Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire

Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0307271641

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.











thirty-five-year expansion of the Macedonian empire to a halt. He would seek merely to preserve what had been won, and that task was already proving immensely difficult. 3 The Athenians’ Last Stand (I) The European Greek World SUMMER–WINTER 323 B.C. News of Alexander’s death took several weeks to reach the cities of European Greece. The quickest path was across the Aegean from the ports of western Asia. Probably a ship that left those ports in mid-June, after the first reports

contraband, had been held in escrow for weeks, but when state officials went to examine the stash, they found only three hundred fifty. Athens went into full crisis mode. Charges and countercharges flew around the city, as politicians accused one another of pocketing the loot. And among those most sternly accused was Demosthenes. The influence of money on politics had always been accepted, even joked about, as a fixture of Athenian democracy. One public speaker laughed at a poet who had won an

accept a Macedonian garrison in Piraeus (Athens’ harbor), and repay all the costs Macedon had incurred in the war, plus a fine. This was better than Phocion and Demades had reason to expect, and they signaled approval. Xenocrates, who had been excluded from the discussion, was less reconciled. He delivered a bitter parting shot, telling Antipater he was treating the Athenians too generously for slaves but too cruelly for free men. Installation of the Piraeus garrison was the harshest of

greater share of applause. Nonetheless, because his production lacked expensive scenery and fine costumes, the prize was given to Archias. Perhaps Demosthenes took comfort from this dream, in which mere victory was distinguished from intrinsic worth. The moral standing of his cause, Athenian freedom, might after all remain undamaged, despite the triumph of Macedonian power. His return to Calauria only a few months after leaving it showed how quickly Fortune’s wheel could turn. First had come

impregnable position. Its inhabitants were deeply attached to Alcetas, thanks to his gifts over the years and the invitations he had extended to share his banquet table. They happily took Alcetas in and vowed to protect him. But when Antigonus arrived in the valley below, threatening to feed his massive army there while waiting for Alcetas’ surrender, a generational dispute broke out among the Termessians. The older men dreaded the loss of their harvest, while their sons, filled with youthful

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