Dividing the Spoils

Alexander the Great was the greatest conqueror of ancient times, and perhaps of all time. In a mere decade, he managed to conquer the entire Persian Empire. Unfortunately, Alexander was less interested in consolidating his empire than in making new additions to his already over extended domains.  As a result, he had made no provisions for the future of his empire, other than leaving an infant son and a retarded half-brother as heirs.

As soon as Alexander was dead, his generals, or Successors as they became known began scheming and fighting among themselves, first in the name of the kings and, after they were murdered, as kings in their own right. The next forty years were an unedifying story of continuous war, treachery, and restless ambition. It would not be entirely fair, however, to judge these men too harshly. For all their faults, the Successors managed to do what Alexander would not or could not do. They kingdoms they built lasted for another two hundred years. The unique blend of Greek and Eastern cultures that historians call the Hellenistic civilization, which they fostered, lasted for another thousand and was a key component of our own Western civilization. Perhaps they would be proud of their legacy.

Robin Waterfield ably tells their story in Dividing the Spoils. In his history, Waterfield provides just enough detail to enable the reader to follow along without getting bogged down. There are several maps and Waterfield provides a description of all of the major players at the end of the book, for reference.  Dividing the spoils is a useful introduction to a somewhat neglected period of history. I do wish though that he had continued the story to the end of the Hellenistic kingdoms.




2 thoughts on “Dividing the Spoils”

  1. My views are more complex on this.

    Yes, Alexander the Great was an amazing conqueror, strategist and tactician. He defeated Athens without a fight.

    But his legacy for my people was one of oppression that led to a massive war, one that was fought internally as well as against outside forces, so while I can respect the man, I certainly don’t respect the people who came after him.


    1. Ptolemy I encouraged the Jews to settle in Alexandria and Ptolemy II sponsored the Greek translation of the Torah that led to the Septuagint, so their legacy wasn’t all bad for the Jews. The main troubles came about a hundred years after the events described in that book, with Antiochus IV.
      I think a little better of the men who built the Hellenistic kingdoms, even though they were not very good men, than I do of Alexander. He never did try to rule his empire.They did do the work of actually consolidating Alexander’s conquests. I wouldn’t want that to be taken as any sort of endorsement of them though. Their constant fighting over Alexander’s empire caused a lot of misery, and they did not exactly rule in anything like a democratic style.


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