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Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:26 pm
by marcus
Kahiel wrote: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 thing is, all that book will be (or should be), is a redaction of the existing sources, saying "this bit must be Ptolemy's words". In many cases, especially in, say Plutarch and Arrian, those authors tell us very specifically that what they are writing next comes from Ptolemy ... so the whole exercise is pointless.

If it's anything more than that, then it is utterly unreliable to be presented as 'Ptolemy's' work, and becomes fiction or semi-fiction. And that, then, because fraud, if the author is presenting his book as a faithful recreation of Ptolemy's history.

I might have a look if I see it in a book shop. Otherwise, I think I'll stick with the source material that can be verified, even if it has its own historiographical problems ...

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 1:58 am
by Kahiel
If you ever do take a look, would you be so kind as to share whether it's something worth having or if it's just another fad riding along with Alexander?

Though how do you try to validate which source is best to start with or is more reliable than the other....and when one problem arises, how or where do you look for a possible solution for let's say a particular problem in terms of historical accuracy or relevance? Coz I've read sources saying this and this but differs from the other. Like that time at Gaugamela. Some says that Alexander planned a feint to draw most or Darius III's men away in order to thin them out before turning back to pursue Darius. Some says it was an accident that became beneficial for Alexander...things like that.

Though I do realize that knowing what really happened word for word and action by action is almost impossible to account for, how do you then choose which sets of facts/theories/hypothesis to adhere to or believe was more plausible?

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 2:53 am
by Paralus
Manfreidi is fantasy: you may as well read David Gemmell. Stick with the sources and then read your Heckels, Bosworths, etc.

I agree with Marcus that attempts to 'reconstruct' the narrative of Ptolemy (or other lost sources) are a furphy and a pointless excercise. Anything other than a collection of snippets where a Plutarch or Arrian states that "Ptolemy says..." becomes a product of imagination bordering on invention.

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 3:57 am
by Kahiel
Ah, so Manfredi's work is fantasy...that makes me feel somewhat uneasy...

Thank you for the suggestions. At least it narrows down things a bit for my reading. Are there works of Heckle and Bosworth and others available electronically?

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:16 am
by Paralus
I know I've Bosworth's "Legacy of Alexander" in pdf but that deals with the immediate years following his death. I've Heckel's "Who's Who in the Age of Aleander" I believe. PM me.

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 5:59 am
by sikander
Greetings Kahiel,

You have gotten some good advice from the members here so I will not repeat, but I did want to suggest you visit the book review pages to get a better feel for some of the various approaches writers have taken and some of the responses these books received from our members..

http://www.pothos.org/content/index.php ... ok-reviews

Best of luck on your journey of discovery!

Regards,
Sikander

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 10:41 am
by agesilaos
Though how do you try to validate which source is best to start with or is more reliable than the other....and when one problem arises, how or where do you look for a possible solution for let's say a particular problem in terms of historical accuracy or relevance? Coz I've read sources saying this and this but differs from the other. Like that time at Gaugamela. Some says that Alexander planned a feint to draw most or Darius III's men away in order to thin them out before turning back to pursue Darius. Some says it was an accident that became beneficial for Alexander...things like that.

Though I do realize that knowing what really happened word for word and action by action is almost impossible to account for, how do you then choose which sets of facts/theories/hypothesis to adhere to or believe was more plausible?
A full answer to this would fill a book, as it is the root question of historiography :shock: Nor is there one way of approaching these questions, which is why there is rarely consensus among historians but I might offer a few hints.

Time:
How close in time an author is to the events he is relating is a factor, a contemporary may be under pressure to white-wash the powerful (a charge levelled at Onesikritos by the author of the Liber de Morte), but he may be an eye-witness to the events he is relating. Those writing after the death of a power figure, like Alexander, may not be under not be under threat from that figure but his influence may still persist, the rulers post-Alexander had all been his friends, except Kassandros. In general one would expect the accuracy to decrease over time, but this is contraverted if a late author goes back to early sources, as Arrian did.

Tone:
This is more subjective but if an author is retailing extravagant tales and painting dramatic scenes, he is less likely to be as reliable as a more sober historian but this is not a hard and fast rule because...

Authorial Bias
Even sober historians have an axe to grind, and that can skew their view of things Polybios, for instance hated Kleomenes III of Sparta because he had defeated the Achaean League under his hero Aratos. Here one has to research the author and his times, most biases are quite apparent though, no one would be in any doubt about Xenophon's attitudes to either Thebes or Sparta! Ancient bias does tend to be as subtle as kick in the essential guts!

Secret Agenda
Related to bias and tone is the possibility of a secret agenda wherein the author grafts contemporary issues onto old stories; this is quite a common issue, how much is Tacitus portrait of Tiberius conditioned by his life under Domitian?

Opportunity;
What opportunity did the author have to obtain accurate information? Note that the opportunity will not guarantee that it was taken! For instance, if someone is reporting a conversation that nobody else could have heard, it is not going to be accurate

Historical Probability
This is even more subjective but some things are simply impossible; the numbers given for most barbarian armies are ludicrous, but they are ludicrous in every source!

Testimonia
Sometimes an ancient commentator will comment on the nature of a particular work, however, just like modern critics, the ancient ones have their own biases and this can lead to a slant that could be deceptive; for the most part the critics are concerned with 'style' rather than content, so Hieronymos of Kardia, an historian most moderns would give their eye-teeth to read complete (80 books, I think) was shunned for being dry and over long.

As you can see all quite vague, I could say that it gets easier with experience but the number of times that Xenophon and Paralus disagree with me puts the lie to that! :lol:

I concur on Manfredi - the purveyor of Alexander the Macho, and an example of the worst excesses of acritical use of sources, so many late fictions included, and poor tension - the Bosworth/Hammond rivalry is quite central to modern scholarship, which is best represented by Waldemar Heckel, he is fair in his representation of earlier work and is very good at citing his sources, though I would avoid the Osprey books as the format is too tight to allow proper discussion. Both 'Conquest and Empire' by Bosworth and Hammond's 'Alexander the Great: King, Commander, Statesman' are available cheap second hand on Amazon and e-bay.

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 11:13 pm
by Nikas
Kahiel wrote: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.
Hello,

I echo the suggestions to start with the sources first, Arrian, Plutarch, Curtius Rufus, Diodorus, Justin and some of the other minor ones, most of these are available somewhere online in translation, or for say an Arrian, in a used bookstore if not. The Landmarks are very useful with all the maps and commentary, however I got no value from some of the appendixes that I saw so I have yet to shell out for the Arrian one.

I would add that to properly appreciate Alexander one has to appreciate his background as well, and that cannot be complete without his great father, Philip II. After all, it can be difficult at times to tell where one ends and the other begins. For Philip II, I really enjoyed JR Ellis book "Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism" and Ian Worthington's biography.

Happy reading!

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 3:02 am
by Kahiel
sikander wrote:Greetings Kahiel,

You have gotten some good advice from the members here so I will not repeat, but I did want to suggest you visit the book review pages to get a better feel for some of the various approaches writers have taken and some of the responses these books received from our members..

http://www.pothos.org/content/index.php ... ok-reviews

Best of luck on your journey of discovery!

Regards,
Sikander
Oh, I have visited the book review page during the first few days of being here. It's really helpful since it gives me more ideas on which books to look for next. I'm always on the look out for books related to Alexander so rest assured, I'll visit the link that you gave me regularly. :)
agesilaos wrote:A full answer to this would fill a book, as it is the root question of historiography :shock: Nor is there one way of approaching these questions, which is why there is rarely consensus among historians but I might offer a few hints.

Time:
How close in time an author is to the events he is relating is a factor, a contemporary may be under pressure to white-wash the powerful (a charge levelled at Onesikritos by the author of the Liber de Morte), but he may be an eye-witness to the events he is relating. Those writing after the death of a power figure, like Alexander, may not be under not be under threat from that figure but his influence may still persist, the rulers post-Alexander had all been his friends, except Kassandros. In general one would expect the accuracy to decrease over time, but this is contraverted if a late author goes back to early sources, as Arrian did.

Tone:
This is more subjective but if an author is retailing extravagant tales and painting dramatic scenes, he is less likely to be as reliable as a more sober historian but this is not a hard and fast rule because...

Authorial Bias
Even sober historians have an axe to grind, and that can skew their view of things Polybios, for instance hated Kleomenes III of Sparta because he had defeated the Achaean League under his hero Aratos. Here one has to research the author and his times, most biases are quite apparent though, no one would be in any doubt about Xenophon's attitudes to either Thebes or Sparta! Ancient bias does tend to be as subtle as kick in the essential guts!

Secret Agenda
Related to bias and tone is the possibility of a secret agenda wherein the author grafts contemporary issues onto old stories; this is quite a common issue, how much is Tacitus portrait of Tiberius conditioned by his life under Domitian?

Opportunity;
What opportunity did the author have to obtain accurate information? Note that the opportunity will not guarantee that it was taken! For instance, if someone is reporting a conversation that nobody else could have heard, it is not going to be accurate

Historical Probability
This is even more subjective but some things are simply impossible; the numbers given for most barbarian armies are ludicrous, but they are ludicrous in every source!

Testimonia
Sometimes an ancient commentator will comment on the nature of a particular work, however, just like modern critics, the ancient ones have their own biases and this can lead to a slant that could be deceptive; for the most part the critics are concerned with 'style' rather than content, so Hieronymos of Kardia, an historian most moderns would give their eye-teeth to read complete (80 books, I think) was shunned for being dry and over long.

As you can see all quite vague, I could say that it gets easier with experience but the number of times that Xenophon and Paralus disagree with me puts the lie to that! :lol:

I concur on Manfredi - the purveyor of Alexander the Macho, and an example of the worst excesses of acritical use of sources, so many late fictions included, and poor tension - the Bosworth/Hammond rivalry is quite central to modern scholarship, which is best represented by Waldemar Heckel, he is fair in his representation of earlier work and is very good at citing his sources, though I would avoid the Osprey books as the format is too tight to allow proper discussion. Both 'Conquest and Empire' by Bosworth and Hammond's 'Alexander the Great: King, Commander, Statesman' are available cheap second hand on Amazon and e-bay.
:shock:

So very many things to consider...but this is getting me pumped up. Just thinking about poking through each issue and dissecting it bit by bit to try and get a good grasp of things really makes me so excited to delve in said topics and agendas head on. Thank you very much! Now I have an idea what to look out for more when I do a more in depth study.

Weirdness aside, I really feel attached to their particular point in time that I feel that I should have been marching with the army...tis why...so eager to learn.
Nikas wrote:I would add that to properly appreciate Alexander one has to appreciate his background as well, and that cannot be complete without his great father, Philip II. After all, it can be difficult at times to tell where one ends and the other begins. For Philip II, I really enjoyed JR Ellis book "Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism" and Ian Worthington's biography.

Happy reading!
Of course! Philip II will always be an important factor to appreciating Alexander. After all, Philip's ingenuity was what made the Macedonian army evolve (Or at least that's what I've read up to now). For one, I think the sarissa was a good rendition of the spear. Though, it must have been hard to wield a spear that long. I'll be sure to check out the book on Philip that you suggested, Nikas. n.n Thank you~

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:51 am
by agesilaos
I agree with Nikas on Ellis, a really good book, for the Macedonian background I would add Eugene Borza's 'In the Shadow of Olympus' and Malcolm Errington's 'History of Macedonia' which packs alot into its 300 pages, it would be churlish not to mention N G L Hammond's 'The Macedonian State' but he is an author that beginners should be wary of in my opinion and is better approached after the others mentioned so that his assumptions have already been questioned.

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 12:29 pm
by Kahiel
O.O! Oh! Books about Macedonia! I have been searching for them. The person I get books from said he's never seen one and if there are any, it might probably be about how heavy in debt they were. But I'm glad to know they exist~ I'll be sure to check those books out as well~ <3

I am seriously interested in that History of Macedonia book.

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 2:11 pm
by agesilaos
Abebooks.com has a copy for £3.73 shipping from US, search for R Malcolm Errington

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 2:36 pm
by marcus
agesilaos wrote:I agree with Nikas on Ellis, a really good book, for the Macedonian background I would add Eugene Borza's 'In the Shadow of Olympus' and Malcolm Errington's 'History of Macedonia' which packs alot into its 300 pages, it would be churlish not to mention N G L Hammond's 'The Macedonian State' but he is an author that beginners should be wary of in my opinion and is better approached after the others mentioned so that his assumptions have already been questioned.
I agree with all of this, 100%.

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 2:27 pm
by LJLJ
Please don't read Manferdi¡s, unless you are 13

Re: Alexander the Great: Beginning the Campaign

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:28 am
by Kahiel
LJLJ wrote:Please don't read Manferdi¡s, unless you are 13
Is it really THAT bad? :|