Take a journey through the ‘game of empires’ with Jeremiah William’s review of Angelos Chaniotis newly published, Age of Conquests – The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrien.

In his latest book leading historian Angelos Chaniotis covers nearly 500 years of history across the ancient world, from Egypt to Britain; the volume providing readers with a brief, yet sufficiently detailed narrative of the major events occurring in the ‘oecumene’ (the known world) from the time of Alexander the Great (336 BC) until the death of Roman Emperor Hadrian (AD 138).

Angelos Chaniotis introduces the argument that Alexander the Great’s transformation of the world during his lifetime did not stop upon his death in 323 BC. 

Instead, everything starts with Alexander. 

Through his extraordinary conquests, he became assimilated with the gods and carved a brand new world out of the Mediterranean landscape. Yet he died before seeing the entirety of his accomplishments. 

The poem “Anno 200”, transcribed in the book’s first chapter, is used by the Chaniotis to provide a measure of the ‘man gods’ achievements:

“And from this marvelous pan-Hellenic expedition
Triumphant, brilliant in every way,
Celebrated on all sides, glorified,
As no other has been glorified,
Incomparable, we emerged:
The great new Hellenic world.
We the Alexandrians, the Antiochians,
The Selefkians, and the countless
Other Greeks of Egypt and Syria,
And those in Media, and Persia, and all the rest:
With our far flung supremacy,
Our flexible policy of judicious integration,
And our common Greek Language
Which we carried as far as Bactria, as far as the Indians.”

The territories conquered by Alexander endured a period of violence and war after his death, with several new dynasties emerging to battle for increasingly large portions of Alexander’s former kingdom. 

However, these hectic times also led to scientific, artistic, and intellectual achievements that are still with us today. 

Angelos Chaniotis demonstrates why combining the Hellenistic and Imperial periods into the ‘Long Hellenistic Period’ gives us a better understanding of the important social, cultural, economic, and geopolitical developments that shaped the beginning of the modern world. 

Covering five centuries of complicated history in sixteen chapters is no easy feat but under the steady hand of Chaniotis it is managed masterfully. The book’s layout certainly helps in this regard. Right after the table of contents, at the front of the book, are eight detailed maps in black and white. There’s also a full list of the figures used to illustrate the chapters. The narrative portion of the book is summarised down into twelve chapters, while the remaining four are dedicated to the overarching themes of socio-economic, cultural, religious, and global development. 

The narrative chapters generally follow a chronological order. However, for clarity, the author sometimes chooses to explain distinct episodes linearly, which requires him to jump back and forth through time.

Chapters Thirteen through Sixteen, the final chapters, focus on the main themes of the book, the author seeking to tie its anterior arguments into a concise understanding of the era.

Overall, the effect is one of an easy-to-digest account as well as a reference and guide for further research, with every section acting as a stepping stone to a specific topic. This is assisted by the detailed reference, chronology, and bibliography sections that are found at the end of the book.

Available at Monument Books.

Jeremiah William