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Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization) 1st Edition

42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195395235
ISBN-10: 0195395239
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Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization) + Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece (Ancient Warfare and Civilization) + By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization)
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Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description
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 Spoils serves 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.

Take a Look Inside Dividing the Spoils

Dividing the Spoils
Olympias: After Alexander the Great’s death, his mother Olympias was brought to trial for the executions she had been accused of, condemned without a hearing, and put to death in 316 B.C.
Dividing the Spoils
Ivories from Vergina: Archeological findings suggest Verginia, a small village in northern Greece, is the site of the Aigai, capital of Macedonia until the early 4th century B.C.
Dividing the Spoils
The Arsinoeion: Built on the Greek island of Samothrace, the Arsinoeion was part of the “Sanctuary of the Great Gods,” site of many important Hellenic-era religious ceremonies.
Dividing the Spoils
The Temple of Apollo at Didyma: Next to Delphi, Didyma was the most renowned oracle of the Hellenic world. Burned by the Persians in 494 B.C., it was rebuilt after Alexander liberated Ionia.


"Well-paced and often dramatic...up-to-date research and thorough documentation...well-placed interludes summarizing Hellenistic developments in social life, literature, art, economics, philosophy and religion." -The Wall Street Journal

"A well-researched book that offers a wealth of information about the period between Alexander the Great and the coming Roman Empire."-HistoryNet

"Mass battlefield slaughter, treachery, assassinations, intrigues--ancient Greek politics as usual? Not quite: for this is the Age of the Wars of the Succession to Alexander the Great, on the cusp between eastern and western civilization and the Greek and Roman worlds, and also an epoch of unusual creativity especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and the visual arts. Dr. Robin Waterfield's coruscating cultural-political narrative does full and equal justice to all the major dimensions of this extraordinary half-century."-Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, Cambridge University, and the author of Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past

"Waterfield efficiently traces the endlessly shifting military and marital alliances among the great successor families. His spare account manages to serve both as a military and as a cultural history of a great age of transition. Recommended for anybody interested in the classical era."-Library Journal

"A superb examination of a critical but often neglected period of ancient history."-Booklist

"Politics, warfare, and culture are brilliantly captured in this fascinating account, fully supported by maps, genealogies, and mini-bios of key players, together with black-and-white plates, bibliography, and index. An essential Who's Who for any student of this remarkable transformational period." -ForeWord

"This history pays careful attention to the broad scholarship extant ... is readable and engaging, and introduces well these people highly influential to Hellenistic Greek life. I absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in this time period..."-San Francisco Book Review

"[C]larifies and gives modern relevance to an era often overlooked in the classical historical record." --Irmy History

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Product Details

  • Series: Ancient Warfare and Civilization
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195395239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195395235
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Max Blackston on June 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book filled a yawning gap in my knowledge of the period between Alexander's defeat of the Persians in 333 BCE, and the essentially Judea-centric history of the 2nd century BCE's Ptolemies and - more importantly - the Seleucids, and their oppression of the Judean religion which led up to the Maccabean revolt in 167 BCE. Of course one knew the bare outlines; that Alexander had died in 323 having just completed his conquest of India, and that his generals then fought it out to decide who was getting what. I did not even realize that the word Diadokhoi meant successors; I thought it was something to do with there being twelve of them. Somehow or other, I knew, Ptolemy ended up with Egypt, and Seleucus with Syria and Babylonia, - but the rest ? I had heard of the one-eyed Antigonus who seemed to have ruled in Asia Minor, but Greece, Macedon, Cyprus, etc were unknowns until the Romans showed up in the second century BCE.

The second function of this book was to dispel any romantic illusions - good history usually does that - about Alexander, this young king who created the first true world-spanning empire, and then died before he could enjoy it - "those whom the gods love.." etc. He was a formidable general and his record of conquest is true; but conquest was all it was; he had not created anything like an empire out of it - which was why it was so easily torn apart once he was gone (it might have done so any way even if he had lived - which would have somewhat spoiled his story). Alexander - like most of his contemporaries - was hard drinking (which may have contributed to his untimely demise) and, by modern standards, cruel and treacherous. He would think nothing of having a friend or ally killed, if its served his purpose or represented any potential competition to his dominance.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dividing the Spoils proves to be a very informative book on the aftermath of Alexander the Great's empire after his death. The struggle to control his empire began almost immediately after his death and needless to say, none of Alexander's bloodline weren't any factor in this struggle. Much of the conflict was due to Alexander's lacking any real heir or even to appoint one to serve even as his regent for his off-spring. The wars over his empire began and ended with his generals. It took about 30 years to settled all the dust that left two of his generals, primary in control of most of Alexander's Asian empire, Seleucus and Ptolemy. New royal bloodline started in Macedonia as well. All three however, were defeated by Imperial Rome one after another with the Ptolemies last to go with Cleopatra, last of the Ptolemies ending her life and her dynasty almost 300 years after Alexander's death.

The book read very well and the author obviously did his homework pretty well. The confusing sequence of events were pretty easy to grind through thanks to well written text and there are several good maps that help visualized the strategic situations. Since there isn't much written on the Successor Wars for the general public, I found this book to be quite educational and of course, informative. This is a part of military history lies mostly in the black hole of most folks and this book should shed some light into that hole. Book come highly recommended for anyone who got any general interest in ancient military history.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Alexander M. Kirk on May 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
We read this for our book club at the local library. I found it to be an easy and informative read that was made much easier with the inclusion of the "Cast of Characters" and "Genealogies" in the back of the book.

For the most part I agree with the positive aspects given in the earlier reviews, but I found Waterfield's scholarship in other areas of historical context and interpretation lacking.

Waterfield assumes the reader has a certain amount of a priori knowledge. The book needs a prequel to set the stage, all too often the author refers to incidents like Alexander's wounds or his relationships with the Successors that needed more context. All too often I was left asking the "why" of how they got there that wasn't provided.

The next issue I had was his use of the realist historian notion that one could talk about something like a "law of history" (Kindle Locations 88-89) in the same way one could talk about the "law of gravity". Though he goes into some detail on how the Rulers and Kings in the age of Heroic Leadership justified their dominion, he then confuses the issue by overlaying 20th century notions of Imperialism to his interpretations. The book is a damning case that the Successors were not very nice or even by our standards very honorable people, they were all out for number 1, glory & plunder for themselves, not Macedonia.

Another failing is his declaration that the Hellenistic period was unique for it's focus on the individual. (Kindle Location 1087) I am totally unconvinced by his usage of period literature and art to bolster a case that ignores Socrates, Athens, and a whole host of historiography that points to a significantly earlier focus on the individual.
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