Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction

Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction

Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction

Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction


This is the first publication in English of Pierre Briant's classic short history of Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian empire, from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. Eschewing a conventional biographical focus, this is the only book in any language that sets the rise of Alexander's short-lived empire within the broad context of ancient Near Eastern history under Achaemenid Persian rule, as well as against Alexander's Macedonian background. As a renowned historian of both the Macedonians and the Persians, Briant is uniquely able to assess Alexander's significance from the viewpoint of both the conquerors and the conquered, and to trace what changed and what stayed the same as Alexander and the Hellenistic world gained ascendancy over Darius's Persia.

After a short account of Alexander's life before his landing in Asia Minor, the book gives a brief overview of the major stages of his conquest. This background sets the stage for a series of concise thematic chapters that explore the origins and objectives of the conquest; the nature and significance of the resistance it met; the administration, defense, and exploitation of the conquered lands; the varying nature of Alexander's relations with the Macedonians, Greeks, and Persians; and the problems of succession following Alexander's death.

For this translation, Briant has written a new foreword and conclusion, updated the main text and the thematic annotated bibliography, and added a substantial appendix in which he assesses the current state of scholarship on Alexander and suggests some directions for future research. More than ever, this masterful work provides an original and important perspective on Alexander and his empire.


The first edition of this book was published in 1974 in Paris by the Presses Universitaires de France in its well-known series Que-sais-je? (no. 622), replacing an earlier book with the same title by Paul Cloché, which had appeared in 1954. Since then there have been five new French editions (published between 1976 and 2005), as well as translations into several European languages (Italian, Danish, Swedish, BulgarianMacedonian, Romanian, Greek, Portuguese-Brazilian), as well as Chinese and Japanese.

In terms of structure and basic ideas, the present book is very similar to the one published in French in 1974. I remain committed to the agenda with which I prefaced the first edition:

This is not a biography. Its aim is rather to consider major
aspects of a historical phenomenon that is not reducible
merely to the person of Alexander, however important the
role played by that personal element may have been. The
book’s structure reflects that deliberate choice. The account
of Alexander’s conquest itself is concentrated in a short pre
liminary chapter, to familiarize the reader with its chronology.
The main body of the book is devoted to examining the larger
questions it raises: the origins of the conquest and Alexander’s
aims; the nature and relative importance of various forms of
resistance encountered; the organization of the conquered
territories; and relations between conquerors and conquered.

Nevertheless, while keeping the same approach, I have updated the text as appropriate for each edition. I have taken . . .

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