Ghost on the Throne – James Romm

The death of Alexander the Great and the war for Crown and Empire

Alexander the Great’s sudden death in 323 BC left his infant Macedonian Empire in an impossible position.  There was no clear military heir but several candidates, and no heir of the blood but more than one candidate for a figurehead – a simpleton half-brother of Alexander and an infant child.

This book is less of a straight history than an episodic one.  This give a more scope for some of the anecdotes recorded by ancient historians to come out, but does make the flow of the wars harder to understand.  This book is more a people story than an army story.

It isn’t strange that war broke out, as some generals that were left out of the initial division of the Empire into districts found themselves decided to make their own way.  Some decided to opt out of the empire entirely – the most successful, Ptolemy, not only managed to claim Egypt for his very own but also steal Alexander’s corpse away from the others on its journey back to Macedon.

Some Greek cities, also, tried to take advantage of the supposed weakness of the Macedonian empire and reclaim their independence.  This turned out to be a mistake, as even the rump fragments were able to turn on these city-states and defeat them between contests with each other.

But for the most part, the remaining generals and Macedonian royals continued contending for a unified empire under one or another legitimate ruler for a long time. They tried to pick each other off in battles or plots like a Greek “Game of Thrones”.

But in the end the single Empire split back into European Kingdoms and an Asian Empire, with Egypt independent.  A multilateral “Hellenistic” age had begun.

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