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Death Of Alexander Notes

Classics Notes > Alexander the Great and his early Successors (336 BC – 302 BC) Notes

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The succession and the settlement of Triparadeisos Alexander's generals fell out soon after his death and each of the agreements that they came too quickly fell apart resulting in the effective division of the empire at the settlement of Triparadeisos as little as three years after the king's death. It is interesting to consider why the generals and the empire were not able to remain united after Alexander had died; there are several possible explanations which seem the likeliest causes. Firstly there was no heir apparent but there was a large group of ambitious, battle-hardened officers among whom there was none conspicuous for their outright strength, furthermore there is the personality of Alexander himself, how much that was responsible for holding together such a large army and empire is important to consider. The personality of Alexander was certainly crucial in holding together such a vast and disparate empire; the dream of invading and punishing Persia had been Philip's but the extent of the march east and the lengths gone to in conquering its peoples had been driven by the ambitious and often impetuous Alexander. The loyalty he inspired with his personal bravery and conspicuous acts of egalitarianism (notably the helmet of water in the Gedrosian desert) would be almost impossible to replicate no matter who his successor may have been; the fact Perdiccas thought to increase his own prestige by displaying the throne and diadem of Alexander during discussions is a testament to the awe and loyalty he could command even after death. This idea fits in well with the nature of Macedonian kingship which was not formalised or codified in any way; the king had to be strong in order to control the large group of nobles just under him and the extent of his actual power depended on how well he was able to do this. The Macedonians had perhaps been blessed to have two kings in succession who were so adept at this, Philip and then Alexander, because it was a common theme for the courts of the kings before them to be riddled with and crippled by intrigue due to weaker leadership from the king. (This point will become clearer below when the brutal means with which Alexander secured his own accession are discussed.) It was bad luck indeed that the man who forged such a large empire died so young before he was able to properly consolidate it and ensure enough peacetime stability to allow a successor to take over smoothly; the example of Augustus is perhaps a good one to make because he occupied the first few years of his reign expanding the empire but then spent decades ensuring its peace and stability before the relatively smooth transition of Tiberius. The point is that if Alexander had lived longer and had ruled for a significant period of time as a peacetime king (which would also have allowed him to nominate a successor) then the empire would probably have had a far higher chance of staying together; it would have allowed proper administrative and unifying structures to develop throughout the empire and peace time would allow men who weren't ambitious and warlike generals to come to prominence at court, perhaps preventing the division as it happened in reality. The start of this process can be seen at the very end of his life with the choice of Babylon as the new empire of the capital and it is the case that parts of the old Achaimenid empire were still not properly conquered, in particular Cappadocia and Caucasia, which had been totally

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