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Alexander the Great Failure: The Collapse of the Macedonian Empire (Hambledon Continuum) Paperback – August 11, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Hambledon Continuum
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 1 edition (August 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082644394X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826443946
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,740,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This unconventional and provocative analysis presents Alexander the Great as anything but. The Macedonian conquest was widely detested and resisted in a Persian Empire military historian Grainger describes not as the discordant mélange of peoples depicted in classical Greek accounts, but as the political and economic center of the civilized world. A hubristic dream of world conquest led Alexander to neglect the empire he ruled. He ignored his health to the point of contributing to his early death. He failed to provide an heir, refused to designate an adult successor and eliminated aspirants to that role. His inability to delegate work or responsibility crippled his administrative system. Macedonia was Alexander's fulcrum, but his wars left it so weakened that on his death the kingdom imploded and devoted what energy remained to compounding chaos in Greece. Egypt reasserted its independence and its boundaries. The Seleucid kingdom (founded by Seleukos Nikator, one of Alexander's lesser subordinates) eventually extended from Anatolia to northern India. Seleukos came closest to securing Alexander's imperial heritage. Even before Seleukos's assassination, however, his domain proved difficult to control without the military resources Macedonia had provided Alexander. Alexander's life and conquests may have been extraordinary, but their result was a failed empire whose collapse facilitated the rise of the Roman Republic. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"The kingdom of Macedon had existed since the seventh century BCE, writes military historian Grainger in his swift, certain summary. Claiming its mythic descent from a relative of Heracles, speaking a Greek dialect and surrounded by other important city-states such as Chalkidike and Thessaly, Macedon was overshadowed by the mighty Persian Empire...Grainger tracks the long series of succession crises that ended with the ascent in 359 BCE of educated, opportunistic Philip II, who quickly killed off all rivals and instituted a series of innovations that would render Macedon powerful and rich. He instilled new discipline among cavalrymen, introduced the sarissa, a longer infantry spear, and deployed cunning, effective diplomacy. Philip's murder in 336 brought to the throne his 20-year-old son, Alexander, who immediately embarked on a nine-year campaign to subjugate his neighbors and the Persian Empire. The administration of his conquests was left to ineffectual satraps, and with the death of their charismatic leader in 323, in the absence of a designated heir, the army fell in disarray. Power was seized by Perdikkas, then Antipater, then Antigonos, who declared himself the legitimate successor of Alexander after the decisive battle of Salamis in 306. He was followed by a disastrous series of kinds and the invasion of the Galatians in 279 BCE. Macedonian unity was never again achieved, Grainger asserts, because, 'Alexander's ambition was too great for his people.' Written from the point of view of those subjugated by the Macedonian empire over two centuries, this book offers a unique and significant take on well-worn history." —Kirkus

This unconventional and provocative analysis presents Alexander the Great as anything but. The Macedonian conquest was widely detested and resisted in a Persian Empire military historian Grainger describes not as the discordant mélange of peoples depicted in classical Greek accounts, but as the political and economic center of the civilized world. A hubristic dream of world conquest led Alexander to neglect the empire he ruled. He ignored his health to the point of contributing to his early death. He failed to provide an heir, refused to designate an adult successor and eliminated aspirants to that role. His inability to delegate work or responsibility crippled his administrative system. Macedonia was Alexander's fulcrum, but his wars left it so weakened that on his death the kingdom imploded and devoted what energy remained to compounding chaos in Greece. Egypt reasserted its independence and its boundaries. The Seleucid kingdom (founded by Seleukos Nikator, one of Alexander's lesser subordinates) eventually extended from Anatolia to northern India. Seleukos came closest to securing Alexander's imperial heritage. Even before Seleukos's assassination, however, his domain proved difficult to control without the military resources Macedonia had provided Alexander. Alexander's life and conquests may have been extraordinary, but their result was a failed empire whose collapse facilitated the rise of the Roman Republic. (Feb.) —Publishers Weekly

"Alexander the Great Failure: The Collapse of the Macedonian Empire examines the rise and fall of an empire which rested on the king's absolute authority: when the king failed his empire crumbled. Alexander needed an adult successor, but refused to provide one and even killed potential candidates for the job: the foundations of his empire and their shaky grounds are analyzed here in an outstanding in-depth survey recommended for college-level collections strong in early history." - Diane C. Donovan, Midwest Book Review, January 2008 (Diane C. Donovan)

"Grainger portrays Alexander as the Hellenic version of Genghis Khan, shredding through the delicate fabric of civilization."
Reviewed by Alexander Nazaryan in The New Criterion, 2008


Mention in Bryn Mawr Reviews
30 September 2008
(Waldemar Heckel, Universsity of Calgary)

The author's puzzling thesis is stated in his book's title: Grainger believes that Alexander the Great was a failure...Grainger's failure to be persuasive in his thesis is compounded by careless book production: misprints, confused chronology, incomprehensible maps, and an inconsistent rendering of foreign personal and place-names into English. Better books about Alexander are available. Summing Up: Not recommended. - E. N. Borza, CHOICE, January 2009 (Negative)

"The kingdom of Macedon had existed since the seventh century BCE, writes military historian Grainger in his swift, certain summary.  Claiming its mythic descent from a relative of Heracles, speaking a Greek dialect and surrounded by other important city-states such as Chalkidike and Thessaly, Macedon was overshadowed by the mighty Persian Empire...Grainger tracks the long series of succession crises that ended with the ascent in 359 BCE of educated, opportunistic Philip II, who quickly killed off all rivals and instituted a series of innovations that would render Macedon powerful and rich.  He instilled new discipline among cavalrymen, introduced the sarissa, a longer infantry spear, and deployed cunning, effective diplomacy.  Philip's murder in 336 brought to the throne his 20-year-old son, Alexander, who immediately embarked on a nine-year campaign to subjugate his neighbors and the Persian Empire.  The administration of his conquests was left to ineffectual satraps, and with the death of their charismatic leader in 323, in the absence of a designated heir, the army fell in disarray.  Power was seized by Perdikkas, then Antipater, then Antigonos, who declared himself the legitimate successor of Alexander after the decisive battle of Salamis in 306.  He was followed by a disastrous series of kinds and the invasion of the Galatians in 279 BCE.  Macedonian unity was never again achieved, Grainger asserts, because, 'Alexander's ambition was too great for his people.'  Written from the point of view of those subjugated by the Macedonian empire over two centuries, this book offers a unique and significant take on well-worn history."  —Kirkus

This unconventional and provocative analysis presents Alexander the Great as anything but. The Macedonian conquest was widely detested and resisted in a Persian Empire military historian Grainger describes not as the discordant mélange of peoples depicted in classical Greek accounts, but as the political and economic center of the civilized world. A hubristic dream of world conquest led Alexander to neglect the empire he ruled. He ignored his health to the point of contributing to his early death. He failed to provide an heir, refused to designate an adult successor and eliminated aspirants to that role. His inability to delegate work or responsibility crippled his administrative system. Macedonia was Alexander's fulcrum, but his wars left it so weakened that on his death the kingdom imploded and devoted what energy remained to compounding chaos in Greece. Egypt reasserted its independence and its boundaries. The Seleucid kingdom (founded by Seleukos Nikator, one of Alexander's lesser subordinates) eventually extended from Anatolia to northern India. Seleukos came closest to securing Alexander's imperial heritage. Even before Seleukos's assassination, however, his domain proved difficult to control without the military resources Macedonia had provided Alexander. Alexander's life and conquests may have been extraordinary, but their result was a failed empire whose collapse facilitated the rise of the Roman Republic. (Feb.) —Publishers Weekly

"Alexander the Great Failure: The Collapse of the Macedonian Empire examines the rise and fall of an empire which rested on the king's absolute authority: when the king failed his empire crumbled.  Alexander needed an adult successor, but refused to provide one and even killed potential candidates for the job: the foundations of his empire and their shaky grounds are analyzed here in an outstanding in-depth survey recommended for college-level collections strong in early history." - Diane C. Donovan, Midwest Book Review, January 2008 (Sanford Lakoff)

Mention in Bryn Mawr Reviews
30 September 2008
(Sanford Lakoff)

The author's puzzling thesis is stated in his book's title: Grainger believes that Alexander the Great was a failure…Grainger's failure to be persuasive in his thesis is compounded by careless book production: misprints, confused chronology, incomprehensible maps, and an inconsistent rendering of foreign personal and place-names into English. Better books about Alexander are available. Summing Up: Not recommended. - E. N. Borza, CHOICE, January 2009 (Sanford Lakoff)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Loucks on May 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is in response to the 2 "1 star reviews". these reviewers obviously missed the point of the book, which was that alexander was a failure at empire building. it was not to say that alexander failed at everything he did. no question, he was a great conqueror, and worthy of admiration. but specifically in empire building is were his failure lies. if he was trying to build something lasting his efforts were self-defeating. an excellent book that helps the open minded form a clearer understanding of this outstanding general. those blinded by hero-worship might not see it for what it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Mice Guy on May 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the fourth book by this author that I have read recently, and I have developed a high opinion of his work. This book is targeting a more general readership than some of his academic studies (see further reading list below). The book itself is as well written and researched as the previous ones. The Notes however are mainly straightforward citation references, without as much of the in-depth criticism of the sources you find in the academic volumes, though he still gets a few barbs in:
"...on 10 June, 323, he [Alexander], died. Conspiracy theories surround this event: one has it that Antipater organised the assassination all the way from Macedon and involved half the imperial administration in the plot. These can be dismissed as the imaginings of desk-bound historians and over-imaginative novelists"; and he carries on in the footnotes. Philip's death has also attracted attention:
"During the celebration of [his daughter's] marriage Philip was murdered. His assassin was Pausanias, a man who had a grievance against Attalos, the uncle of Philip's new queen, a grievance which Philip had refused to deal with... Pausanias ran off, but was chased and killed by members of Philip's bodyguard. Conspiracy immediately comes to mind, probably unnecessarily. Almost everyone of any note in Philip's family and court has come under suspicion, but the main accused are Alexander, Olympias, Antipater and perhaps Parmenion; and superficially plausible cases can be constructed against all of them. There is even one theory which sees a plot by men of Upper Macedon against domination from the original kingdom. None of the theories stands up very well, and the most that can be said is that no one shed tears at the king's killing....
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12 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
ALEXANDER THE GREAT FAILURE: THE COLLAPSE OF THE MACEDONIAN EMPIRE examines the rise and fall of an empire which rested on the king's absolute authority: when the king failed his empire crumbled. Alexander needed an adult successor, but refused to provide one and even killed potential candidates for the job: the foundations of his empire and their shaky grounds are analyzed here in an outstanding in-depth survey recommended for college-level collections strong in early history.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alexander on January 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
In my defense, I passed away before completing my quest to spread Hellenism to all stretches of the known world. On that wretched day in 323 BC, I realized the mistake I had made. I thought I would live to win many more battles. Instead, I would never leave my bed in Babylon, alongside many of my most trusted generals. My future conquests throughout Arabia never came to fruition, nor did the opportunity to name my heir. Contrary to Grainger, whom I will confront in the same manner as I confronted Kleitos, I did plan to have an heir to provide stability to my work, but my aspirations for kleos and time grasped me and controlled me. Curse the day Keraunos assassinated Seleukos after Korupedion, impeding the reunification of my lands!

~Megalos Alexandros
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