Author Archives: M J Mann

A Breakdown and Many Pilgrimages

I’ve made it back!

Well, I spent all of last week wondering what to write in this post. The first thing that occurred to me was to publish a breakdown of Alexander’s life as maybe it would be helpful to people wanting to learn about him. I actually first jotted down just such a breakdown a while ago but I did it again last week. Here is the result:

Alexander’s Early Years (356-336)
Conception – Accession to the Macedonian Throne
Alexander’s Character and Appearance
Family Life

The Greek Campaign (336-334)
Alexander’s Accession – Beginning of the War of Revenge
Alexander Becomes King
First Greek Campaign
Thebes and Athens Submit
Campaign against Thrace and Illyria
Second Greek Campaign
Destruction of Thebes

The Asia Minor Campaign (334-333)
Troy – The Battle of Issus
The Battle of the Granicus River
Aftermath of the Battle
Siege of Halicarnassus
The Subservient Sea 
The Gordian Knot
Alexander’s Illness in Cilicia / A plot against his life?
The Battle of Issus
Aftermath of the Battle

Through the Levant (333-331)
Issus – The Siege of Gaza
Alexander in Sidon
The Siege of Tyre
The Siege of Gaza

Liberating Egypt (331)
Pelusium – Thebes – Founding Alexandria – Siwah
Arrival in Pelusium
Founding Alexandria
Journey to Siwah
Ammon’s Answer

The March to Gaugamela (331)
Egypt – The Battle of Gaugamela
March through the Middle-East
The Battle of Gaugamela
Aftermath of the Battle

The City Sweep (331-330)
Babylon – Susa – Persepolis
March to Babylon
One month in Babylon
March to Susa
Alexander Opposed at the Persian Gates
March on Persepolis
Rape of Persepolis
Destruction of Xerxes’ Palace
Visiting Pasargadae and Cyrus the Great’s Tomb

In Pursuit of Darius (330)
Persepolis – Hyrcania
March on Ecbatana
In Pursuit of Darius
Finding Darius
The March East
Philotas’ Downfall

The Bactria-Sogdia Campaigns (330-327)
Pursuing Bessus – Marriage to Roxane
In Pursuit of Bessus
Fighting the Scythians
Hit and Run: Spitamenes’ Opposition
Death of Cleitus the Black
The Pages’ Plot
Marriage to Roxane

The Indian Campaign (327-325)
Indus River – The Battle of Hydaspes – Mutiny at the Hyphasis River – Return West

March to the Indus River with Split Forces
Taking the Aornos Rock
Crossing the Indus River
Drunk in Nysa
The Battle of the Hydaspes River: Lead Up – Battle – Aftermath
The Macedonian Army’s Mutiny at the Hyphasis River
March Down the Indus River: Alexander’s Impatience – Near Death – Genocide (?) – Open Sea

Return to Babylon (325-323)
Gedrosia – Babylon
The Fish Eaters
Death in the Desert
Carmanian Celebrations
Return to Pasargadae and Cyrus’ Tomb
Orxines and Bagoas
Purge of Corrupt Officials
The Opis Mutiny
The Susa Weddings
Hephaestion’s Death
Alexander’s Last Campaign
March to Babylon
Alexander’s Last Days and Death

Alexander the Great as seen in the Alexander Mosaic

Please forgive any omissions and errors as I wrote the breakdown off the top of my head and haven’t yet made a substantial effort to make sure all the events mentioned are in the correct order. I would like to do this in the near future, as well as add any events that ought to be there but aren’t.

What inspired me to think about the breakdown again was the Camino de Santiago. Anyone reading this who also reads my personal blog or Twitter page will know that I think about the Camino often! I walked it in 2019 and although I returned home have barely left it since. In case you don’t know, the Camino de Santiago is a collection of pilgrimage routes through Europe that all enter northern Spain and end at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of the country.

In 2019, I walked the whole of the Camino Francés route (from Saint Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago). It took just over a month to do. Taking a month out of from one’s life to walk the Camino is a big, big commitment so many people walk their route in stages, returning every year or whenever they can to walk the next stage until that blessed day when they finally reach the cathedral.

In other words, they break down their Camino route into manageable portions. That’s what put me in mind of my breakdown of Alexander’s life. Maybe there are people who would like to read about him but aren’t sure where to begin, or who are simply overwhelmed by the thought of studying this amazing figure. If so, presenting his life in pint size portions would seem to be a worthwhile idea. As well as correcting errors and omissions, I’d also like to develop the breakdown further. For example, by specifying where in each of the sources you can read about each phase of his life/expedition, explaining why each phase is worth reading about, and so on.

So, the breakdown was the first thing to occur to me. Then, because I had the Camino in mind, I began thinking about the pilgrimages that Alexander undertook during his War of Revenge against Darius III and after. I started with three and ended with five:

Alexander the Pilgrim
– Delphi to see the Oracle
– Troy where he and Hephaestion ran naked
– Siwah to question Ammon-Zeus
– Pasargadae to visit the Tomb of Cyrus the Great and pay his respects
– Nysa to get drunk in the spirit of Bacchus

Can you think of any more pilgrimages that Alexander might have undertaken? I’d be very glad to hear about them if so. I am, of course, not only interested in the idea of Alexander going on pilgrimage because of the Camino. I’m also a practising (albeit badly) Catholic so that makes the idea relevant to me as well. Sadly, I must inform you that I never ran naked anywhere in Spain. I did have at least one beer at the end of every day’s walk. And boy, did I appreciate it! The best thing was, I still managed to lose a stone during the month!

The idea of Alexander on pilgrimage took me to another idea: some posts on Alexander ‘beyond the battlefield’.

What do we know about him off the battlefield? I haven’t yet made any notes about this, but off the top of my head, I could say that he enjoyed literature, the art and practice of medicine, and philosophy. He was exceptionally generous to his friends (much to his mother, Olympias’, annoyance) and even to those enemies who fought bravely against him (e.g. Porus). He did not live for battle alone but was happy to use diplomacy when necessary. He respected women and the customs of his barbarian subjects, even to the point of trying to adopt them. He was politically very pragmatic, tending not to change the political systems of places he conquered but let them retain whatever system they already had in place. He could be utterly ruthless and focused, but was not without occasional self-doubt. He cried, was very religious, and, of course, liked to drink. He hated strongly but loved – both men and women – with equal strength as well. There’s just a few things. I’m sure I could go on. This is the idea that is currently strongest with me. Maybe I could follow my breakdown and make a note of what we learn about Alexander away from all the fighting in each phase.

So, that’s where I am at the moment. This week, I will try and commit to writing about X and get on with it.

In the meantime, let me recommend a programme to you. It’s called The Forum and is a discussion show on the BBC World Service. A few days ago, they had an episode on ‘Alexander the Great or not so great?’. You can find it here. If you are unable to access it on the BBC’s website, drop me a line: I downloaded it, so maybe I could e-mail it to you.

Alexander the Great by Yevgeni Kacnelson

Alexander the Great as seen in the Alexander Mosaic – found on Pinterest but taken from Etsy
Alexander the Great by Yevgeni Kacnelson – found on Pinterest but taken from Fine Art America

I wrote my latest Camino post over on my personal blog just yesterday. You can read it here.

Categories: Of The Moment, On Alexander | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Return, A Reflection, and on Olympias

I started writing this blog, I think, in 2011. Back then, I was still getting to know the main sources for Alexander the Great’s life: Arrian, Curtius, Diodorus, Justin, and Plutarch. I don’t know what the percentage is, but in my memory, I feel that a lot of the posts I wrote then were connected to my reading of them. That was great as the writing allowed me to soak up what I had read better than if I had just read and then put the book away.

However, there came a moment when I realised that I had now read the sources once or maybe twice in a row, all the time writing about them as I did so, and, as a result, it was now time to move on, to find other things to write about Alexander. But what? I never could quite figure it out.

Ever since I ‘discovered’ the great conqueror, I had been happy for my reading and writing to be at the level of a ‘private passion’. Looking back at the last four or five years, though, as the blog slowly ground to a halt because I didn’t know what to say, I wish that I had, after all, signed up to a course to study him in a more formal setting. That would surely have given me ideas. Well, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. I never did sign up to anything, and that’s that.

As a result of my indecision, the blog finally came to a proper halt last August. Perhaps I should have deleted it. Not that I knew last summer that it would be six months before I wrote another post. The problem, though, is that I remain passionate about Alexander. I know this because, even though my blogging, and, I must admit, my reading, had pretty much stopped, I remained very happy – in real life – to talk people’s socks off about him given half the chance.

Olympias, Roman medallion

I always felt a bit guilty, though, because I knew I was using old knowledge. I wasn’t keeping myself fresh through (re)reading books or watching videos on YouTube, listening to podcasts, etc.

That aside, passion is why I am writing this post now.

Passion is a funny thing. I wrote my last post in August ’22 but for most of the time since – even though I haven’t known what to write – I’ve wanted to write. I’ve thought of ideas but none have stuck long enough for me to set them down on the screen, and then press publish.

What has changed? ‘Passion’ aside, why am I writing this post now? Well, it isn’t because I have had a revelation and now am full of ideas. I think it really is just that passion driving me to write something/anything. Maybe it will lead to renewed posting, maybe not. We’ll see.

I say I’m not full of ideas. I did have one. I am writing this post on 19th March 2023. It is Mothering Sunday today in the UK. A very happy Mothers’ Day to you if you are a mother of any description. I heard Mass at my local parish church this morning, and while there, I got distracted – it usually happens – and it occurred to me that I could write something about Olympias, Alexander’s mother.

Ideally, I would have liked to have researched her a little first, but because the desire to write and, I guess, explain my blog absence, was stronger, here I am now. So, I will just say this: Olympias was a very driven person. She was probably not a tremendously likeable one. She undoubtedly (in my mind), though, gets a very bad rap from the sources. Maybe she was as vile as they make out, but I suspect they just didn’t like a strong woman who knew what needed to be done and got on with it, even if to the nth degree. Even today, we as a society still aren’t overly keen on women who speak up, who are strong: and we live in a supposedly more accepting world. No wonder Olympias gets both barrels from the far more mysoginistic world in which she lived, and which came after in the form of the Roman empire.

That aside, Olympias may still have been a nasty piece of work, but one anecdote about her speaks very loudly to me in this regard. It comes from Plutarch’s Life of Alexander (Chapter 3). There, he talks about how, according to an author named Eratosthenes, when Alexander set out,

… on his eastern campaign, Olympias accompanied him during the procession [and] told him in private the secret of his birth…

i.e. that he was not Philip’s son but the son of Zeus-Ammon. However, according to other sources, Olympias,

… repudiated the idea [that Alexander was Zeus-Ammon’s son] on religious grounds, and said, ‘I wish Alexander would stop getting me into trouble with Hera.’

Even if at the expense of Alexander’s ego, I hope that this anecdote is true. It would give us a glimpse of a woman who was devout and had a good sense of proportion, of someone who was not totally hell bent on her and her son’s success. Maybe I’m clutching at straws but it’s better than nothing.

Olympias, as portrayed by Angelina Jolie in Alexander (2004)

Well, there we are. I’m back. I hope to write another post next Sunday when I get home from Mass. It would be wonderful if I could make late morning – early afternoons on Sundays my Alexander writing time. Before I finish, though, I will mention this: a few days ago I started reading again. I picked up my copy of Alexander the Great: Myth, Genesis and Sexuality by Daniel Ogden. I read the introduction and a couple of pages of Chapter One. Let’s challenge myself to make good progress in the week ahead so that, even if I have nothing else to say, I can talk about the book!

Plutarch Hellenistic Lives including Alexander the Great (tr. Robin Waterfield) (OUP 2016)
Olympias, Roman Medallion Wikipedia
Angelina Jolie as Olympias – Reddit

Categories: Books, Of The Moment, On Alexander | Tags: | 10 Comments

Men in Every Season

This week, I watched A Man for All Seasons. It tells the story of how Sir Thomas More refused to approve Henry VIII’s separation from Catherine of Aragon or recognise the king as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. More’s story reminded me of Callisthenes, and how he stood up to Alexander over the issue of proskynesis.

The Thomas More of A Man for all Seasons is a heroic figure. I understand (as I haven’t read it) that the Thomas More of Wolf Hall, a novel by Hilary Mantel, is a villain. Arrian discusses Callisthenes’ opposition to Alexander in some detail. He gives the historian little credit for it, referring to his ‘clumsy protest’ and ‘gross stupidity in making such an inappropriately frank outburst’. Conversely, Curtius talks about Alexander’s ‘depraved idea’ of ‘appropriating divine honours to himself’. When Callisthenes argues against this, he is heard, Curtius says, ‘with approval as the champion of public freedom.’

What I found particularly interesting after watching A Man for All Seasons and reading Arrian’s and Curtius’ accounts of the proskynesis controversy is how Thomas and Callisthenes get in trouble despite doing completely opposite things: Sir Thomas is challenged to swear Henry’s Oath of Supremacy. He refuses to do so, but neither will he give Henry a reason to prosecute him, so he stays silent. He keeps that silence up until he is executed. When it comes to the issue of proskynesis, Callisthenes can’t stop talking.

Tragedy lies heavy on all the actors in these two dramas, 1,800 years apart. Henry wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine because he and the country needed a successor – to avoid the possibility of civil war. At a time when Alexander should have been celebrating his many and continuing successes, he let the same go to his head. Thomas should have left the country. Callisthenes should have learnt to control his tongue. All that happened did not need to happen.

Now, the truth is, I know my Tudor history, but only on a shallow level: Perhaps Thomas couldn’t have left the country. I doubt, however, that what happened to him was inevitable. Nothing is ever inevitable. Callisthenes, though, could and should have known when to shut up. It’s all very sad, and frustrating.

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Considering ‘the Great’

We are accustomed to calling Alexander of Macedon ‘the Great’ even though this title was never used by his Macedonian subjects. Should we, therefore, avoid it? No, of course not. The final word on what to call a person does not rest with those who knew him. Every generation has the right to decide what, if any, epithet is used.

In regards Alexander’s Macedonians, although they – as far as we know – never called him ‘the Great’, we do know from the sources that they loved him dearly, and esteemed him most highly. If you went back in time and asked a member of his army, ‘is it legitimate to call the king megas alexandros?’ I would bet my last penny on them saying ‘yes, and more besides.’

Our generation, as with every generation before it (going back to the Romans of the late third and early second century BC who were the first people known to use the epithet), calls Alexander ‘the Great’ on account of his brilliant military record.

That is good. But as often as we call him Alexander the Great, though, we ought to reflect on the fact that this epithet comes from Alexander’s hard work, determination, and sacrifice. We should also remember that Alexander owes the epithet not only to his own own actions but also to those of his father, Philip II. Alexander, after all, won every battle with the army that his father founded, using weapons (e.g. the sarissa) and tactics that Philip perfected.

This is important because it helps keep before us the Alexander who was rather than the Alexander of our imagination. For example, it reminds us that when Alexander was born, he was a baby like any other. And when he was a boy, he had to learn the art of war just like everyone else. It reminds us that his future success was not written in stone. At any point – from his first known combat operation against the Maedians in 340 BC* (aged 16) to his last against the Cossaeans in the winter of 324/3** – he could have failed. This is the Alexander of history, the one who we should always be aiming to find.

Why is keeping the historical Alexander before us so important? Because it’s the only way to give Alexander the credit he is due. If we just focus on Alexander as the Great we effectively say that all the effort he put into becoming a great general doesn’t matter. This diminishes the humanity of the man we profess to like, and makes mere glory hunters of ourselves. At best, this makes us look silly. At worst, we make a cypher of him, no more than a projection of our own beliefs, something that is both selfish as well as ahistorical.

* Plutarch Life of Alexander 9
** Arrian VII.15.1-3

Categories: Arrian, Finding Alexander, On Alexander, Philip II, Plutarch | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts After Issus

In the UK we celebrate Bonfire Night on 5th November every year. Given the low esteem in which politicians are generally held this does seem a bit ironic, but there it is.

For my part, I don’t have much time for Bonfire Night, especially since 5th November marks the anniversary of the Battle of Issus.

On or around 5th Nov. 333 BC, Alexander confronted and defeated Darius III in the first of their two battles. It was a battle that shouldn’t have happened – at least, not on the narrow strip of coastland in the north-east corner of what is now Syria, where it ended up place. Darius should have listened to the Macedonian deserter, Amyntas (Arrian II.6.3), and kept his army in the open plains where he would have been able to make use of its superior size. Unfortunately for him, though, he didn’t. And as a result, Darius ended up boxing his men in between the Gulf of Issus and Amanus Mountains. The Great King didn’t lose the Battle of Issus because of this but not being able to use all of his men certainly did not help him.

Before continuing, I’ll acknowledge what you may well be thinking: given what happened at Gaugamela, Alexander would probably have beaten Darius even if they had met on a plain. That’s true, but from Darius’ perspective, at least he would have given himself a better chance of defeating this Macedonian upstart.

Upstart? Yes. Because at Issus, Alexander was not yet ‘great’. True, he had defeated a satrapal army, but for an enemy of Alexander, that achievement would have been easy to dismiss. By the bye, how often do we think of Alexander as anything less than ‘the Great’? If we don’t look beyond that epithet, does it harm our understanding of him?

Another question that has been on my mind recently is Alexander’s view of his empire. While it is true that he wanted to conquer as much territory as possible, I never get the impression that he cared much about being the emperor of it. When making political arrangements for each territory, for example, he acted as pragmatically as possible, e.g., by reinstalling whoever had ruled it before: the path of least resistance, so that he could move on to the next engagement. I have no definite view on this matter but it is fascinating how Alexander could be so immersed in the world and yet, I think, not care about it anywhere near as much as he ought to have done.

(I should add, when I say he didn’t care, I don’t mean he disliked it or anything like that, just that his focus was elsewhere, ie. on winning glory.)

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J.R.R. Tolkien

2nd September 2021 marks the 48th anniversary of the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, academic and, of course, author of The Lord of the Rings.

To the best of my knowledge, Tolkien never wrote about Alexander the Great. He would have known about him: after arriving at Oxford in 1911 Tolkien studied Classics for two years before switching to English Language and Literature. As a don, his focus was Anglo Saxon and medieval literature. In that capacity, he would surely have read the medieval version of The Alexander Romance.

I record the anniversary of Tolkien’s death here, though, because it seems to me that in his Middle-earth writings, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion specifically, he gives us in story what Alexander gave us in life: heroism, nobility, disaster, and decline. I could go on as there are many crossovers. Tolkien wrote about lives lived on an epic stage. Alexander built that stage and then strode across it like a colossus.

For my whole life, I have loved reading about heroism. I don’t remember the moment as a young boy when I said to myself, ‘this is what I like’, but given that I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings back then, it wouldn’t surprise me if they started it all off. Today, I appreciate the fragility of Man as well. I am very grateful to Tolkien for showing me both, and to those who wrote about Alexander’s life for not shying away from his (for the most part. Looking at you Arrian). I applaud Alexander himself for striving to be the best despite his weaknesses. Alas, they took him into some very dark places, but until the end – even after Hephaestion’s death – he continued on. That’s all we can ever do.

The photograph below is one of the last that was taken of Tolkien. He is standing next to one his favourite trees – a pinus nigra at the Oxford Botanical Gardens

Some years ago – in the 00s – I persuaded a friend to visit Oxford with me so that I could see that same pinus nigra. My friend was a very good sport and took what is still one of my favourite photos of myself, standing next to that same tree.

Alas! the tree is no more: it suffered damaged 2014 and had to be pulled down. I am more grateful than I can say to have been able to visit it.

Here is a close up of Tolkien’s grave. As you can see, he is buried with his wife, Edith; Beren and Luthien are two of the characters from Tolkien’s mythology, and with whom he identified himself and his wife.

In 1975, Mary Renault published The Nature of Alexander. By coincidence, HarperCollins has today published a collection of essays by Tolkien in which he discusses various aspects of his mythology. The book is titled The Nature of Middle-Earth.

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News (1)

The Greek City Times reports that a statue of Alexander the Great has been found during an archaeological dig in Alexandria. You can read their report here.

No photograph of the statue yet, unfortunately (I think the statue we see in the Instagram screenshot was found a few years ago). Hopefully, it will be shown to the world soon.

The idea that Alexander’s grave might be found is probably the triumph of hope over optimism, but who knows?

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He Lives and Reigns

Alexander the Great was born on, or around, 20th July 356 BC.

Of the five chief sources regarding his life, only one – Plutarch – covers his origins. He does so in the opening chapters of his Life of Alexander.

Chapter 2
Alexander’s Lineage

Plutarch notes that he was:
descended from Heracles via Caranus on his father’s side
descended from Aeacus via Neoptolemus on his mother’s side

Olympias’ Dream
Just before her marriage to Philip II, Olympias dreamed that he womb was struck by a thunderbolt. It started a fire, which spread (a prefiguring, perhaps, of Aexander’s conquests)

Philip’s Dream
After his marriage to Olympias, Philip dreamed that he closed his wife’s womb with a lion embossed seal (indicating, I think, Alexander’s character)
Plutarch states that one day, Philip glimpsed his wife in bed with a snake

Chapter 3
The Delphic Oracle
Olympias was a snake worshipper, but Philip still asked the Oracle what its presence meant. The Oracle ordered him to ‘offer more sacrifices and honour to Ammon than any other god’. The snake was Ammon.
The Oracle also told Philip that he would lose the eye with which he saw his wife and the god together

The issue of Alexander’s paternity is shrouded in mystery. Did he really believe he was the son of Ammon-Zeus? Plutarch records two traditions. One, that Olympias told her son ‘the secret of his birth’ (i.e. that Ammon-Zeus was his father) but also that she ‘repudiated the idea’.

Around the same time as Alexander’s birth, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was destroyed by fire. According to Plutarch, Hegesias of Magnesia said that this was because Artemis was away: delivering the future conqueror! The Magi at Ephesus, however, had a different reason for the fire: it was an omen of the fall of Asia, that is, the Persian Empire.

Three significant events happened on or around the time of Alexander’s birth:

i. Philip captured the city of Potidaea
ii. Parmenion defeated an Illyrian army in battle
iii. One of Philip’s horses won at the Olympic Games

Philip’s soothsayers told the king that these events all pointed to his son’s invincibility.

As can be seen above, Plutarch’s account of Alexander’s conception and birth relies as much on myth and propaganda as it does history. This makes it of a piece with all the accounts of his life. Alexander was not only great on the battlefield, but also in the management of his image (to be sure, we may also say that this is true of his successors).

Alexander was born at Pella, capital of ancient Macedon. In his early years, he had one weakness: although he was Philip’s only credible heir, he was not a full Macedonian (Olympias was the daughter of Neoptolemus, king of Epirus). Had Philip lived longer and fathered a son with his last wife, Cleopatra Eurydice, who was a full Macedonian, that would have been a problem for Alexander, probably a fatal one.

However, Philip was assassinated not long after Cleopatra Eurydice gave birth to a daughter. In the blood letting that followed Philip’s murder – as Alexander eliminated anyone who could be a threat to his place on the throne – Olympias also killed Cleopatra Eurydice, and her daughter. This actually angered Alexander as she was no longer a threat.

As mentioned above, Alexander was born in 356 BC. In 336, he left Macedon for the last time and never looked back. In the next thirteen years, he conquered most of the known world and was planning his next expedition when he died in Babylon in June 323.

Categories: Chronology of Alexander's Life | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A Mid December Update

29th Nov. – 13th Dec. 2020

I am still reading Goldsworthy’s Philip and Alexander and Bosworth’s Conquest and Empire. I am getting on well with both books; the only thing I don’t like about Bosworth’s is the small text: just a little on the small side for these middle-aged eyes!

As usual, I have not made the progress that I would like with either book – but that was ever thus.

With Goldsworthy, I am still in the early days of Philip’s reign as king: another opportunity to marvel at how he survived the first few days of his kingship in 359 BC. King Bardylis of Illyria, the pretenders Argaeus backed by Athens and Pausanias backed by King Berisades of Thrace, and Paeonian tribes were all intent on either killing or dominating him. With some combination of bravery, diplomacy and a little good luck Philip managed to worm his way out of trouble and never looked back.

With Bosworth I am in Asia Minor having just seen Alexander fail to take Halicarnassus. Well, to a point: he took the city – albeit after Memnon fled – but the two citadels there remained in enemy hands. Staying to besiege them was not worth his time so he left the matter in the hands of officers. They will eventually capture the citadels but it will take several months for them to fall.

The Road to Alexander
I am really enjoying writing this series for the Facebook page. Every time I open Timothy Venning’s A Chronology of Ancient Greece, two things happen: i. I get to learn about people and events that I previously knew little or nothing about, and ii. I get to distill this information for the Facebook page, which in turn helps me to remember what I have read better.

Before I started The Road to Alexander, I knew two things about the fifth century B.C. in Greece: The Greek-Persian Wars and the fact of the Peloponnesian Wars. I knew a little about the detail of the former but virtually nothing about the detail of the latter and pretty much nothing about the periods in-between.

I have now reached 433 B.C. so that has now changed except, of course, in regards the Peloponnesian Wars. As you can tell by the date, though, I am on the cusp of it so that will also soon change. I can’t wait to open Excel and start writing my own chronological tables for the period. I will do the same for the fourth century up to Alexander as again, my knowledge of the period prior to him is still not at all what it should be.

The other thing I look forward to doing is reading about what happened in translations of the sources – people like Thucydides. That will be Stage Two.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a chronology of Ancient Greece, I can’t recommend Timothy Venning’s highly enough. Here it is on Amazon.

Waldemar Heckel
Speaking of books, I was disappointed to find out recently that the other book that has helped me so much over the last few years, Waldemar Heckel’s Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great, appears to be either currently unavailable or only available at a high price. As a resource it is far better than anything on the web. It is short, names its sources, and is by a scholar. I do hope it goes back on sale at some point.

Categories: Alexander Scholars, Books | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

AtG on Fb this week

Are you on Facebook? Check out my Alexander the Great page. Every day this week will feature a new post. Here is what is coming up this week:

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