October 03, 2010

The Wars of Alexander’s Successors - Volume One: Commanders & Campaigns

Alexander1 In simple terms, this is the book I've been searching for ever since I read Warry's 'Warfare in Classical World' some twenty years ago. 'The Wars of Alexander's Successors 323-281 - Commanders & Campaigns' contains exactly what the rather lengthy title indicates - a narrative of the events that took place from the moment Alexander the Great drew his last breath to the demise of his last general and subsequent empire-builder, Seleucus.

I dare to say that if one disregards the primary sources, this book is the only available source completely dedicated to the period of Alexander's Successors. If there are any other similar works easily available on the market, I am not aware of them. It is therefore impossible for me to make a comparative judgment regarding the quality of the material. I can however say that the authors do a pretty good job condensing the very complex events of the period into 220 pages of detailed, but accessible material.

Unsurprisingly, the first chapters of the book deal with the traumatic events in Babylon, starting with those dramatic and confusing hours immediately after Alexander's death, which laid the fundament for the following decades of continuous strife and warfare. Chapters that follow deal with the reign and demise of Perdiccas, Lamian War and struggle for Macedonia that followed. Next, struggle between Eumenes and Antigonus is then studied in detail, followed by chapters dedicated to Ptolemy and Seleucus up to the period immediately before the battle of Ipsus. Events leading to Ipsus, the battle itself and its aftermath are handled in great detail. Final chapters of the book focus on Lysimachus, his contest with Demetrius and last years of the Successor period. Some chapters overlap each other chronologically and those jumps in timelines did manage to confuse me on a couple of occasions (death of Cassander is initially mentioned almost by accident, while first mention of Demetrius' change of fortunes comes out of nowhere). Overall however, the authors make great job in creating a comprehensive picture of an extremely complex period, both politically and from military perspective.

My only real criticism regarding this book is directed against a single issue - the almost complete lack of maps. In this day and age it is almost unforgivable not to provide the graphic material, especially when the authors frequently refer to geographical locations that no longer exist.

From wargaming perspective, this book is a literal treasure trove. Let's face it, this book is nothing else but a descriptions of continuous campaigns during a period of over forty years along with detailed and sometimes very personal descriptions of very capable warlords. Even most choosy campaign builder should be able to find here something to his liking.

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