Jona Lendering

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.


Lendering has an admirable knowledge of a broad range of sources. He writes attractively and provides masses of surprising and anecdotal fragments that are shown to full advantage due to the topographical-historical focus.

De Morgen

The many pages on the Colosseum and the gruesome games and murders are absolutely brilliant. The section on the gladiators is the climax.

De Volkskrant


Jona Lendering

Jona Lendering lectures in Mediterranean history at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. His earlier work includes An Interim Manager in the Roman Empire: Pliny in Bithynia (1999), The Edges of the World: The Romans between the Schelde and Eems rivers (2000), City in Marble: a guide to Ancient Rome

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Alexander de Grote. De ondergang van het Perzische rijk, 340-320 (2004). Non-fictie, 350 pagina's.

with illustrations, maps, notes and references


Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennep

Weteringschans 259
NL - 1017 XJ Amsterdam
Tel: +31 20 760 72 10

[email protected]

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