Alexander de Grote
De ondergang van het Perzische rijk, 340-320
The fall of the Persian Empire, 340-320
With the world’s military and political leaders currently focused on Mesopotamia and the surrounding region, from Turkey to Pakistan, Jona Lendering provides a fascinating new study of the Macedonian campaign of conquest in the fourth century BC. Leading what was both a punitive expedition and a pre-emptive attack, the ambitious young warlord Alexander marched eastwards to annihilate the army of the King of Asia, Darius II. He succeeded, but the guerrilla war that followed and efforts to capture the ‘hearts and minds’ of the populace demanded greater patience and sacrifice than the military operation itself.
In retelling this ancient story of military tactics, geopolitics, complex marital alliances and administrative reform, Lendering relies not only on Quintus Curtius Rufus, Arrian, Cleitarchus and Plutarch but on the latest translations of Babylonian sources, recent archaeological findings, aerial photographs, and even an account by a Chinese traveller of the early Christian era. An expert on the ancient world, he paints an engrossing portrait of a reckless yet cunning ruffian who crushed all opposition, whether external or from within his own ranks.
Eventually Alexander even became King of Asia, but while we know him as ‘the Great’, to Iranians he is ‘the Cursed’ and the Farsi book Arda Wiraz calls him a ‘criminal’ and ‘that damned westerner’. Lendering tells both sides of the story. He shows how Alexander destroyed the autonomy of the Greek city states and blames him for reducing Persepolis to ashes, but credits his military genius and exemplary leadership qualities. And Alexander proved that his tutor Aristotle was wrong to claim Persians were slaves by nature. Although he violated all the rules of warfare, Alexander treated the defeated King’s family with courtesy, married Darius’
daughter Barsine, and adopted many of his customs. He appointed Persians to important posts in the imperial government and even incorporated them into his army, provoking a Macedonian mutiny.
An unintended product of Alexander’s campaigns and incursions was the concept of the world citizen who, whatever his ethnic origins, exchanged his city state (polis) for the wider world (cosmopolis). The paradox of a plundering warlord paving the way for the new humanism charges Lendering’s book with an irresistible tension.