Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

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Kahiel
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Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by Kahiel »

Hi!

It's been a few months since I've been charmed by the life of Alexander the Great. I have a few books on him including Philip Freeman's biography on him (the first book she read), I have Plutarch's Life of Alexander, one by Paul Cartledge as well as a book stating his military profile...but I'm still unsure on where to actually begin my study about this great King of Macedon. I've been looking for more books that can help me learn more about him and his campaigns...going so far as to search for theses, essays and even books on strategy that deals with his way of military proceedings.

For an upstart on this matter like myself, I was wondering if anyone could suggest more readings for someone who's just starting out.
"The sarissa's song is a sad song. He pipes it soft and low. I'd ply a gentler trade, says he, but war is all I know."
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by Hypaspist »

Welcome! One book I would strongly recommend is "Alexander the Great" by Robin Lane Fox. Check out the reviews on the web to see for yourself.

Atb, Robert
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by marcus »

Welcome, Kahiel.

I agree with Hypaspist's suggestion, although I would add that you really can't do worse than to read the ancient sources - you have Plutarch, but get a copy of Arrian's Anabasis as well. After that you should read the other sources, but if you're just starting on your Alexandrian journey, Plutarch and Arrian are the best places to start.

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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by agesilaos »

And if you get the Loeb edition you get the Greek and a mass of essays by P A Brunt , the Landmark edition has good accompanying essays, the Penguin has a rather free translation and little supporting material but is cheap :D
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by marcus »

agesilaos wrote:And if you get the Loeb edition you get the Greek and a mass of essays by P A Brunt , the Landmark edition has good accompanying essays, the Penguin has a rather free translation and little supporting material but is cheap :D
I would always suggest that the Penguin translation is the better starting point; although I would always recommend moving on to the Loeb. Of course, the Loeb is indeed worth it for the excellent Brunt essays, as well.
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

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It is true that the price difference is significant; the penguin goes on e-bay for 99p! I got myself a copy to highlight and annotate; Loebs I have seen for as little as £5 so it is worth looking for them, it may seem an expense but i think it is well worth it to have the Greek, which is whither all serious debate has to return. It is also useful to have the translation right next to it, and a limited app.crit, (the alternative would be Teubner or OCT and they are about £50, for just the Greek with the odd note in Latin! I did find some in second hand bookshop in Morecambe for £5 each, but sadly no Arrian. In short, the penguin is a good cheap start secondhand but the Loeb can be found reasonably priced (and possibly free from downloebles, though I think it is only the first volume and the older translation by Iillif{?} Robinson, that is available) and for my money is well worth it for anyone anticipating a serious interest (apologies to anyone out there who classes their interest as serious but lacks the Greek, or Latin but I think we all agree that it is inevitable that Greek terms will be used untranslated in most of the literature, simply because there is still debate over what these terms actually mean! I am a great proponent of learning something of these languages, even if it is no more than being able to differentiate between nouns and verbs and their various cases and conjugations...I'll stop there, I know when I'm losing an audience... so a Thracian, a Paeonian and an illyrian walk into a bar...
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

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Thank you very much for the suggestions! At least now, I have a good place to start. Sadly though, books on Alexander are very hard to find in this country. It's actually very frustrating. Though, I did order for the Landmark Arrian, just waiting for it to arrive. I dont mind very much if it's costly, so long as it's a good read. I'll also try looking for Loeb and the Penguin....I'd be lucky if I can get some of it as an ebook. Plus as far as libraries go...what I keep on finding is Xenophon and Herodotus...though not exactly about Alexander, I think it was the books he read as reference during those times?

Strange enough, I really do enjoy the fact that some of the literature he read back then survived up to this time...so not only am I trying to find books o him so that I can learn more...I also try to look for things that he might have had with him during his campaigns...such as the Illiad for example and plays from the playwrights he often read, sometimes quoted.
"The sarissa's song is a sad song. He pipes it soft and low. I'd ply a gentler trade, says he, but war is all I know."
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by Paralus »

I would strongly endorse Marcus' suggestion of the sources - most certainly before you delve into Lane Fox's "boys' own" Alexander. The Landmark Arrian, which you've ordered, is excellent and Mensch's translation is better by far than de Selincourt's very "free" Penguin (or Chinnok's online). The essays are worth the price alone. Diodorus Book 17 can be found here (along with much more) on Bill Thayer's LacusCurtius.

I have more than one hard drive of academic papers should you wish such. Selection would be the problem!
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Kahiel
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

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Then I'll be sure to look up Marcus' suggestion. Finding them is the only problem. Lane Fox's version has long been gone from bookstores here. I've searched every bookstore in the vicinity that I can find. Through ebooks I managed to find the psuedo-Callisthenes version and I'm wondering if that's also a good book to delve in while beginning with my study.

Also, thank you for the link Paralus! I appreciate it very much~ and as far as academic papers go...I will read anything that will bring me closer to understanding Alexander and the people during his time. Historical records, essays, thesis and other academic sources...even fiction. Let's just say I'm open to everything. :mrgreen:

Just to add, I'm wondering if the book Iskandarnamah would also be a good book to look into.
"The sarissa's song is a sad song. He pipes it soft and low. I'd ply a gentler trade, says he, but war is all I know."
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by marcus »

Kahiel wrote:Then I'll be sure to look up Marcus' suggestion. Finding them is the only problem. Lane Fox's version has long been gone from bookstores here. I've searched every bookstore in the vicinity that I can find. Through ebooks I managed to find the psuedo-Callisthenes version and I'm wondering if that's also a good book to delve in while beginning with my study.

Also, thank you for the link Paralus! I appreciate it very much~ and as far as academic papers go...I will read anything that will bring me closer to understanding Alexander and the people during his time. Historical records, essays, thesis and other academic sources...even fiction. Let's just say I'm open to everything. :mrgreen:

Just to add, I'm wondering if the book Iskandarnamah would also be a good book to look into.
I totally agree with Paralus that the Landmark Arrian is superb - so if you've ordered that ... bravo! :D

Personally, I would steer clear of pseudo-Callisthenes until you feel more secure with the 'proper' history (which, in itself, is riddled with problems).

I am not familiar with the Iskandernamah. If that text is, in fact, the section of Firdowsi's Shanamah that deals with Alexander, then it is an interesting literary work, but of very little (if any) historical value. It owes more to pseudo-Callisthenes (which, by the way, is rarely called that, now - it tends just to be referred to as the Alexander Romance) than to anything else, but is even less historical.

Out of interest - where are you? You say that getting some of the books is difficult. I, and others here on Pothos, very often have a lot of useful stuff available electronically - as Paralus has already indicated; so it might be that we can help out with some things.

All the best
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

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I try my best to find the best sources that I can. (Which is why she came upon this place.) First time I saw the Landmark Arrian I just knew that I had to get my hands on it, somehow.

Though I agree, it does seem to be riddled with problems. Every historian had his take on Alexander's life and his campaign...and to be honest, it's hard to choose which of them is more proper than the other. As much as possible, I dont want to view it in a subjective way...because I love Alexander per se, I'd like to see him in a more objective view....not only wanting to see his greatness, but also wanting to see the imperfections in his character and the way he handled things back then. So for now, yes, I'll take that advice and steer away from the Alexander Romance for now.

To be honest, I want to delve on more of the problems of not just him but the people during his time...his army, his generals...everything under the sun during that particular time. I know it's a bit too much for a beginner such as I but I really feel a strange attraction for it. I've read so many histories before but never been drawn to any like I have been to this particular king.
8
As for the Iskandernamah, I'm not sure if it's taken from the Persian book of kings indeed, though from what I've gathered it is indeed an account of the Alexander Romance written in Persian.

Regarding your question...I live in the Philippines. It's so hard to find books here regarding the specific topic. The last book on Alexander that I got besides Plutarch was the Military Profile of Alexander by Tsouras. Next to that everything historically inclined that's non fiction is close to gone. Actually, even fiction is hard to find. Last I found was Manfredi's.

I'll be thankful for any reading source! Essays, commentaries, theses, anything~ even fiction.

On a side note...I have no Idea if it's out...a new book on Alexander based on Ptolemy's account: The Lost Book of Alexander. Makes me very very curious.
"The sarissa's song is a sad song. He pipes it soft and low. I'd ply a gentler trade, says he, but war is all I know."
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by Hypaspist »

Thanks for the heads-up on The lost book Alexander the Great! I've already placed my preorder! :D
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by marcus »

Kahiel wrote:Actually, even fiction is hard to find. Last I found was Manfredi's.
From a personal point of view, I would strongly suggest not touching Manfredi's books with a barge-pole. I am constantly disappointed by fictional accounts of Alexander - in fact, I can't remember a single one since Mary Renault that I thought was really any good at all (and even Renault's books are rather too sugar-coated for my palate nowadays). I would really avoid fiction if you can help it.

Kahiel wrote:On a side note...I have no Idea if it's out...a new book on Alexander based on Ptolemy's account: The Lost Book of Alexander. Makes me very very curious.
It's a shame there isn't a 'Look Inside' feature on Amazon. At first I thought it was fiction, in which case I'm not interested; but it actually appears to be an attempt to recreate Ptolemy's text from the extant sources - which, to be honest, has essentially been done already, in various forms. It will either be pretty good or absolutely terrible ... :D
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Post by agesilaos »

Sounds pretty pointless; whilst discerning what stories originate from Ptolemy is a historiographical given, trying to recreate his actual words is a exercise in fantasy, especially as Ptolemy has no reputation as a stylist.
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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

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marcus wrote:From a personal point of view, I would strongly suggest not touching Manfredi's books with a barge-pole. I am constantly disappointed by fictional accounts of Alexander - in fact, I can't remember a single one since Mary Renault that I thought was really any good at all (and even Renault's books are rather too sugar-coated for my palate nowadays). I would really avoid fiction if you can help it.

It's a shame there isn't a 'Look Inside' feature on Amazon. At first I thought it was fiction, in which case I'm not interested; but it actually appears to be an attempt to recreate Ptolemy's text from the extant sources - which, to be honest, has essentially been done already, in various forms. It will either be pretty good or absolutely terrible ... :D
Hmn...the only historical fiction I've read was The War of Virtue. And it's really the only account of fiction that I have so far. And to be honest, I did enjoy War of Virtue. The author didnt forget to remind his readers about the certain changes he did to remind everyone that it was indeed fiction. I appreciated how it presented things in Alexander's point of view and how he doesnt over glorify the man by presenting Alexander's acknowledgement of his own vices and mistakes. It's a good read for me since I enjoyed the illustration of the army's formation.

As for Manfredi's, not touching that until the person Im getting it from has completed the series. Reason why I look at fiction is to see how others view the King. It's always interesting to see what kind of Alexander lives in the minds of other people.

Though..true. It's a shame that there's no preview. I would have liked to see even at least a few pages of it. To me, even if Ptolemy has no reputation as a stylist as Agesilaos had stated....the fact it's an account made by one of Alexander's companions makes all the difference to me. Though I'm certain Ptolemy has placed in a good word for himself in his own record while campaigning with Alexander. And if I am mistaken, I'd gladly love the correction. But yes, I hope the new book turns out good.
"The sarissa's song is a sad song. He pipes it soft and low. I'd ply a gentler trade, says he, but war is all I know."
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