Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire
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Alexander the Great, perhaps the most commanding leader in history, united his empire and his army by the titanic force of his will. His death at the age of thirty-two spelled the end of that unity.
The story of Alexander’s conquest of the Persian empire is known to many readers, but the dramatic and consequential saga of the empire’s collapse remains virtually untold. It is a tale of loss that begins with the greatest loss of all, the death of the Macedonian king who had held the empire together.
With his demise, it was as if the sun had disappeared from the solar system, as if planets and moons began to spin crazily in new directions, crashing into one another with unimaginable force.
Alexander bequeathed his power, legend has it, “to the strongest,” leaving behind a mentally damaged half brother and a posthumously born son as his only heirs. In a strange compromise, both figures—Philip III and Alexander IV—were elevated to the kingship, quickly becoming prizes, pawns, fought over by a half-dozen Macedonian generals. Each successor could confer legitimacy on whichever general controlled him.
At the book’s center is the monarch’s most vigorous defender; Alexander’s former Greek secretary, now transformed into a general himself. He was a man both fascinating and entertaining, a man full of tricks and connivances, like the enthroned ghost of Alexander that gives the book its title, and becomes the determining factor in the precarious fortunes of the royal family.
James Romm, brilliant classicist and storyteller, tells the galvanizing saga of the men who followed Alexander and found themselves incapable of preserving his empire. The result was the undoing of a world, formerly united in a single empire, now ripped apart into a nightmare of warring nation-states struggling for domination, the template of our own times.
Hellenic War opposed by, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 8.1 in Hellenic War surrender negotiations in Macedonian civil war Macedonian power accepted by, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 8.1 Theban revolt opposed by, 3.1, 3.2 Phocus, 8.1, 10.1 Phoenicia, Phoenicians, 5.1, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4 Photius, prf.1–xv, 2.1, 7.1, 10.1, 10.2 Phrygia, 2.1, 4.1, 4.2 Eumenes’ plundering of Piraeus, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 8.1 Macedonian garrison at, 5.1, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.6, 8.7, 8.8, 9.1, 9.2 Pisidia,
soon threaten the survival of his regime. The biggest question Perdiccas faced was how to accommodate Ptolemy, the second most powerful Bodyguard. Ptolemy clearly disliked him yet had supported him during the infantry insurrection. Ptolemy wanted Egypt. It was a gem of a province, wealthy beyond measure and friendly to the Macedonians, with borders that were easy to defend—all too easy, in Perdiccas’ eyes. Ptolemy could not be denied Egypt without risking a severe breach, but he also could not
day Antigonus marched his phalanx forward in double-wide formation, as though he had indeed received fresh recruits. This sight eroded the confidence of Eumenes’ infantry, who, not perceiving from their vantage that the formation was also half-deep, thought they had lost superiority of numbers. Two devious ploys, neutralizing both his cavalry and his infantry strength, proved too much for Eumenes. The battle of Orcynia—from which no detailed account has survived—turned quickly into a rout.
Alexander’s court so long as they were loyal, and Perdiccas was certainly that. Leonnatus was another of Philip’s former pages, also sprung from royal blood, and had helped Perdiccas dispatch the king’s escaping assassin. He had risen to top commands late in the Asian campaign but in India had covered himself in glory at the siege where Alexander was shot. Leonnatus was one of the three men cut off with the king in the besieged town; he had incurred serious wounds while using his own body to
had brought in had made the place unassailable. He marched on into the Peloponnese to deal with matters there, leaving his son Alexander behind to guard the countryside. Cassander had gained his toehold in Europe. Phocion had lived just long enough, and had given Nicanor just enough support, to ensure that the rebellion against Polyperchon would survive. The European civil war would go forward to a new and more violent phase, and Phocion would be only one in a long line of its victims. 9