Posts Tagged With: Perdiccas

Arrian I.14.1.17

In This Chapter
The two armies come face-to-face

Once Alexander had finished speaking to Parmenion, he sent his deputy to take up his command of the Macedonian left wing. He himself rode to take command of the right.

Arrian now gives a brief outline of who stood where in the Macedonian battle line.

From right to centre:

  • Philotas son of Parmenion
    with Philotas, the Companion Cavalry, archers, & Agrianians (javelineers)
  • Amyntas son of Arrhabaeus
    with Amyntas, the lancer cavalry, Paeonians, & Socrates son of Sathon and Apollonian Companions
  • Nicanor son of Parmenion
    with Nicanor, the Companion Foot Guards
  • Perdiccas son of Orontes
    with Perdiccas, the brigade under his control
  • Coenus son of Polemocrates
  • Amyntas son of Andromenes
  • Philip son of Amyntas

From left to centre:

  • Calas son of Harpalus
    under Calas, the Thessalian Cavalry
  • Philip son of Menelaus
    under Philip, the Allied Cavalry
  • Agathon [son of Tyrimmas]
    under Agathon, Thracians
  • Craterus [son of Alexander]
    under Craterus, his infantry brigade
  • Meleager
    under Meleager, his infantry brigade
  • Philip
    under Philip, his infantry brigade

Arrian records that the Persian army had 20,000 cavalry and just under that number in infantry (Alexander crossed the Hellespont with 30,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry (Arr.I.11.3)). Remember that yesterday Parmenion told Alexander if the Macedonians camp by the river, the Persians would move back due to having fewer infantrymen? I wonder: why would they feel the need to do so since they had such a dominant cavalry advantage?

Whatever the reason, it could not have been because the satraps had no confidence in their army. The Persian cavalry and Greek mercenaries were the best in the world.

The Persians lined up along the far bank, cavalry in front of infantry. This meant that it would not be able to charge at the Macedonians. A strategic error borne of a desire for Persian soldiers to fight and win the battle before the Greek mercenaries got involved? Arrian notes that the Persian cavalry concentrated in particularly on the Persian left wing; this put it opposite Alexander. They not only wanted Persians to win the battle but to do so by killing the Macedonian king.

Arrian states that the two armies faced each other in silence for some time before Alexander lead his cavalry on the right wing forward. Alexander ordered Socrates of Sathon’s squadron (which we now find was actually being led by Ptolemy son of Philip) on the far right of the Macedonian line to go ahead of him, and instructed Amyntas son of Arrhabaeus to follow Ptolemy, taking ‘the advance horse guards, the Paeonians, and one brigade of the infantry’ with him. Alexander led the rest of the right wing into the water behind them. To stop the army from crossing in a weak column, Alexander crossed it at an oblique angle ‘in the direction of the pull of the current’, making a friend of the river rather than enemy.

Thoughts
You can certainly see from the Macedonian battle line how important Parmenion was in Alexander’s court – he and his sons held key positions in the army, with Philotas being on the far right with Alexander himself.

The battle line brings a few previously mentioned Macedonians back into the limelight.

Philotas is first mentioned in connection with the Battle of the Lyginus River against the Triballians during the Thracian Campaign (Arr.I.2.5).

Amyntas son of Arrhabaeus was Alexander’s ‘M’: one of his senior scouts. Socrates son of Sathon was one of his officers (Arr.I.12.7).

Perdiccas, of course, lead the unauthorised attack on Thebes (Arr.1.8.1-2) where he was backed up by Amyntas son of Andromenes (Arr.I.8.2).

According to Waldemar Heckel, Philip son of Amyntas may actually be the son of Balacrus. If so, we met him during the Thracian campaign when Alexander crossed the Danube and ordered him to take the spoils back south (Arr.I.4.5). You may remember that Philip was not given sole responsibility for that job: Meleager, who we now see on the left wing, was ordered to go with him.

Mentioned here for the first time are Nicanor*, Coenus, Calas, Philip son of Menelaus, Agathon son of Tyrimmas, Craterus and a third Philip. Of these men, Craterus will become a central figure in Alexander’s army, taking over the command of the left wing after Parmenion’s demise and becoming one of the leading figures in the Macedonian traditionalist movement.

*A Nicanor is mentioned in connection with the attack on the city of the Getae (Arr.I.4.2) but we cannot say for sure if this is Parmenion’s son

By the way, you’ll notice that from right to centre, I have referred to the captain and the regiments that were ‘with’ him, whereas from left to centre, the reference is to the captain and the regiments that were ‘under’ him. I have no doubt that Philotas et al were commanding their various units but as my translation of Arrian uses the with/under formulation I have used those terms as well.

As the Macedonian army crosses the Granicus river at an oblique angle, we can add an ability to use the terrain to his best advantage to Alexander’s strengths. Here, this simply means that he nullified the threat that it posed to his army. The Granicus could have been a third army in the battle; now, it played a more neutral role.

I am writing this blog post on Remembrance Sunday. In light of that, reading about how the two armies faced each other in silence cannot but have an extra impact. Both sides were silent because they were waiting (‘in dread of what was to come’). By being the first to have his men sound the trumpets and raise their battle-cry, Alexander surely stole a psychological march on the Persians.

***

The next post in this series will be published on Friday 15th November. Over the next few days, I am going keep reading Arrian a chapter at a time and writing a blog post for each one but I would like to pause publishing them so as to give myself extra time to consider what happens in each chapter. Up till now, I have greatly enjoyed reading-writing-publishing in one go but this does restrict my ‘thinking time’ greatly. Hopefully, this pause will allow me to gain extra insights into Arrian’s narrative and improve the quality of the blog posts.

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrian I.8.1-11

In This Chapter
Alexander assaults Thebes

‘… Alexander did not attack the city’ (Arr. I.7.11)

Perdiccas, however, had other ideas. Without seeking or waiting for permission from the king, he began an assault of the outer palisade.

At first, all went well. Perdiccas was able to break through the palisade and make a charge towards the Theban soldiers behind it. He was helped in this by Amyntas son of Andromenes who brought the men under his command into the fray.

Arrian doesn’t tell us when Alexander saw what was going on but when he did see the assault, he brought the rest of the army forward to prevent Perdiccas and Amyntas being cut off from the Macedonian forces.

Alexander ordered his archers and Agrianian soldiers through the first palisade. As this was happening, Perdiccas was doing his best to break through the inner palisade. This is where things started to go wrong for him, though, and in a serious way, for he was wounded and his injury was so bad, he ‘fell on the spot’. Fortunately, his men were able to drag him away to safety.

Perdiccas’ men seem to have been pushed back from the inner palisade because the fighting continued in the space between the outer and inner palisades, next to a temple dedicated to Heracles. At first, the Macedonian forces were able to push the Theban soldiers back to where the temple stood. But there, perhaps inspired by their devotion to the greatest of all warriors, the Thebans rallied. Now, it was the Macedonians who were being forced back.

Alexander watched as his men retreated. He didn’t panic, though, but instead took the time to observe the condition of the Thebans and he noticed that they were not in any order: easy pickings, therefore, for his phalanx.

Alexander ordered the phalanx forward. They advanced, as Arrian says, ‘in full battle-order’, and pushed the Thebans past the inner palisade and into the city. Alexander’s calmness had turned a potential defeat into a rout.

It got better. The Thebans were so desperate to escape the advancing phalanx that the city gates could not be closed in time to stop a Macedonian invasion.

The Macedonian troops now split up. Some went to break the siege of the Cadmea. Once that was done the reunited forces entered the lower city via the Ampheum (a shrine in the centre of the city). Others entered Thebes by climbing over the city walls (which were now in Macedonian hands) and made their way to the market place.

Theban soldiers put up a brave defence at the Ampheum but were fatally undermined by their own cavalry which decided to flee from the city. A general slaughter of the defenders now followed.

Who was responsible for the slaughter – not just of Theban soldiers, but women and children as well? Arrian names the allied soldiers – ‘Phoecians, Plataeans, and other Boeotians’. They even killed Thebans in their homes and, most heinously, ‘suppliants at the altars’.

Thoughts
At the start of this chapter, Arrian makes a point of telling us that his source for Perdiccas’ unauthorised attack on the outer palisade is Ptolemy. As the Notes say, ‘Ptolemy had good reason to take a hostile line on Perdiccas, after the latter’s bid, albeit unsuccessful, to wrest control of Egypt from him in 321/0’. This would seem to indicate that Ptolemy wrote his history during the early years of the Wars of the Successors, because why bother after Perdiccas had died? Of course, he could have remained bitter about what Perdiccas had tried to do or just triumphalist.

Another question that occurs to me is why Arrian mentions his source for this piece of information in the first place. I suspect he knew that what he was reading was unlikely to be true either in whole or in part: Perdiccas was too professional a soldier to do anything so rash and, as the reader would probably think the same, mentioned his source as a way of saying ‘If you have an argument, take it up with him’.

Arrian’s Alexander at Thebes is of a man who is patient and calm. It is quite a contrast to Diodorus’ Alexander who is wholly the opposite. We can add these virtues to the list that we created at the end of the Thracian campaign here. Of course, we need to remember that Arrian’s Alexander is informed by Ptolemy, Aristobulos and others who were favourable towards him. Is this the real Alexander? My answer is yes, though only in part.

I am also interested by the fact that Alexander brought his army forward to help Perdiccas and Amyntas. What was his motivation? Was it a policy of no one gets left behind? Or simply concern that defeat for Perdiccas and Amyntas would look bad for him? Probably a mixture, but I would lean towards the former as being the most important since throughout his career Alexander lived and suffered by his men; even later on when he grew more distant from them, he still shared their pains and sufferings on the march – see particularly the Gedrosian desert crossing.

One last thing – and related to what I said above – it is notable that Arrian names and shames Alexander’s allies for the slaughter of the Thebans. I wonder if the influence of Ptolemy can be seen here as well. Having bad mouthed (or penned) Perdiccas, he put the blame on the allies for the unnecessary bloodshed in order to protect his ‘virtuous’ Alexander.

Categories: Arrian | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Haunted Empire

Several months ago, I bought a copy of Ghost on the Throne by James Romm. The sub-title to the book explains what it is about: The Death of Alexander the Great and the Bloody Fight for His Empire.

To date, the only other book dedicated to the wars of the Successors that I have read has been Robin Waterfield’s Dividing the Spoils. As I write these words I am 170 pages into the 322 page long book, and I have to say I am not enjoying it as much as I did Dividing the Spoils. Not because I think Romm is a bad historian but because Waterfield is simply a better write. He has the rare gift of making his text flow easily off the page.

Having said that, Ghost on the Throne is a well written book; it is also very well laid out. Romm not only sub-divides his chapters but gives the latter their own titles so that you know exactly where and when you are in the story.

As for me, I have seen the death of Leonnatus in the Lamian War, and the death of Alexander’s half-sister, Cynnane, as she travelled east to marry her daughter, Adea, to Philip III. Coming up is Ptolemy’s theft of Alexander’s body and the death of the most popular living Macedonian at this time, Craterus.

***

Out of what I have read so far, two facts mentioned by Romm have really jumped out at me. I think I knew them already but for whatever reason they have made a strong impression on me now.

The first is that only Macedonian kings could marry more than one woman at a time. This was a big shame for Perdiccas – if noblemen could have practiced polygamy, he could have married Nicaea, Antipater’s daughter, and Cleopatra, Alexander’s only full-sister, and put himself in an all but unassailable position if he wished – as he surely did – to make a bid for the Macedonian throne. As it was, he had to pick one with the inevitable result that he would insult the parent of the other.

The second is how – between the cavalry and infantry – utterly divided the Macedonian army was. Even though I know very well what happened after Alexander died – how the infantry demanded that Arrhidaeos be made king while the cavalry decided on Roxane’s as yet unborn child, and the way in which the infantry more or less ran the cavalry out of town before a reconciliation was reached – reading about it again is still astonishing.

The fault line between infantry and cavalry seems to have been absolute. No cavalry or infantrymen joined the other side. How could they have been so opposed to each other? Had the rebellions at the Hyphasis river or at Opis divided them? Or would they have still turned on each other if Alexander had died without ever going to Asia? Whatever the answer, the fact that he managed to hold the two sides together and make sure a brilliant fighting force out of them speaks many volumes for his charisma and intelligence.

Credit Where It’s Due
Front cover of Ghost on the Throne: Goodreads

Categories: Alexander Scholars | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Iliad, Hephaestion and Alexander’s Jealousy

Recently, I bought the audiobook version of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Iliad. I have been listening to it at work and it has been a very intense experience.

One battle after another, one Greek or Trojan after another being killed in the most gruesome way. Homer does not spare you in his descriptions but – and this is surely his genius as a poet – he never descends into any kind of slaughter-porn; the deaths are treated with an amazing, and very mature, matter-of-factness.

As a result, the story never gets too much to bear. With that said, I can only listen to it for an hour or two every day before I need to take a break.

***

A few days ago, perhaps last week, I read an author who suggested that Perdiccas might have been a few years older than Alexander. This got me thinking about how Alexander sent Perdiccas with Hephaestion into Gandhara. It was 327 BC, and their

… instructions were to take by force or negotiate the surrender of all the towns on their route, and, once arrived at the Indus [River], to make all necessary preparations for the crossing of the river.
(Arrian IV.22.7)

Why did Alexander send two of his three most senior officers* away together? My Oxford World’s Classics edition of Arrian says that ‘Alexander needed a macho officer to balance the less bellicose Hephaestion’.

This seems to me to be a rather extraordinary statement. It can only come from the view that Hephaestion was not first-and-foremost a military man. Therefore, he must have been a bit soft.

However, the Hephaestion who, it is true, is most often seen carrying out non-military operations is also the Hephaestion fought with such vigour at the Battle of Gaugamela that he was wounded (Ar. III.15.2). And is also the same Hephaestion who took a ruthless and leading role in the downfall of Philotas (see C.VI.11.10 ff). And, yes, he is the same Hephaestion who was not afraid to square off against Craterus (Plutarch Life of Alexander 47) and even face down Olympias herself despite her ‘sharp criticisms and threats against him’ (Diodorus XVII.114).

So much for Hephaestion not being a ‘bellicose’ man. But if we rule the Oxford World’s Classics’s explanation out, why did Perdiccas travel with him? Well, I’m not going to pretend I know; I don’t, but a thought that came to me is that perhaps, if Perdiccas was appreciably older than Alexander (with whom Hephaestion was coeval), just perhaps, he was not there to cover the military side of the mission while Hephaestion handled the non-military but was assigned to Hephaestion to act as a mentor – to help him grow as a military commander rather than replace him as one. It’s just a thought.

* The third being Craterus

***

I am on Twitter – @secondachilles if you would like to follow me – and yesterday I had a conversation with someone that led me to this passage,

… Alexander never used to greet the news that Philip had captured an important city or won a famous victory with particular delight; instead, he used to say to his friends, ‘Lads, my father’s going to pre-empt me in everything. By the time he’s finished, there’ll be nothing important left for me to present to the world, no splendid victories to be won with your help.’
(Plutarch Life 5)

Isn’t it amazing that Alexander worried about this? In his youth, he must have either had a very limited conception of the size of the world or else regarded most of it as being simply beyond reach. More likely, though, he never said any such thing and that the anecdote is based not on a specific conversation but on Alexander’s attitude and his tendency to be jealous of other people’s achievements – see how he called the Battle of Megalopolis in 331 BC ‘a battle of mice’ (Plutarch Life of Agesilaus 15) and his fatal quarrel with Black Cleitus (Curtius VIII.1.22-52).

Picture Credits
The Iliad cover – The Telegraph

Categories: Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Hephaestion Amyntoros, Homer, Plutarch, Quintus Curtius Rufus | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Craterus and Perdiccas

It’s Christmas Eve. If you are reading this on 24th December, I hope you have a good day tomorrow, one that is full of love, as that is the essence of the day whether you are religious or not. If you are reading this on any other day of the year; well, I hope you have an equally love filled day tomorrow as well.

***

I started my Christmas holiday last Tuesday so have had lots of time to read and write about Alexander… ha ha… nope. Why does it happen that I have more time when I have less time? To be sure, I have been out a lot since Tuesday. On Thursday, though, I was indoors all day but then I was busy playing the third and final instalment of Life is Strange: Before the Storm. If you haven’t played this and have a console or PC I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is as un-Alexander-like a game as it possible for one to be and, to be honest, is all the better for it. Not everything should be about wine and phalanxes, though most things should.

***

Anyway what have I done that has been Alexander related?

Well, I have managed to read Craterus’ and Perdiccas’ entries from The Marshals of Alexander’s Empire by Waldemar Heckel. Heckel gives 57 pages to the two men, reflecting their importance in Alexander’s life and, albeit for the short time they lived, the Successor period (Both Craterus and Perdiccas died in 320 BC).

While I didn’t make many underlinings for Craterus. I was keen to do so when Heckel stated that, in the matter of the Philotas Affair, Craterus’ role was,

… much less complicated and less sinister than that of the unaccomplished Hephaiston.
(p.117)

Three things.

Less complicated? A few lines earlier, Heckel tells us that Craterus ‘sought to ruin Philotas for personal reasons’ as well as out of a desire to protect Alexander, to whom he was devoted. I really doubt that you have to look much further for Hephaestion’s motivation for desiring Philotas’ fall.

Less sinister? How is wanting to bring about the death of an enemy for no more than ‘personal reasons’ not a sinister motivation?

Hephaestion ‘unaccomplished’? Heckel is being ridiculous. This is what I wrote for my 17th December post,

There are no recorded incidents in the sources of Hephaestion failing Alexander in any commission that he was given. Whether it was to build a bridge or a city, choose a king or transfer equipment or food, he got the job done.

I stand by this. Wherein lies Hephaestion’s lack of accomplishment? Is it really because he was not as good a general as Craterus? And/or because he  had an unpleasant character? A man could still be either and still be accomplished, which Hephaestion was. His record is there for all to see.

***

Perdiccas was the Gordon Brown of Macedonian politics in the late fourth century B.C.: an extremely capable senior officer but a bad leader. To be fair, Heckel is not wrong when he says that ‘In order to continue Alexander’s work Perdikkas would have to be another Alexander, and this he was not.’ (pp.134-5). Why not? W. W. Tarn gives us some of the reasons in one of the quotation that Heckel uses to open the chapter. Perdiccas, he says, ‘was… unconciliatory and inordinately proud, and probably difficult to work with’. Of course, Alexander could be unconciliatory when he had a mind to be, but unlike Perdiccas he knew how to work with people, how to inspire them, how to get the best out of them.

Heckel states that,

Perdikkas’ career is an unfortunate tale of lofty ideals combined with excessive ambition and political myopia. He showed a determination to keep the empire intact, and for this idealism – though it was motivated by a quest for personal glory – he is to be admired.
(p.151)

I am not so sure the first point is correct. If Perdiccas had been a genuine idealist he would have done everything he could to keep the empire ready for the day when Alexander IV took up his rule. Instead, he quickly set about trying to win the Macedonian throne for himself; for example, by transporting Alexander’s body back to Macedon even though the late king wanted to be buried at Siwah and by marrying Alexander’s (only) full-sister, Cleopatra.

By-and-bye, I don’t blame Perdiccas for this. To survive the Macedonian political scene in the fourth century B.C. one had to be ambitious (something that Craterus wasn’t, and Hephaestion was, by the way) not idealistic.

***

Something that occasionally crops up on Social Media are images that portray Alexander as a national icon of Greece. Here is an example.

But was he? I don’t think so. He certainly believed in Hellenic values but Alexander was not a nationalist. He believed in his barbarian subjects, too, but you wouldn’t know this from some of the images I have seen. Like the one above, they play fast and loose with the truth in order to get their message across.

The image we see here is an ironic as well as false one. On the left hand side you can see the Vergina Star, a symbol of the ancient Macedonian kingdom. It has been painted to look like the modern day Greek flag.

Leaving aside the issue of its anachronism, it is an ironic image because the ancient Greeks hated the ancient Macedonians. And the feeling was reciprocated. If ancient Greece had had a flag and someone had placed it within the Vergina Star both Greeks and Macedonians would have been undoubtedly been offended by it.

This brings us to the falsity of the image; it is false because through the veil of its anachronism it tries to make a connection between ancient Greece and Macedon, which wasn’t there. And I mean here, a political connection, as the ancient Macedonians were very likely to be ethnically Greek.

We all have our own Alexander but we should at least try to ground him in historical reality rather than our current day ideology.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Opportunists

After Alexander died, his generals met to discuss the succession.
 
(all references from Curtius)
 
Perdiccas suggested that they wait to see if Roxane gave birth to a son (X.6.9), while Nearchus said that Heracles, Alexander’s son by Barsine, should be made king (X.6.11). Ptolemy, however, dismissed both ideas. He said that the generals should rule together with decisions taken by majority vote (X.6.15). Aristonus spoke next – Alexander had given Perdiccas his ring so it is Perdiccas who should lead them (X.6.17).
 
The Assembly agreed with Aristonus but before the meeting could be concluded, Meleager spoke up. Perdiccas should not be allowed to rule them as he will seize power! he said, No, authority should be given to the people – i.e. the infantry (X.6.23). 
After this interjection, Meleager stormed off – to start looting the royal palace with his supporters. He had not got far, however, when an unnamed member of the rank and file changed history by suggesting that Arrhidaeos, Alexander’s brother, should be made king. The Assembly approved this idea and the order to bring Arrhidaeos was given (X.6.24; 7.1.-6).
 
Foiled in his plan, Meleager acted quickly to do the next best thing – to spite Perdiccas – and brought Arrhidaeos to the Assembly (X.7.7).
 
Opportunists all… almost
  • Perdiccas voted for Roxane because as the most senior officer in the army he had control of her.
  • Nearchus voted for Heracles because he had married Barsine’s daughter, and so was Heracles’ brother-in-law.
  • Ptolemy wanted the generals to rule because he knew no one man could rule the empire and because he himself was very popular with the men – very useful if the generals could not reach a consensus and needed a ‘nudge’ in the right direction.
  • I don’t know enough about Aristonus to know why he chose to support Perdiccas. It may be that he genuinely thought that Perdiccas should be their leader on account of Alexander giving him his ring or maybe Perdiccas had promised him a reward for his loyalty. In 321/0, Aristonus was given command of a mission to defeat the kings of Cyprus who had allied themselves with Ptolemy.
  • Meleager’s suggestion that the phalanx was Alexander’s successor was an irresponsible and ridiculous one; it was surely no more than a brazen attempt to grab power by Meleager himself. If this is correct, it is ironic that his plan was undone by a member of the infantry. But if we can fault Meleager for his lack of subtlety, we can’t fault his persistence. Though if he really turned to Arrhidaeos just to spite Perdiccas, he was a shallow and mean minded man.
Categories: Quintus Curtius Rufus | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

And the Loser Is…

If there was such a thing as the Bad Luck, Old Chap award and it had a category for antiquity, I would definitely nominate –

Craterus
Serves Alexander with distinction,
Could have been the man to whom Alexander left his empire,
Falls under his horse and dies early in the Wars of the Successors (Diodorus XVIII.30).

Perdiccas
Serves Alexander loyally,
Forms an effective team with Hephaestion in India,
Is deserted by his friends after failing to clear a disused canal (a canal!) (Diodorus XVIII.33)
And is assassinated after failing – wait for it – to cross a river (Diodorus XVIII.36).

Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be.

Categories: By the Bye, Humour, Of The Moment, Random Posts | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Images of Alexander

In this post, I would share a few pictures of Alexander from my Pinterest page (link in the sidebar).

I chose representations of him from the Fourth Century B.C. to the First A.D.

Fourth Century B.C.
As you can see, it is a bust of Alexander in profile. I chose it for three reasons.

Firstly, the view is in profile. Most pictures of Alexander are done face or side-on so the look in profile immediately made the picture stand out.

Secondly, the fact that the bust has been so firmly sliced (or was it meant to be like that?) down the back gives the image a very vulnerable appearance. One minute Alexander is there; the next, gone.

Thirdly, I really like the way the sculptor has him looking upwards – staring into the distance, wondering what is out there, how he might find it (and, perhaps, how he might conquer it). That’s Alexander – always looking to what lies just beyond.
alexander_fourth_century_bc
Third Century B.C.
This next picture is a personal favourite of mine, as it shows Alexander looking very heroic, and, I have to say, lush, too. However, do you see the line along the bottom of his neck? I am wondering if the body originally belonged to someone else and Alexander’s head was placed on it. Also, notice the object that he is holding in his left hand. I can never look at this photograph without wondering what that is.

Alexander_third_century_bc

Second Century B.C.
Two centuries after his death, Alexander still retains his leonine (or just plain shaggy) head of hair, tilting head and liquid looking-into-the-beyond gaze. This head also seems to represent Alexander as a young man as it has a freshness and vitality to it that he surely did not possess in his later years.

alexander_second_century_bc

We move on either to the First Century B.C. or First Century A.D. and a mosaic that was found in Pompeii. Does it deserve its place on this list? The man on the left is said to be Alexander but I don’t think we know for sure. The woman on the right might be Stateira II or Roxane.

As for Alexander, he looks very tanned here. I don’t know if the artist intended to show him that way, but it certainly seems a more realistic representation than the reconstruction of his skin colour, below. By contrast, Stateira II/Roxane has very pale skin – perhaps meeting a Roman ideal of how women’s skin should look?

alexander_first_century_bc

Added Extras
The Alexander Sarcophagus never belonged to Alexander. It was once thought to have held the body of Abdalonymus, the gardener-made-king but according to Wikipedia, that has been disproved.

Whoever the sarcophagus was meant for, it is an expertly sculpted coffin. Below, you can see a picture of a Macedonian cavalryman, identified as Perdiccas. Amazingly, after 2,300 years some of the original colour still remains…

alexander_sarcophagus_grey

… and it no doubt inspired the reconstruction of Alexander’s colour scheme (You can tell it is him by his lion-helmet).

Alexander here is surely much too pale skinned for someone who spent a great deal of his life outdoors but what about the colour of his clothing? Whether it is realistic or not, it is certainly very striking (and let’s not even talk about the Persian soldier’s trousers).

I suppose the purpose of the reconstruction is to bring us closer to Alexander. I have to admit, though, I find him more in the more idealistic portrayals. Perhaps I am more interested in the heroic Alexander rather than the realistic one. But if the real Alexander is in both, I’m sure that doesn’t matter.

alexander_sarcophagus_colour

Categories: Finding Alexander | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Perdiccas: The Great Betrayer?

Over on my Tumblr page I am currently writing a read-through of the eighteenth book of Diodorus Siculus’ Library of History – his account of the wars of Alexander’s successors. Today’s post covers the twenty-fourth and fifth chapters of the Library. You can read it here.

While writing the post I was very struck by the fact that Antipater and Craterus were not only surprised but ‘dumbfounded’ when Antigonus Monophthalmus informed them that Perdiccas intended to marry Alexander’s sister, Cleopatra, as a means to make himself king of her brother’s empire.

I’m not surprised by their shock. Perdiccas, after all, was the man to whom Alexander gave his ring of office on his deathbed (Diodorus XVII.117; Curtius X.5.4). The dying king must, therefore, have trusted Perdiccas to ensure that if it were possible for an Argead (e.g. his as yet unborn son) to inherit the throne his deputy – Hephaestion’s successor – would be able to make it happen. And if Alexander thought that, then surely the other generals did, too. It seems that Antipater and Craterus certainly did. Yet here Perdiccas was, all of a sudden, aiming to make himself king.

The title of my post is ‘Perdiccas’ Betrayal’. If there is an ounce of truth in Diodorus’ words I can’t think of how anyone could have betrayed Alexander more. For he betrayed him not only personally but surely by encouraging those other generals who were not so loyal to the idea of an Argead succession but who, had Perdiccas remained faithful to the late king, might have swallowed their ambitions all the same.

***

Of course, there is an objection to my dim view of Perdiccas, and it is sourced in the texts. According to Diodorus, Alexander was asked to whom he left his kingdom. He did not say ‘his son’ but ‘to the strongest’ (D. XVII.117) or ‘to the best man’ (Curtius X.5.5). My objection to this is that a. Arrian(VII.26) – taking his cue from Ptolemy and Aristobulos – says that Alexander could not speak at the end of his life and b. It would make no sense for Antipater or Craterus to be surprised by Perdiccas’ betrayal if they knew that Alexander wanted ‘simply’ the strongest or greatest man to inherit his throne rather than his son.

  • As visitors to this blog may have noticed, I have been very remiss in updating The Second Achilles for a while now. For this, I apologise; I am in a busy stage of life but have to admit I haven’t used my time as well as I could have to publish posts here. Within the time that I have I would like to change that. I’m not sure how I will yet, but one idea is to write short posts like this one giving my thoughts on Diodorus as I write the read through. If you find short posts like this one helpful, or not so, do feel free to let me know in the comments box or via e-mail thesecondachilles@gmail.com
Categories: Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Quintus Curtius Rufus, The Wars of the Successors | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

The Shadow Story

I am currently reading The Hunt for Zerzura by Saul Kelly, which tells the story of the interwar desert explorers who criss-crossed the Egyptian desert in search of the lost oasis of Zerzura.

They never found Zerzura but did manage to map a great deal of previously unknown territory. These maps eventually ended up in the hands of both the Axis Powers and British armies after the outbreak of the Second World War.

***

There is much I could say about the book and the people involved in the exploration, but in this post I just wanted to highlight a comment made by ‘The Director of Military Intelligence, Brigadier Freddie de Guingand’ (p.187) regarding the contribution made to the desert war on behalf of Britain and her allies by the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG).

The LRDG was founded by one of the desert explorers, Ralph Bagnold, with orders ‘to make trouble for the Italians, and later the Germans, anywhere in Libya’ (p.136).

As the war progressed, the LRDG’s role also developed so that its commanding officer, Guy Prendergast could say that it

… found itself more and more in the position of ‘universal aunts’ to anyone who has business in the desert behind the enemy lines. An increasing stream of Commandos (European and Arab), L. Detachment, I.S.L.D., G(R)., bogus Germans (BUCK), lost travellers, ‘escape scheme’ promoters, stranded aviators, etc., has continued to arrive at SIWA needing petrol, rations, maintenance, information, training, accommodation, and supplies of all kinds.
(p.188)

***

In 1942, spying was at the top of the LRDG’s list of priorities as a 24-hour watch was kept on the Via Balbia, ‘Rommel’s main line of communication’ (p.187). Every vehicle and man that passed this way was noted and a report sent back to Cairo. The information sent by the LRDG’s observers was important as it

… enabled Military Intelligence in Cairo to check the Axis vehicle figures it was getting from Enigma so as to arrive at a reasonably accurate figure, in particular of the number of serviceable tanks, which Rommel could put in the field.
(p.187)

I’m sure I don’t need to say why it was important for the British army to know how many tanks the Desert Fox had at his disposal. And, indeed, this information was not just important but absolutely critical to the British war effort. So much so that de Guingand

… later maintained that the road watch was the LRDG’s most valuable contribution in the fight against the Axis in North Africa.
(ibid)

The raids behind enemy lines, the harassment of enemy forces, the soldiers ferried about, aviators rescued – no doubt all were valuable works but the most important thing that the LRDG did was lie down on the ground for hours on end and jot down names and numbers. That’s quite a thought.

***

Reading the above passage made a deep impression on me as it brought home once again how an army simply does not win its battles only on the battlefield. That may be where the greatest amount of glory is won but clearly, without the efforts of those behind the (battle) scenes, the ultimate outcome of any clash of arms has the potential to be a lot less certain.

Over the last few months, this thought has lead me to consider Hephaestion’s role as Alexander’s chief-logistics officer. I might now also consider who else served him in an equally unglamorous but perhaps vital way.

One person does immediately spring to mind: Eumenes, his chief war secretary. I might also mention Perdiccas who worked with Hephaestion on the logistics side. And then there is Chares, Alexander’s Royal Usher when the king was taking on Persian dress and customs and so a link between the traditional and progressive factions at court. Also, Leonidas and Lysimachus, the king’s tutors. Leonidas is well known but Lysimachus (not to be confused with the general of that name) perhaps less so. Alexander considered him important enough to rescue at great risk to his own life when the old man’s strength failed him during a brief campaign against arabs in Anti-Lebanon (Plutarch Life 24).

I’m sure I could go on but, hopefully, you already see my point – the chief story of Alexander’s life is definitely the battles, sieges and brave deeds he did, but there is definitely another – even if more shadowy – story to tell alongside that one. I must thank Saul Kelly (and, ultimately, Brigadier Freddie de Guingand) or reminding me of this in his excellent book.

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: