Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Traces of Alexander the Great in Lebanon?

A few months ago I heard about Theodore May who was walking in Alexander’s footsteps from the Turkish-Syrian border all the way to Babylon in today’s Iraq (see: More in the Footsteps of Alexander the Great). On his way along the eastern Mediterranean coast he had to cross Lebanon, a country of which we know very little since tourism is virtually non existent and we have only a vague idea of the archeological treasures that may be hidden there.

The Romans have occupied that part of their Empire and have left their imprints atop of much older cities like Baalbek, to name just one. To my surprise Theodore May was talking about ruins of the Greek civilization that preceded the Roman. Of course, Alexander the Great must have crossed these lands after he conquered Egypt, heading east to strike a final blow on King Darius of Persia. Yet so little is documented of this itinerary and I personally wonder about the place and name of Umm el-Amed I am hearing here for the first time.
[picture by Theodore May]

On his way, Theodore May met up with Dr Paul Newson, who has done extensive fieldwork throughout the Middle East, and together they set out to find this ancient city, only a few miles from the tense Lebanon-Israel border hidden in a field amidst overgrown thorn bushes. It really turns out to be in the middle of nowhere as they drive down from Tyre, across banana fields and small villages, till they reach a narrow country lane with still no ruins in sight.

It takes a professional eye like that of Paul Newson to know which way to go. After some scrambling the two men find themselves standing on the old temple complex of Milk Ashtart, on the edge of the ancient Umm el-Amed civilization. A little further, to the East they find another temple. The foundation of the temples is still very much intact, and several column segments lie around it. The original complex from the 5th century BC is considered as the Phoenician prototype for the Greek god Heracles, and these two temples were built some time between 287 and 222 BC. i.e. long after Alexander the Great had crossed the region. Their date links them to the Ptolemaic period, when it was fashion to combine Greek religious elements with the local pagan deities.

The site of Umm el-Amed was discovered by a French explorer in 1772, but excavations didn't start until 1861 and even those cannot have been very serious. According to Paul Newson, further excavations are unlikely for their cost would be astronomical. Beside, there is no money to be made in return by visiting tourists – not yet at least...

The full story can be read on the site of National Geographic under the title Alexander's Footsteps: A Lost City in Lebanon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Death of Alexander the Great. A Reconstruction of Cleitarchus. By A. Chugg

A titanic job, nothing less. What Andrew Chug has done in this book A Reconstruction of Cleitarchus (ISBN 9780955679025) is comparing the surviving texts from Curtius, Diodorus and Justin to filter out the original work these authors have used themselves to filter out what was written by Cleitarchus of Alexandria. To a lesser extent Chugg also includes Arrian, although this author mainly based his book on the texts left by Ptolemy, and the Metz Epitome. A very handy drawing with the links used by each and every author in antiquity is quite revealing.

Cleitarchus, son of Deinon wrote his account in the decades following Alexander’s death and most of the surviving ancient texts were more or less based upon his work, although not a single copy has come to us since they all were destroyed or discarded at some time or another.

Chugg manages to pinpoint which texts or phrases are used commonly by Curtius and Diodorus, with eventually an addition when Justin uses the same words. A Table overview accounting for the matches is very helpful. And so is the Table showing the first division of the Satrapies soon after Alexander’s death in Babylon listing each territory with the name of the appointed governor (satrap) as given by Diodorus, Justin, Curtius, Cleitarchus himself, as well as separately by Arrian, Dexippus and the Metz Epitome. Sounds all very technical but it becomes quite interesting when in the end we are able to read this part of Alexander’s history as it was presumably put down by Cleitarchus in the first place. A daring undertaking but a highly interesting one.

Most of Chugg's book is centered around Cleitarchus' Book 13, covering the period from July 324 BC to July 323 BC and beyond, i.e. the very last year of Alexander’s life. The subjects treated here are many: the Flight of Harpalus; the Exiles Decrees, the Mutiny at Opis; Death of Hephaistion; The Cosseans; Death in Babylon; Aftermath and Entombment. After a detailed comment and investigation of each chapter, one can read the full text as it may have been put down by Cleitarchus initially. A captivating story, especially since certain paragraphs have been put back in their original sequence ensuring the continuity of events.

The book ends again with a Table giving for each episode in Cleitarchus' terms the corresponding sources and references with additional comments in the last column. If after all that you still have questions, please do get in touch with Andrew Chugg in person.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Legacy of Alexander the Great by A. B. Bosworth


The years and decades after the untimely death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC always have been very confusing to me as only forty years later or so the endless bickering and mutual envy seems to have subsided when the world conquered by Alexander was finally divided in four major territories between Lysimachos, Cassander, Seleucos and Ptolemy.

Bosworth has taken on the huge task to shed a clear light on these confusing times and he deserves all the merit and appreciation one can imagine. He must have spent many a sleepless night in the process of putting this book together!

He starts with the Babylonian Settlement, i.e. the agreement made among Alexander’s generals shortly after his death. This was not an easy matter for not all commanders were in Babylon at the time. Craterus, for instance, was underway to relieve Antipater as Regent and with him was an army of 15,000 veterans, all of Macedonian stock and dedicated entirely to their dead king. Bosworth also analyses how many men in the split armies are still true Macedonians as everyone of them has his say in the matter of Alexander’s succession – with quite amazing results.

Here like in the following chapters, Bosworth quotes all the writers from antiquity that he can lay hands on and not only the most obvious ones like Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus and Curtius but many, many others whose names I often hear for the first time. He then compares notes to sift out the most plausible truth and timing of the events, adding opinions and perspectives from any and every contemporary author he can find. A colossal job!

After that, he focuses on the campaigns in Persia with its turbulent satraps, followed by a detailed account of the situation in India and the nomads of Nabataea. Each territory has its own complex structure and I can’t help wondering how Alexander would have tackled these problems had he still been alive. But then his intervention may not have been necessary for now each of his generals is fighting his fellow commander over all sorts of land disputes that would not have existed otherwise. The rise of Seleucos and the precarious rule of Lysimachos are clearly highlighted and this thorough analysis ends with a chapter about the Hellenistic Monarchy, its success and its legitimacy, starting around 306 BC. It seems that this is the time when the second generation of commanders is taking matters in hand, except for Seleucos and Ptolemy who by now have settled within their own boundaries and are merely left alone by the others.

The book concludes with a very handy chronology of events running from 323 BC to 311 BC, showing a parallel of what happened in Europe and in Asia at the same time - a most helpful tool to keep track of battlefields, rulers and constant changes of power.

I highly recommend this precious reading to anyone who is looking for a clear and thorough sketch of the difficult years that followed Alexander’s death. However, I would like to add that a good basic knowledge of Alexander’s life will be very helpful.