Alexander the Great’s Legacy – the Decline of Macedonian Europe in the Wake of the Wars of the Successors, Mike Roberts

Alexander the Great’s Legacy – the Decline of Macedonian Europe in the Wake of the Wars of the Successors, Mike Roberts

When Alexander the Great was at the peak of his power, the inhabitants of his homeland of Macedonia must have expected that they were at the start of a prolonged period of Imperial glory. Instead the kingdom found itself the target of a series of Alexander’s old generals and their successors, repeatedly invaded by ambitious claimants to the throne from east and west, saw the destruction of Alexander’s dynasty and had twelve kings (some of them several times) between the death of Alexander and the establishment of some stability under Antigonus II Gonatas. Even worse, one of those kings was killed in battle by invading Gauls, leaving the country vulnerable and almost undefended. After fifty years of turmoil Gonatas ended up ruling a kingdom that was less powerful than it had been at the death of Philip II.

Roberts set himself the task of looking at how and why this happened. His work focuses on that period of fifty years, starting with the battles between Alexander’s generals and ending with the death of Pyrrhus, which marked the passing of the last major figure from the second generation after Alexander. This was a period of near constant warfare, much of which has been well documented in other books. However where Roberts’ book differs is in its focus on the European part of Alexander’s empire. As a result we get far more material on events in Macedonia, Thrace and Greece than in books that cover the wider period, which inevitably have to concentrate on the Asian part of the Empire, which became the powerbase of the most powerful figures of the period – Antigonus, Ptolemy and Seleucus – and was the location of the most significant battles of the period. The career of Alexander himself gives us a clear pointer to the future fate of Macedonia – he only spent the first two years or so of his reign in Macedonia, and didn’t return during the last ten years of his reign. Macedonia thus never became the centre of the Empire, but instead a source of manpower, with many men of fighting age leaving never to return, and eventually a prize for Alexander’s successors, who were after all mainly Macedonians themselves.

The focus on Europe means we get more details of events in the old heartland of the Classical Greek world, with Athens and Sparta appearing as relatively major players for about the last time. We also get far more on the career of Demetrius I Poliorcetes after the defeat of his father at Ipsus. In more general accounts he becomes a fairly minor figure that that battle, clinging on to fragments of his fathers Empire, but here we see him as a rather more significant figure in Europe, managing one of the longer reigns as King of Macedonia, and remaining a power in central and southern Greece even after he lost that throne.

I found this to be a useful addition to my collection of books on the wars of the Successors, focusing on a different area to most, and giving us a good idea of how the conquests of Alexander and the collapse of his Empire after his death impacted on Macedonia and the rest of Greece.

1 – An Old, Old Man
2 – Forging the Fetters
3 – Cassander and Lysimachus
4 – Demetrius Rex
5 – Now an Old Man Moves
6 – A Passing Thunderbolt
7 – A Gallic Fury
8 – An Improbable Hero
9 – The Last of an Eagle

Author: Mike Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2022

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