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By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization) 1st Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199929863
ISBN-10: 0199929866
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"A steady stream of fascinating stories of brilliant military tactics interspersed with rampant post-Classical gore. From the slaughter of whole villages to unbridled violations of human dignity, By the Spear reminds us of the ugliness of war, especially when military leaders are apparently void of morality filters... By the Spear is loaded with compelling details...but they aren't simply piled on helter-skelter; rather, they are embedded in Ian Worthington's coherent narrative about Macedonian ascendancy in the 4th century BC. This celebrated professor at the University of Missouri convincingly gives Philip II his due in Hellenism's spread, and masks not his thesis that Philip 'has lived too long in Alexander's shadow'." --Books & Culture


"Most histories extolling Alexander the Great pay modest attention to his father, Philip II, but Worthington gives him equal billing in this admirable, scholarly dual biography." --Kirkus Reviews


"By the Spear is an impressive book" --Gerard DeGroot, The Times (UK)


"Ian Worthington is one of this generation's leading historians of ancient Greece and Macedonia. In this book he provides for the first time in a single volume a comparative perspective on Philip and Alexander's empire building, and he admirably succeeds in making this complex and convoluted story accessible to the uninitiated." --Joseph Roisman, author of Alexander's Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors


"As Ian Worthington reminds us, without Philip II there would have been no Alexander the Great, and by considering together the accomplishments and foibles of both father and son, By the Spear raises a larger question: do great conquerors make great kings? Alexander inherited the legacy of Philip--an ascendant Macedonian empire--but what was the legacy of Alexander, and to whom was it left? By considering the larger picture, Worthington provides new insight into one of ancient history's most fascinating sagas." --Steven Saylor, author of Raiders of the Nile and Roma: A Novel of Ancient Rome


"The Macedonian empire that reshaped the Mediterranean world was the creation of two remarkable men. Worthington's provocative thesis is that Alexander was a conqueror whose legacy was chaos. Philip was a king who left Alexander the basis of empire. Was the father, then, greater than the son? By the Spear offers an unconventional answer in a narrative that is both persuasive and engaging." --Dennis Showalter, author of Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk


"What father-son duo is more mesmerizing than Philip and Alexander of Macedon? Too often historians have focused on one, marginalizing the other, thus Ian Worthington's even-handed treatment of both is to be celebrated. Concise yet clear, Worthington masterfully explores Philip's career and the dazzling, violent, and world-changing reign of his son." --Lawrence A. Tritle, author of A New History of the Peloponnesian War


About the Author


Ian Worthington is Curators' Professor of History and Adjunct Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Missouri. He is the author of numerous books about ancient Greece, including, most recently, Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece.
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Product Details

  • Series: Ancient Warfare and Civilization
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199929866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199929863
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I had been waiting for this book for a long time because I expected it to be on the Macedonian Empire. It is partly about this, although it is mostly a narrative of Philip II and Alexander III's reigns, and a somewhat vain comparison between the brilliant "Founding Father" and his talented but flawed "All-Conquering Son" after whose death the Empire fell apart. Needless to say, the author's conclusion is that the father was "better" than the "son", inasmuch that he was a great king, and not only a destructive conqueror. The main issue I had was that although the statement may be valid, the case supposed to back it up was simply poor and largely unconvincing.

I had many problems with this book. First, there is little in it that it is really original. While this is not necessarily an issue in itself, it becomes one when the case becomes over-simplified and key elements are omitted. For instance, the author relies heavily on Hammond's (remarkable) works on Philipp and the Macedonian State. Unfortunately, he omits key elements when drawing on this work, such as how Philip built up an army of professional soldiers through the creation of military colonies, and how he set up many of these in strategic locations and in particular on the new borders of his greatly expanded kingdom. More generally, the author minimises Philip's role as a strategist and a consummate diplomat, and does not show to what extent his expansion was carefully designed, calculated and executed. Also, while the book does include a section on Philip's "new model army", there is very little on his economic reforms although the later were part and parcel of the former.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll be frank - I don't like this book. There are too many authors writing today on Alexander who, whether looking to grind an axe or not, seem to delight in every opportunity to undercut his possible "greatness". Worthington, it seems, is one such author. I'll give two examples illustrating my distaste for his approach - 1) Worthington's treatment of the death of Coenus, 2) Worthington's preference for Philip due to his production of an heir. Regarding point 1) - Coenus was the figure who, speaking for the army, stood up to Alexander and said, "no more" to his Asian campaigns - thus the success of the "mutiny" at the Hyphasis that turned Alexander back Westward was, in no small part, due to Coenus' speaking up. Now, Worthington, despite his own admission that none of the ancient sources hint that his death, soon after this event, was due to anything but disease, sees no reason why we can't blame Alexander (or at least hold him in great suspicion). This smacks of going too far in my book - there were plenty of ancient sources that would have gleefully painted Alexander as a murderer here had there been a whiff of foul play; their silence should prompt Worthington's own. It is in such silent spaces where we learn an author's potential bias - here, I think, Worthington is exposed for having his... Regarding point 2) - one of the reasons Worthington holds Philip in high esteem, compared to Alexander, is that Philip ensured stability after his death by seeing to it that he had an heir. But this seems like a very shallow critique - it essentially amounts to critiquing Alexander for dying too young. Plus, Alexander DID provide heirs, but they were young and thus killed by other, older, claimants to the throne.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book, but not an easy read. It details the rise of Philip II and his son Alexander the Great. I would call it more of historical treatise dealing with the rise of the Macedonia empire rather than a biography of either of the architects of this great empire. There is a lot of information relating to the various battles these two men fought as well as their supporters and enemies. At times I struggled with trying to figure out the pronunciation of various names, but that is something of a minor point. Even after struggling through the book I felt that the effort was worth it. The book is not for the faint-of-heart, but for real history buffs it would be worthwhile.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am huge fan of Ian Worthington, I have most of his books and I even have his lectures from the teaching company. I was not sure about getting this book because I have read his book on Alexander (God and man) and his book on Phillip II. I loved both books but I felt like I would be re-reading a summary of those two books. While some if it is undoubtedly covered in his previous books I was actually quite surprised that Worthington changed some of his prior conclusions, I wont say which. I was just ask glued to this book as I was all his others, I highly recommend it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a rather dense book that I thoroughly enjoyed about both Philip's and Alexander's campaigns to subdue and unify Greece and Asia under the rule of Madedonia. I didn't understand the author's need to propose that either Philip or Alexander were the greatest as each man was surely great on his own and for different reasons. If you are looking for a battle summary, this is not the book for you but if you are looking for a book outlining everything Macedonian during the reigns of Philip and Alexander this is a worthy read.
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