DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES

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When Alexander the Great died in Babylon 323 BC, he left the greatest empire the world had yet seen with no clear successor. While both of his wives (Roxane the daughter of  Oxyartes of Bactria; and Stateira , daughter of Darius) were pregnant, he had no (legitimate) children yet born; though a four year old son of his former mistress Barsiné, named Heracles, was claimed by some to be Alexander’s illegitimate son. Alexander had made no provision for what was to happen in the case of his death. For a ruler who habitually took unnecessary risks; leading his army, literally, from the front this was particularly irresponsible. But it was completely in character for Alexander, who ever refused to acknowledge his own mortality.

 

The decision was thus placed into the hands of the Macedonian army, who by the traditions of their homeland had the sole right to select their ruler. But the generals who led them dictated events, and they soon fell out with each other. Alexander’s Diadachi (“Successors”, as they came to be called) spent the next 40+ years (from the first squabbles in Alexander’s death chamber to the Battle of Corupedion in 281 BC) attempting to settle the issue by intrigue and force of arms.

The stage upon which the drama played out was vast indeed: stretching from the Pindus Mountains to the Caspian Sea; from the Bosporus to the Nile River.  Roughly speaking the struggle was between the forces of the “dynasts”, satraps and generals who sought to carve up for themselves a portion of the empire as their personal demesne; against those representing a central authority seeking to hold the empire together. This latter was represented until 316 by various Regents for the Kings; and from that year till 301 by Antigonus Monophthalmus, who sought to make himself sole ruler. (Arguably, this cause was taken up late in his life by Seleucus Nicator, who after Corupedion found himself in the same place as Antigonus in 316; and may have, briefly, entertained the same ambition.)

THE PLAYERS TAKE THE STAGE

The leading men present at Babylon that summer of 323 BC, and in attendance at Alexander’s bedside when he breathed his last, all bore the title of “Bodyguards” (Somatophylakes); less a job description than an honorific, meaning men trusted by the king with his life. There were traditionally seven of these, but their number was raised (temporarily) to eight in India. Some had commands in the army, or governorships of provinces. They all functioned effectively as Alexander’s Field Marshals; frequently given independent commands.

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First among those at Alexander’s death bed was Perdiccus son of Orontes, the senior Hipparch (cavalry leader) and Alexander’s acting Chiliarch (Vizier). He was a prince of the House of Orestis, one of the petty-kingdoms which comprised the original Macedonian Kingdom. At the storming of Thebes…

(To continue, go here.)

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DEADLIEST BLOGGER’S GREATEST QUOTES ON WAR PART 6

quotes 6We all love lists; and Deadliest Blogger is no different! Here is sixth installment in our presentation of thought-provoking quotes on my favorite subject; from minds far greater than my own (in most cases)!

War ought to be the only study of a prince. - – Niccolò Machiavelli

The cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf. - – Thomas Paine

(To continue reading, go here.)

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GREAT CAPTAINS OF WAR: HANNIBAL BARCA

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This is the third in a series of posts in which the “Great Captains” of military history will be examined. Unusually, this will be in video format; posting compelling biographical material.

Arguably the greatest general of antiquity, Hannibal Barca fought and nearly overcame the greatest power of the ancient world, Rome, on its own soil. Of all the “Great Captains” in history, only Hannibal fought against another “Great Captain” (Scipio).

Hannibal was raised by his formidable father, Hamilcar Barca, the foremost Carthaginian commander to emerge from the debacle of the First Punic War; groomed from childhood to command troops in battle. Hannibal grew-up in his father’s military camp and headquarters, as Hamilcar spent the last half of his life in subduing Spain for his native city. Hannibal and his brothers, Hasdrubal and Mago, swore a sacred oath to avenge Carthage’s humiliation at the hands of Rome; and to destroy this hated enemy.

(To continue, go here)

 

 

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ZULU: DEATH AND REDEMPTION IN THE AFRICAN SUN!

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On 11 January 1879, a British Army crossed the Buffalo River, the boundary between the British Natal province and that of the independent native African kingdom of the Zulus. After the refusal of an insulting British ultimatum by the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, the British were now prepared to march on the Zulu capital, Ulindi; with the goal of defeating and annexing the Zulu kingdom.

(To continue reading, go here.)

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THE AGE OF ARTHUR: PART TWELVE

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Unique among the territories of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Britain succeeded in holding back and even reversing the tide of Germanic conquest for nearly two centuries. This was an age of heroes… It was the Age of Arthur!

This is the twelfth-part of our discussion of Britain in the so-called Age of Arthur: the 5th though the mid-6th Century A.D. It is a fascinating period, with the Classical civilization of Greece and Rome giving way to the Germanic “Dark Ages”. It was the sunset of Celtic-Roman culture in Britain; it was the Age of Arthur!

But who was Arthur?

Before we answer that question, it is necessary we understand the world in which he lived.

(Read Part Eleven here. Or start from the beginning, with Part One!)

 

THE LINDSEY CAMPAIGN

The earliest author from which we have any details on Arthur’s military career is Nennius; a 9th century Welsh monk. He states that Arthur fought twelve battles against his enemies before the climatic engagement at Mount Badon (Mons Badonicus). It is important to keep in mind that Nennius wrote three centuries after the events he purports to chronicle. He may have had available to him sources lost to us today; so shouldn’t be dismissed. Nor should we accept his account without skepticism. That said, as it is our purpose here to build a “working theory” on who Arthur may have been, and using what sources and artifacts that are left us; we can take Nennius as a road map, however sketchy. We can attempt to place the location of his twelve battles, and so trace Arthur’s career and rise to supreme power amongst the Celtic kings of Britain.

(To continue reading, go here)

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MASSACRE IN THE KHYBER PASS: ELPHINSTONE’S DISASTER!

 

Gandamak standIn 1876, George Armstrong Custer and some 268 some members of the US 7th cavalry were “massacred” in battle against native Lakota and Cheyenne warriors in the valley of the Little Bighorn River. This signal, but ultimately meaningless defeat of a “modern” military force by technologically inferior tribal forces is almost universally known in America; thanks to countless books and not a few films that deal with the subject.

What is almost universally forgotten is the far greater and more politically significant destruction of a much larger British army just 34 years earlier; by Afghan tribesman in the snowbound passes of Eastern Afghanistan.

The First Afghan War (1839-1842) is best understood in context of the so-called “Great Game”: the contest for influence in Central Asia between the Russian Empire and Great Britain….

(To continue, go here)

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SPARTANS: ELITE WARRIORS OF ANCIENT GREECE 6

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After the humiliation of surrender at Pylos, the Spartans redeem themselves on the battlefield of Mantinea!

Excerpt:  

….Agis, keeping his troops in hand, now wheeled his line hard to the left, cutting down fleeing Argives as they did. A lifetime of military drill and practice now showed its worth; as with machine-like precision the Spartan center and right turned 90 degrees to face the hitherto victorious Argive right wing.

There the Mantineans, Arcadians and the Argive elites were fighting over the Spartan baggage, where they killed many of the older men left as guards. No doubt celebrating what seemed a striking victory, they had no idea their doom was wheeling toward them.

(To read this piece, go here.)

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