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Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 11, 2011
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“Gripping . . . Romm is a gifted storyteller as well as a respected scholar, and he knows that compelling history is driven by consideration of character.”
“Fascinating . . . Romm’s writing has vigor and style.”
“Thrilling . . . Bringing the sources into artful alignment—affirming one account here, dismissing another there—takes expert eyes, and Romm clearly has them . . . A careful work of fine scholarship . . . It binds an otherwise mind-boggling narrative into a skillfully coherent whole.”
—Brendan Boyle, New Criterion
“James Romm succeeds brilliantly in bringing to life the seven-year period. . . The range of personality types in this complex web of tales is broad, and Romm delineates them sharply enough so that most readers will soon enough have picked their favorites.”
—Jeremy Rutter, History Book Club
"Fast-paced and absorbing . . . Romm brings to life the Bodyguards and their struggles to maintain their territories . . . Romm’s captivating study stands alongside Robin Waterfield’s engaging recent Dividing the Spoils as a sterling account of a little discussed era in ancient history."
"Scholarly but colorful account of the toxic fallout from the untimely demise of a continent-striding conqueror. . . Romm paints a vivid portrait of ancient politics . . . lively enough to engage newbies [to ancient history] as well."
"After the death of Alexander the more amazing story begins. It's a story of astonishing courage and endurance, and of desperate battles, diplomatic intrigue, debauchery, assassination, and treachery. Romm tells the story of these often neglected decades with an eye for vivid detail, clarity about the often surprising military operations, and alertness to the transformation of the ancient world that took place when Alexander left his empire "to the strongest."
—W. R Connor, Andrew Fleming West Professor of Classics emeritus at Princeton, and Senior Adviser to the Teagle Foundation.
"Professor Romm is a leading scholar of the ancient Greek world. He is also a brilliant storyteller, and in the tale of the prolonged and murderous war for succession to Alexander the Great's throne and empire he has a truly gripping tale to tell. This combination of historical accuracy and original research with exciting, action-packed dramatic story is exceptionally rare in any field of history-and we are fortunate to have Professor James Romm as our mentor and dramaturge."
—Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, Cambridge University, and author of Alexander the Great: The Hunt for A New Past
"Ghost on the Throne illuminates the dark mysteries and personal motivations that swirled in the turbulent, little-studied era ushered in by Alexander's untimely death in Babylon. In Romm's gripping, detailed account, we watch the tragic drama unfold, as the young leader's closest companions become vicious rivals, shredding Alexander's grand dream amid blood and paranoia."
—Adrienne Mayor, author of The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy
"James Romm brings together impressive scholarship, an engaging prose narrative, and excellent maps and illustrations to bring alive the bloody aftermath to a general audience-as he sorts out in riveting fashion the failed efforts of successor would-be kings, thugs, and killers to restore Alexander's brief empire. A model of what classical scholarship should be."
—Victor Davis Hanson author, A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War; and The Other Greeks; Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University
"In his gripping new Ghost on the Throne, James Romm adds the narrative verve of a born writer to the erudition of a scholar. Taking what until now had been a murky gray area of ancient history that was once the province of specialists--the eventful, convoluted, and bitter struggles for power immediately following the death of Alexander the Great--Romm has crafted a richly colored, expertly narrated page-turner. A wonderful book for anyone interested in history, power—or just an amazing tale."
From the Back Cover
"What became of Alexander's stunning accomplishments and his vision of a vast, unified empire? Ghost on the Throne illuminates the dark mysteries and personal motivations that swirled in the turbulent, little-studied era ushered in by Alexander's untimely death in Babylon. In Romm's gripping, detailed account, we watch the tragic drama unfold, as the young leader's closest companions become vicious rivals, shredding Alexander's grand dream amid blood and paranoia."
Top customer reviews
“The news (of Alexander’s death) went out along communication lines set up by the Persians and still functioning under Macedonian rule. Criers stationed on hilltops, spaced at the limits of earshot, called it to each other, sending it in one day’s time the distance of a month’s travel. Mounted couriers … carried it at a gallop from one way station to the next, relaying it at each one to a fresh rider atop a fresh horse. Swiftest of all were the fire beacons that raced along spoke-like lines to the main Persian capitals, Susa and Persepolis.” ‒ from GHOST ON THE THRONE
What even only semi-educated person in the world hasn’t heard of and probably admired Alexander the Great and his march of conquest to create an empire stretching from Greece and Egypt in the West to India in the East? Yet, the story of this empire after Alexander’s death is, I think, little known by the masses. And it’s in the telling of this story where admiration of Alexander may break down inasmuch as he apparently prepared no directives for his succession, or at least any that were communicated to his most powerful generals.
In GHOST ON THE THRONE, author James Romm takes us from June 323 B.C. to 308 B.C., during which time those who had been closest to Alexander carved up his empire in multiple eruptions of alliance switches, outright treacheries, rebellions, murders most foul, power grabs, and naked ambitions with a few spectacular military victories/defeats mixed in.
The challenge for Romm was to create a narrative in the reading of which the reader could keep track of the multiple personalities vying and maneuvering for power over so many years in so many regions of the empire – specifically Europe (Greece, Macedonia), North Africa (Egypt), and Asia. He succeeded brilliantly ‒ I was never confused ‒ by composing narrative snapshots taken sequentially over fifteen years, each of which focused on the year, place, and major players, e.g.:
“Phocion (Athens, July 323 B.C.)”
“Ptolemy (Egypt, Autumn 323 - Summer 322 B.C.)”
“Eumenes, Antigonus, and Antipater (Anatolia, Winter, Late 320 B.C.)”
“Polyperchon, Cassander, and the Royal Family (Greece, Epirus, and Macedonia, Summer 318 B.C.)”
“Olympia and Cassander (Pydna and Pella, Winter, Early 316 B.C.)”
“Rhoxane and the Young Alexander (Macedonia and Amphipolis, 316 – 308 B.C.)”
At least on the (Paperwhite) Kindle edition, the infrequent photos and maps are difficult to view as they either can’t be enlarged or don’t enlarge enough.
The text narrative itself comprises only about 61% of the Kindle edition; the remaining percentage is comprised of Notes and References. The book was obviously a labor of dedication and love. Honor is due the author for a lucid and enlightening work of history.
The plot would make the basis for an engrossing TV miniseries set during the period.
The period after Alexander's death is not too well known to most people, and I was one of them. After all, once he died, it stopped being interesting.
James Romm picks from there and takes us through the tumultous times since his death, the conflicts between his 'bodyguards' and the fight for various kinds of supremacy.
I expected a rather dry treatise, but instead this reads like a thriller. His language is a pleasure to read, and the way the events are laid out is engaging and informative. Hands down one of the best historical books I've read.