repeated this move. After the battles at Issus and Gaugamela, Alexander knew that Darius was in no position to fight him so he had time to pursue his other expedition aims – it was not all about fighting – namely, the securing of the Mediterranean seaboard, the taking of Egypt after Issus, and the securing of Babylon, Susa and Persepolis after Gaugamela.

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In the sub-section titled ‘The Killing of Cleitus’, and in the context of a discussion of Black Cleitus’ murder, Bose says that Alexander,

… was now suffering from the powerful man’s conceit that he had seen engulf his father, according to which anyone who disagreed with him must be morally flawed.
(Alexander the Great’s Art of Strategy, p.163)

I haven’t read nearly enough about Philip II to confidently dispute this statement, but I have read enough to feel uncomfortable with this statement. As I sit here and write these words, the only time that I can recall Philip ‘suffering from the powerful man’s conceit’ is in the placement of a statue of himself alongside those of the Olympian gods (Diodorus XVI.95). I don’t know of any occasion when he regarded those who held different views as ‘morally flawed’.

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Moving on to The Marshals of Alexander’s Empire. I am still in ‘Chapter ii: The ‘New Men”. Earlier today, I read about Leonnatus. I have to admit, not much really jumped out at me while I read this; with that said, two statements did make an impression on me.

Firstly, that after Alexander’s death, Leonnatus was nominated along with Perdiccas as joint-regent for Roxane’s (hoped for) son. I had forgotten this. Why so? Because when I read about the succession crisis, I always turn to Diodorus, and he does not mention Leonnatus at the Babylonian conference (see Diodorus XVIII.2). However, Curtius also mentions the conference, and he says,

Pithon began to follow Perdiccas’ strategy, designating Perdiccas and Leonnatus, both of royal birth, as guardians for Roxane’s future son.
(Curtius X.7.8)

This passage is, therefore, a reminder to me never to limit myself to just one of the sources. If I can I always need to look up what the others say.

As for Leonnatus at Babylon, Weckel says that the reason Peithon nominated Leonnatus was to keep Perdiccas’ ambitions ‘in check’ (p.104), which sounds about right.

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Heckel quotes Helmut Berve in his summary of Leonnatus. According to the latter, he ‘was a potential unfulfilled’ (p.106). He was a late comer, too, not being promoted into the senior ranks of the Macedonian army until 332/1 when he became a somatophylake and did not receive his first ‘military command’ (p.98) until early 327 when Alexander put him in charge of the night crew as the Macedonian army worked round the clock to bridge the rock of Chorienes. Leonnatus reminds me of Ptolemy, whose rise through the ranks was also delayed – for the son of Lagus, it did not begin until late 330 when he, too, became a royal bodyguard.

However, though Ptolemy joined the senior ranks later than Leonnatus, he enjoyed his first solo command earlier – the pick up of Bessus in 329. Both Ptolemy and Leonnatus had blue blood in them, although I believe Ptolemy was minor nobility. Leonnatus was a member of the Lyncestian royal house and related to Alexander through the latter’s grandmother. Ptolemy’s and Leonnatus’ paths definitively diverged in the Wars of the Successors. Leonnatus died at the start after falling in battle against the Athenian general Antiphilos in 322 B.C. while Ptolemy secured himself in Egypt and very nearly outlived the wars, dying in 283 B.C.

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My continued thanks go to Shiralyn Mayon who linked to the following two videos on my Alexander Facebook page. The first is a short clip from a History Channel documentary about Alexander. It focuses on his relationship with Hephaestion.

The video claims that Alexander met Hephaestion in early adulthood. To the best of my knowledge, we do not know when they met. They could have been boyhood friends. The rest of the video is is concerned, firstly, with how Philip II and Olympias feared that their son was a ‘femme (?) homosexual’ and so introduced him to ‘call girls’ to man him up some. And secondly, Peter Green wonders what do you do if you are a ‘feminine youth’ and your father is an ‘ultra masculine, heavily bearded, militarily successful, hard drinking, dominant alpha-male’. The answer, of course, is you never stop being slightly feminine, nor reject the one you love but play the same military game as your father and beat him at it.

Plaudits go to the commenter who tries to convince us that Alexander was anti-homosexual when the Macedonian king’s sexual relationship with the eunuch Bagoas is a matter of record. That’s what you get when you quote your sources selectively,

The second video is an advert for a 2012 exhibition based on Alexander. I don’t have much to say about it except that it does a great job of making the exhibition worth going to see.

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3 thoughts on “Strategy, Leonnatus, and Selective Sourcing

  1. Yann

    Hello, I’m a french guy and I find your website very well documented on Alexander the Great and the forging of his empire!
    Do you have any hint on who coud have been the wife of Leonnatus in the Susa weddings, as he is of royal blood I think it’s rather odd that I can’t find any source about it? Thanks by advance.

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    • Hello Yann,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you like the blog!

      In regards Leonnatus’ Susa bride, I think that, unfortunately, the lack of evidence forbids a guess as to what her name was.

      By the summer of 324 BC, Leonnatus was a senior person in Alexander’s court so it is a little odd that his wife isn’t named by the sources. I suspect, though, that is due to the fact that he died early on in the Successor Wars and so the historians of that period didn’t feel the need to say too much about him.

      Happy New Year to you, and my best wishes to France: a beautiful country!

      Malcolm

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      • Yann

        Thank you Malcolm for your quick answer!
        Yes I agree with you, it’s probably because of the infortunate and rapid death of Leonnatus after Alexander’s that there is no source about his wife.

        His death is a shame imo because being of royal birth and related to Philip via his mother, and given the fact that Cleopatra, the full sister of Alexander,wanted to marry him he would have been a very serious claimant to royalty, eclipsing Philip III, feeble minded, and Alexander IV, half persian and newborn,and Perdiccas in order to keep Alexander’ empire intact. 😦

        Would you be interested in doing an article about Kausia, the famous macedonian hat, whose ultimate descendant is the pakol in Afghanistan?
        I’ve heard two differents opinion about it
        1) that it was a hat coming from Macedonia, and popularised with Alexander conquests.
        2) that it was coming from eastern part of the Persian empire or maybe India, and that the army of Alexander adopted it and later became popular in all the hellenistic empires.

        I also read somewhere that Alexander wore a purple kausia, with a white and blue ribbon on it , as a symbol of royalty, do you have any source about that?

        (sorry about my english^^)

        Like

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