The Sieges of Alexander the Great, Stephen English

The Sieges of Alexander the Great, Stephen English

This is the second entry in a three book series looking at the career of Alexander the Great, and comes between the first volume, on his army, and the third, which will look at his field campaigns and battles (although it isn't necessary to read book one before coming to this one). Alexander's career was littered with famous sieges, from the attack on Tyre that turned it from an island into a peninsula, to the attacks on mountain top fortresses on the eastern fringes of the Persian Empire - indeed he fought many more sieges than major battles.

English starts with a look at the development of siege weapons during this period, including the first use of torsion powered catapults, a technological breakthrough which ended a period in which strong stone walls had been seen as impervious to attack. Alexander was thus able to take advantage of a technological leap to attack some of the strongest fortifications in the Ancient World, without having to rely on starvation or trickery.

English is willing to acknowledge the limits of our sources, none of which are contemporary with Alexander (rather ironically considering how concerned Alexander was with the historical record). In several cases the main sources disagree on the details of events, and we are presented with both versions as well as the author's views. This ensures that we are aware of the amount of uncertainty in any study of Alexander.

English is also willing to admit to Alexander's failings and his willingness to learn from them - mistakes being made as late as the famous siege of Tyre, where Alexander failed to protect his own siege works.

This is a well researched and well written look at a key element of Alexander's military career, making it clear where we can't be sure about exactly what happened, while at the same time putting forward credible and well argued suggestions for the most likely course of events.

1 - Siege Technology
2 - Pellium and Thebes: 335
3 - Miletus and Halicarnassus: 334
4 - Tyre: 332
5 - Gaza: 332
6 - The Northeast Frontier: 330-327
7 - India and the Journey to Babylon: 327-323

Author: Stephen English
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 168
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010

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