Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire
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Alexander the Great, perhaps the most commanding leader in history, united his empire and his army by the titanic force of his will. His death at the age of thirty-two spelled the end of that unity.
The story of Alexander’s conquest of the Persian empire is known to many readers, but the dramatic and consequential saga of the empire’s collapse remains virtually untold. It is a tale of loss that begins with the greatest loss of all, the death of the Macedonian king who had held the empire together.
With his demise, it was as if the sun had disappeared from the solar system, as if planets and moons began to spin crazily in new directions, crashing into one another with unimaginable force.
Alexander bequeathed his power, legend has it, “to the strongest,” leaving behind a mentally damaged half brother and a posthumously born son as his only heirs. In a strange compromise, both figures—Philip III and Alexander IV—were elevated to the kingship, quickly becoming prizes, pawns, fought over by a half-dozen Macedonian generals. Each successor could confer legitimacy on whichever general controlled him.
At the book’s center is the monarch’s most vigorous defender; Alexander’s former Greek secretary, now transformed into a general himself. He was a man both fascinating and entertaining, a man full of tricks and connivances, like the enthroned ghost of Alexander that gives the book its title, and becomes the determining factor in the precarious fortunes of the royal family.
James Romm, brilliant classicist and storyteller, tells the galvanizing saga of the men who followed Alexander and found themselves incapable of preserving his empire. The result was the undoing of a world, formerly united in a single empire, now ripped apart into a nightmare of warring nation-states struggling for domination, the template of our own times.
defeat by, 10.1, 10.2 Eumenes’ proposed alliance with, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 10.1, 10.2 Eumenes’ relationship with, 2.1, 4.1, 4.2, 6.1, 7.1, 7.2, 10.1 at Gabene military force of, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, 7.7, 8.1, 8.2, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4, 9.5, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 as monarchs’ custodian, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4 Orcynia victory of, 7.1, 9.1 at Paraetacene, 9.1, 10.1 Peithon’s alliance with, 9.1, 9.2 Perdiccan faction pursued by, 7.1, 8.1, 8.2 Perdiccas’ feud with, 4.1, 4.2, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3
were back in power. Several days had passed since the death of Alexander. The king’s body lay in state in the palace throne room, mute witness to the struggle that had taken place in its awesome presence. Amid the tumult, there had been no opportunity to take measures against decomposition. But miraculously, according to Plutarch and Quintus Curtius, the corpse remained uncorrupted, still radiating the beauty, strength, and fragrant smell that distinguished the king in life. Indeed the embalmers
victor over the Athenians in the Hellenic War, but we know little of what led him to abandon Perdiccas’ cause. Perhaps after helping rescue Antipater from Greek rebels the previous year, he could not stomach the thought of helping Eumenes, a Greek, against Antipater, the most iconic of old-guard Macedonians. Others in Perdiccas’ camp also disliked the strange alignment that put them with Eumenes, a Greek and a former scribe, against two of the greatest Macedonian generals. Alcetas, Perdiccas’
south along the Nile’s bank. He was desperate now to find a way over, or he would face mass defections. His reconnaissance had revealed a spot opposite Memphis where the Nile was split by a midriver island. Both sides appeared to be fordable, and the island was large enough for his entire army to make camp. The opposite bank would not be guarded; no one would expect a crossing upstream from the delta, where the Nile’s waters were united in a swift, deep current. It was a daring stroke, much in
conflict aside and recover old bonds of friendship. They embraced each other and spoke kind words of greeting, while Antigonus’ troops, recruits of a younger generation, strove to get a glimpse of a famous man—the victor over Craterus, the bookkeeper who had become a general, the general who had become an outlaw. They pressed in so close that Antigonus feared for Eumenes’ safety and threw his arms around his old friend to protect him from the overeager—and perhaps hostile—crowd. The parley