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Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction

by Pierre Briant Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 216 pages
AU$47.99 NZ$50.43
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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.

List of Illustrations vii

Translator's Note ix

Foreword to the American Edition xi

Acknowledgments xxi

Introduction: Alexander before the Expedition to Asia Minor (356-334) 1

Chapter I: The Major Stages of the Conquest (334-323) 7

From Granicus to the Fall of Tyre (May 334-Summer 332) 7

From Tyre to the Euphrates (Summer 332-Summer 331) 10

The End of Darius and the Final Submission of Greece (Summer 331-Summer 330) 12

Guerillas in the Eastern Satrapies and Macedonian Opposition (Summer 330-Spring 327) 14

The Conquest of India and the Return via the Persian Gulf (327-325) 20

The Last Years (324-323) 22

Chapter II: The Origins and Objectives of the Conquest 24

The Unsatisfactory Nature of Explanations Based on Personality and Psychology 25

The Heritage of Philip II 28

Alexander and the Royal Territories of the Achaemenids 32

"War of Liberation" and "War of Reprisal": The Limits of Alexander's Philhellenism 33

The Conquest of India and Return via the Persian Gulf 37

The Problem of the "Last Plans" 38

Chapter III: Resistance to the Conquest 42

The Resistance of Darius (334-330) 42

Underground Resistance and Open Revolt in Greece 52

Resistance and Reprisals in the Eastern Satrapies (330-327) 54

The Discontent of the Macedonian Soldiery (330-324) 63

Chapter IV: The Administration, Defense, and Exploitation of the Conquered Lands 67

The Different Degrees of Royal Authority 68

Territorial Control and the Management of the Population 80

Conquest and "Economic Development" 83

Chapter V: Alexander among Macedonians, Greeks, and Iranians 101

Conquest and Surrender: Contradiction and Opposition 102

A Policy for the Future (325-323) 126

Conclusion: The King Is Dead! Long Live the King? 139

An Introductory Bibliography 145

Appendix: The History of Alexander Today: A Provisional Assessment and Some Future Directions 153

Index of Toponyms 187

General Index 190

Pierre Briant's Alexander the Great and His Empire may be short, but it is of a wholly different order of seriousness from that of Mr. Freeman: an analysis less of Alexander himself than of his record as a state-builder and in particular of the debt that he owed to his Achaemenid predecessors. . . . Mr. Briant is one of the most brilliant historians of antiquity at work today, a scholar whose corpus of researches into the Persian Empire has enabled us to understand its overthrow from the perspective of the defeated as well as the victor. -- Tom Holland, Wall Street Journal This is now the best introduction to the history of Alexander the Great in English. -- Choice
Pierre Briant is the Professor of the History and Civilization of the Achaemenid World and the Empire of Alexander the Great at the Coll├Ęge de France. His many books include From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire.