Alexander and the East: The Tragedy of Triumph

Alexander and the East: The Tragedy of Triumph

Alexander and the East: The Tragedy of Triumph

Alexander and the East: The Tragedy of Triumph

Synopsis

In this study, Bosworth looks at Alexander the Great's activities in Central Asia and Pakistan, drawing a bleak picture of massacre and repression comparable to the Spanish conquest of Mexico. He investigates the evolution of Alexander's views of empire and concept of universal monarch, and documents the representation of Alexander by historians of antiquity. The book is directed to specialists and general readers alike.

Excerpt

The origins of this book are of some interest. In 1993 I was invited to give the Sixth Broadhead Lecture at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand. For the occasion it seemed appropriate to give a general lecture on Alexander, developing many of the ideas I had only been able to adumbrate in my Historical Commentary on Arrian. It also gave me the opportunity to rebut some misapprehensions of my concept of Alexander's reign, which have become common currency. My work is not 'revisionist' (it goes back in fact to Niebuhr and Grote, before Droysen produced his classic encomiastic interpretation of the period), nor is it 'unromantic'. However, the romance is not the trivial picture of the wild-eyed, visionary Alexander. It is a much darker conception, its perspective that of the victims, the eggs in Alexander's ecumenical omelette. Before I came to the lecture, I had spent some years working through the text of Arrian. It was a depressing experience, cumulatively so, as the record of slaughter went on, apparently without an end. The slaughter was what Arrian primarily saw as the achievement of Alexander, and, for all his humanity, Arrian shares the Roman mentality which measured glory in terms of enemy casualties--with a lower limit of 5,000 enemy dead, the body count for a triumph. Alexander's most sympathetic chronicler in ancient times describes the reign as more or less continuous fighting, at times verging on massacre for its own sake, and his emphasis is certainly correct. Alexander spent much of his time killing and directing killing, and, arguably, killing was what he did best. That brute fact needed emphasis, and it was central to the Broadhead Lecture.

The Broadhead Trust stipulates publication of its lectures, and it seemed to me that 'The Shield of Achilles' would appear at best advantage as a thematic introduction to a set of studies exploring the background to Alexander's actions in the east of his empire, with particular emphasis on the period 329-325 BC, which I have come to consider of central importance for the entire Hellenistic Age. I

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