Thursday, May 13, 2010


A review of Waldemar Heckel’s The Wars of Alexander the Great: 336-323 BC (2002)
Part of Essential Histories Series #26

(Rating 5 of 5)

Alexander the Great is one of the unique figures in the history of the world. Alexander, the leader of tiny Macedonia, would take on the greatest power the world had ever seen, the Persian Empire. In time, he would be known as not only the King of Macedon and the master of Greece, but Lord of Asia, Pharaoh of Egypt, and King of Kings. Stories would be told of him for generations, inspiring all sorts of leaders such as Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

In a brief ninety-page work, Heckel tells the story how Alexander the Great conquered the entire world that was known to him. The book fills in some of the back-story dealing with the ‘relationship’ between Ancient Greece and the Persian Empire. It tells the story of Macedonia and how Alexander’s family came to rule it. It details the reign of Alexander’s father, Philip the Magician, and how he came to be the master of all Greece. Alexander’s story of conquest does not even begin until a third of the way into the book.

“What Philip’s exact aims were, in terms of territorial acquisition, are not clear. Many suppose that he would have contented himself, initially at least, with the liberation of Asia Minor. This would certainly have been in keeping with Philip’s practices in the past. From the time, that he overcame internal opposition and secured his borders against barbarian incursions, Philip expanded slowly and cautiously over a period of almost twenty years. Unlike Alexander, whose practice it was to conquer first and consolidate later—and, indeed, ‘later’ never came in some cases—Philip was content to acquire territory systematically, without overextending Macedonian power.” p.28

This particular series of books is interesting because they are in an almost textbook format with out really having a textbook feel to them. In this book, there are plenty of maps, classical paintings of events, pictures of statues, and photos of places that Alexander was at in modern times. A chapter deals with ordinary people who lived and worked while all these incredible events were going on. There are also little information boxes through out the book giving the reader a greater understanding on the topic that they are reading.

“Although Darius had again escaped from the battlefield, Gaugamela proved fatal for the Persian Empire. The Great King fled in the direction of Arbela, which he reached by midnight. Other contingents dispersed to their territories, as was the custom amongst the barbarians. Those who commanded the garrisons and guarded the treasures in the empire’s capitals made a formal surrender to Alexander. One man, Mazaeus, the Persian hero of Gaugamela, surrendered Babylon, together with the gazophylax (guardian of the treasures’), Bagophanes. Alexander entered in great ceremony the ancient city, which now publicly turned its resources over to the new king, as it were.” p.50

I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn about Alexander the Great. Since what the great king is known for is war, you do receive the complete Alexander in a very abridged form. It is a very brief but informative look into the fourth century B.C.

{Video taken from the History Channel series Decisive Battles: the episode is the Battle of Gaugamela}

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