A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Alexias
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A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

Post by Alexias »

Whenever I have a few minutes (not often), I have been trying to read A B Bosworth 'Conquest and Empire'. It isn't a book for novices in Alexander studies as it unconsciously assumes an existing familiarity with Alexander's career and world, but it is very readable and highly enthusiastic. I have only got up to Gaugamela, but I have learnt a couple of things.

One interesting point is that Philip never needed to mobilise his full military forces, either Macedonian or allied. Page 10:
The greatest resource of Macedonia was probably its population...The Macedonian infantry under arms in 334 BC numbered 27,000, and there were ample reserves that could be mustered in subsequent years. The cavalry also was numerous and of high calibre - something over 3,000 at the time of Philip's death. These numbers are formidable, and they comprise only the nucleus of Philip's military resources: his native Macedonian forces...Indeed it can be argued that Philip never need to mobilise more that a fraction of the forces at his disposal.
This though was something I did not know about Siwah:
The god (Ammon) and his cult were familiar were, however, familiar in the Greek world,... its oracles celebrated and respected. There were also offshoots in mainland Greece, the most famous at Aphytis in Chalcidice, where there was a temple of Zeus Ammon, built in the second half of the fourth century, and whose coinage long before Philip's reign depicted the Libyan god complete with ram's horns. Alexander must have known of the cult since his infancy...
Alexander could well have visited this temple long before reaching Egypt's temple.

If you are looking for something to read, I would recommend this book. Bosworth clearly had a great enthusiasm for Alexander's adventures, and despite the scholarly content, manages to convey the excitement of the campaign. For example, this simple sentence manages to convey the 'game-on' anticipation of the upcoming battle:
Accordingly he moved up his army to a base camp below the northern outliers of the Jabal Maqlub, where he deposited his baggage and non-combatants, and in the course of the following night he took his fighting force across the intervening hills.
And this dramatizes the crucial moment at Gaugamela:
On the Persian side there was an increasing movement left by the Bactrian units under Bessus, until finally a gap developed between the Persian left and the rest of the line. This was a climatic moment. Alexander was now at the head of a wedge, the Companions thrown forward obliquely with the phalanx continuing the line on one side, the Agrianians and the infantry flank guard receding on the other.... This apex now drove into the gap in the line, and progressively widened it. The Companions then pressed inward, driving at the exposed flanks of the Persian troops while the phalanx in close formation rolled the front line with its hedge of sarisae.
So, did Bessus cause the Persian defeat at Gaugamela by allowing the gap to develop? And did Alexander realise that Bessus was thus defeatable in pursuing him?

Anyway, another thing that I didn't realise was the Companions' cavalry engagement during the pursuit of Darius was when they were actually returning from the abandoned chase. It is usually portrayed as being during the chase, rather than after it:
As the Companions returned from the pursuit, they crossed the path of a large body of stragglers from the left of the Persian line, the Persians, Parthyaeans and Indians, who had probably retreated in the face of the Macedonian phalanx. They were riding in deep formation and clashed frontally with the returning Companions, who barred their line of retreat. The result was one of the most savage melees of the day, in which some sixty Companions fell.
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Paralus
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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Alexias wrote: Sat May 15, 2021 7:36 pm Whenever I have a few minutes (not often), I have been trying to read A B Bosworth 'Conquest and Empire'. It isn't a book for novices in Alexander studies as it unconsciously assumes an existing familiarity with Alexander's career and world, but it is very readable and highly enthusiastic. I have only got up to Gaugamela, but I have learnt a couple of things.
Agreed: it is one of the best "thematic' books on Alexander. That thematic nature is probably what conveys the impression it is not for novices. Although some familiarity is good, it can still be read without such as Bosworth does narrate the campaign in the "normal" chronological fashion. It is likely the themed chapters dedicated to specific subjects that may or may not interest newcomers (though they are one of the best attributes of the work).

I would also recommend Bosworth's other works on Alexander: Alexander and the East: The Triumph of Tragedy and From Arrian to Alexander.

Both of these definitely require more than a passing familiarity with Alexander history. The first is an in depth discussion of the eastern or Indian campaigns including the near genocide of the Malloi. A very good read. The second is an in depth study of historical methods regarding the extant sources for Alexander and, most particularly, Arrian. Not for the new to the subject or the skint of pocket, though more a library borrow!

For those interested in Diadoch musings, Bosworth's The Legacy of Alexander: Politics, Warfare and Propaganda under the Successors is a very good read (I have a PDF....). Again, this is a thematic approach which takes you through many subjects from the Babylonian Settlement, Macedonian army numbers after Alexander through the great campaigns of Antigonos and Eumenes and more. The "high chronology" argued at book's end is now redundant - at least in the view of myself and many others - and readers would do well to search out the "mixed" or "eclectic" chronology which would be the best fit for the evidence (Tom Boiy; Alexander Meeus for example). This is worht the read if only for the complete discussion the Babylonian Settlement and the campaign of Iran involving Antigonos and Eumenes. Top stuff.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Alexias
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

Post by Alexias »

I still haven't finished the essays in the second half of the book, but the theme of the biographical part of the work is definitely what started out as being an exciting Boy's Own adventure ended up being a bloody nightmare. The Indian campaign descends into rampaging massacres with little achieved as the more southerly Indians melted away only to return and harass the garrisons such as at Patala after Alexander and the main army had moved on. The harbour and fortress built by Hephaestion at Patala failed to protect Nearchus's fleet, which left early and became becalmed, meaning they were unable to rendezvous with the army.

By the time of his death, Bosworth portrays Alexander as being a bit loopy with grandiose plans for world domination well advanced: destroying irrigation dams across the Tigris to allow navigation for ships; assembling ships at Babylon and constructing a harbour for 1,000 ships at Babylon; assembling massive reinforcements to the army; sending an expedition to the Caspian to connect to Outer Ocean and India; planning an expedition to circumnavigate Africa; a road to be built along North Africa to the Pillars of Heracles; Carthage and Sicily to be subdued as well as the expedition to Arabia. It is small wonder that Bosworth suggests Alexander's final illness may have been accelerated by poison.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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The Indian campaigns and massacres are covered in some depth in Triumph and Tragedy which, again, is well worth a read. Having read this one can well understand the nature of Alexander's veterans on display post his death. The eradication of the cityof the Larandians (and Isaurians), the murder of Perdikkas, the revolt at Triparadeisos demonstrate this. It is most clearly on display in the actions of the Argyraspides in their vicious performances at Paraitakene and Gabiene.

While on those veterans, Roisman's Alexander's Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors is an excellent discussion.
Paralus
Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Alexias
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

Post by Alexias »

Does Bosworth suggest that Alexander had lost control of the army, or at least the Macedonian part of it? Or is he suggesting Alexander was driving the ferocity? But there again, the ferocity at Thebes and Tyre meant the Indian massacres were nothing new.
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

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No, what he describes is that by the Indian campaign, and increasingly throughout it, Alexander's troops - particularly the Macedonians - had become a well oiled machine long unured to killing. Also very good at it. By campaign's end these men would see killing no different to any other everyday activity of work. Most particularly the pointy end troops: the Argyraspides and the cavalry.

Not people to start an argument with as Perdikkas found out and Antigonos' Macedonians in Iran.
Paralus
Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Alexias
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Re: A B Bosworth: Conquest and Empire

Post by Alexias »

Thanks.

You might be interested in this discussion on Mazaeus and Gaugamela https://www.academia.edu/s/fd640c9551 that s going on.
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