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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Alexander the Great conquered an enormous empire--stretching from Greece to the Indian subcontinent--and his death triggered forty bloody years of world-changing warfare. These were years 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.

The story of one of the great forgotten wars of history,Dividing the Spoilsserves up a fast-paced narrative that captures this turbulent time as it revives the memory of the Successors of Alexander and their great war over his empire. The Successors, Robin Waterfield shows, were no mere plunderers. Indeed, Alexander left things in great disarray 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 such as Ptolemy, Perdiccas, Seleucus, and Antigonus the One-Eyed--who consolidated Alexander's gains. Their competing ambitions, however, eventually led to the break-up of the empire. To tell their story in full, Waterfield draws upon a wide range of historical materials, providing the first account that makes complete sense of this highly complex period.

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.

Excerpt

This book tells the story of one of the great forgotten wars of history. It took more or less forty years after the death of Alexander the Great for his heirs (the Diadokhoi, the Successors) to finish carving up his vast empire. These years, 323–281 BCE, 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 schemed from their palaces, pavilions, and prisons; this was the first period of western history when privileged women, especially from the royal families, began to play the kind of major political roles they would continue to play throughout the future history of Roman, Byzantine, and European monarchies.

My period has a natural starting point—the death of Alexander in June 323—and an equally natural end. The year 281 saw the violent deaths of the last two direct Successors of Alexander, those who had known and ridden with him. The next generation—the Epigonoi, as Nymphis, a historian of the second century BCE, called them in a lost work—may have been just as ambitious as their fathers, but the world had changed. It was no longer realistic to aim for dominion of the whole of Alexander’s empire; instead, their first aim was to hold on to their core territories—Macedon for the Antigonids, Asia for the Seleucids, and Greater Egypt for the Ptolemies. Of course, they and their descendants would regularly attempt to take over some of a neighbor’s territory, but no individual any longer realistically aspired to rule the whole known world. There would never again be a time like the time . . .

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