Cover Image: The Perdiccas Years, 323–320 BC

The Perdiccas Years, 323–320 BC

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Member Reviews

I religiously listen to Tristan Hughes on 'The Ancients' HistoryHit podcast, so when I saw that he had released a book on a subject I know to be his favourite, I had to give it a go. As expected, it was a clear labour of love. 

Meticulously researched, yet readable, this is an excellent exploration of what happened after the death of Alexander. The convoluted and bloody story is developed carefully, each challenge extensively detailed. At times, it verged on repetitive, especially when it came to who people were, but this might have been more useful for those who had not met this period before. It was fascinating to see how quickly things fell apart and made me wonder how much longer Alexander could have held it all together.

Recommended for newbies and fans alike.

ARC via Netgalley
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Overview:
Battles for power started immediately after Alexander the Great’s death.  Internal strife started small and was managed.  But incidents kept escalating the problems until further battles, and then war for succession.  A Macedonian civil war.  Even during the battles, the soldiers had remorse in attacking other Macedonian troops and leaders.  For they had been fighting with them during previous battles.  This is a story of what happened after Alexander the Great died in Babylon.  

Alexander the Great might have built the empire, but it was the successors that determined its fate.  Legend has that shortly before death, Alexander the Great replied that succession should go to the strongest.  The problem was that there were many who had proven themselves.  But before death, Alexander the Great provided a symbolic gesture of whom should lead in the interim.  To manage state affairs until an appropriate successor was found.  Alexander the Great’s gave the signet ring to Perdiccas.  

Among those most proven and highest-ranking individuals of Alexander the Great’s empire were seven bodyguards.  Those who had proven themselves countless times on the battlefield.  But it was not just the bodyguard who laid claim to the throne, as there was Alexander the Great’s unborn child, another illegitimate child, and close relatives.  Whoever would claim the throne, would require a regency or a shift in power.  Even alternative methods of rule were considered, such as a committee to rule the empire rather than a monarchy.

The monarchy needed legitimacy, making the kingship a death warrant to those without.  Legitimacy required the support of nobility, soldiers, and external allies.  Without them, conflict would arise.  Perdiccas was very skillful in becoming the regent and gaining de facto control.  Turned to solidifying power and pursuing ambition.

Many of the cities and states conquered by or allied with Alexander the Great, had a very tenuous relation with Macedonia.  As Alexander the Great’s armies moved further away, the cities did not have much oversight from Macedonian and behaved independently.  But trying to maintain good relations with Alexander the Great, and the successors.  After the death of Alexander the Great, it was very hard for them to accept Macedonian rule.  More and more were becoming anti-Macedonian, and wanted full independence.  

Caveats?
Unless you are interested in the history of warfare, there will be times of poor writing flow.  There is a lot of background information that had caused forthcoming events, but it can still be hard to understand many of the decisions and events.  The decisions taken appear to be very calculating, without much cultural influence.
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The Perdiccas Years, 323–320 BC is a comprehensive scholarly look at the Diadochi, the generals and rivals who succeeded Alexander the Great on his death in 323BCE. Due out 31st March 2022 from Pen & Sword, it's 384 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

The author writes accessibly but meticulously, and builds up the necessary background context for the compelling history of the time and manages to humanize the major players despite the intervening millennia. He's chosen a chapter format which moves thematically (and roughly chronologically), through the military campaigns and jockeying for power which came after Alexander's death: the Lamian war(s), Bactrian, Thracian, Spartans, Perdiccas, and the Aetolian war amongst others. I'm not a historian, and many of these campaigns were previously unknown to me in any but the most general (haha) terms. He's included a very handy dramatis personae/glossary in the back of the book which proved invaluable to my understanding comprehension. I strongly recommend printing it out or using the search function on whatever electronic device readers use to make the whole read easier.

The book is meticulously annotated throughout. The author has cited period primary sources and later scholarly research to support the narrative. There are copious chapter notes, an exhaustive bibliography, maps, photos (of period artifacts) and a cross referenced index.

The author has a casual academic style of writing; accessible and careful, with proper annotation, but not overly convoluted or impenetrably difficult to read. It sounds rather simplistic to say I really loved the maps and pictures, but I really loved all the maps and pictures.

Five stars. This would be a great selection for fans of military history, as well as a superlative support text for related academic studies on the time period. This is listed as the first book in a series of historical studies of the time period. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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NB: free ARC received for honest review

Highly readable and informative account of the first few years after the sudden death of Alexander the Great, the multiple rebellions this inspired across the breadth of his newly-won empire, and the rivalries between his lieutenants that ultimately led to multiple bloody wars.

The book is packed with detail that I did not previously know, and does an excellent job of illuminating the very personal nature of the conflict, as good friends took up arms against each other, and supposed allies committed betrayals based on jealousy and greed.
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The text entitled "The Perdiccas Years, 323-320BC: Alexander's Successors at War," published by Pen and Sword and provided to me as a ARC, is an excellent introduction to the troubled period of time that ensued when Alexander the Great died without a clear successor.  For the three years that the book covers (and then some), Alexander's Macedonian/Hellenic Empire was shattered by civil wars as the "heirs" to Alexander's huge Empire struggled for position.  This is a sweeping tale covering three continents and soaked in blood.  The combatants were largely Macedonian troops (with a significant supplement of local tribes and mercenaries).  The level of bloodshed, the utter ruthlessness of the leaders who figure so prominently in the tale, and the huge implications for world history going forward, all combine to make this a truly fascinating read.  It is something like "Game of Thrones" meets 'The Lord of the Rings", the significant difference being that this is nonfiction!  There are many lessons for us to take away from a perusal of this book, not least that as violent as we are in our warfare, we take a distant second to Alexander's generals and "Companions."All of the lessons we point to as we look at World War II and the proxy wars that followed, can be found just as surely here as we look at what happens when a superpower implodes.  I highly recommend this book as few of us encounter this information in various classes we take yet it is critical to our history since Alexander's time.
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Fascinating, well researched and presented in a way which is respectful of the material without getting caught up in the temptation to labour particular points at the cost of giving the full picture of events.  I love it when historians bring their personal enthusiasm about a topic to bear and it is clear this book was a labour of love.
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