Book Review: Alexander the Great at the Battle of Granicus: A Campaign in Context


by Rupert Matthews

Birmingham: History Press/Chicago: Trafalgar Square, 2008. Pp. 256. Illus., maps, diagr., biblio. $42.95. ISBN: 1862274487

Alexander at the Battle of the Granicus is a very detailed analysis of Alexander’s first campaign against the Persians, in the spring of 334 BC, which culminated in his sweeping victory at the Granicus. 

Matthews, who has specialized in this type of treatment before, in works such as The Battle of Thermopylae and Battle of Crecy, has carefully scoured the documentary sources, far richer for the Greeks than the Persians, and has supplemented these with the help of re-enactors, archaeological finds, and an understanding of the conduct of war based on his earlier work.  His treatment fits the two-day battle in northwestern Asia Minor (about 50 miles east of the Dardanelles) into the bigger picture.  So the first eight chapters deal with the causes of the war, the armies, with numerous diagrams illustrating tactical formations, and the preliminary movements.  Then four chapters cover the battle itself, one for each day plus one for the intervening night and one for the immediate results (casualties, prisoners, the wounded, etc.).  Two concluding chapters look at the longer-term results of the battle. 

The account is well written and provides an excellent look at the campaign and the conduct of war in the period.  Alexander at the Battle of the Granicus is marred by an absence of footnotes, which may not bother the layman, but which is annoying if one is interested in looking for sources, nor is there an index. 

Despite these problems, an interesting and worthwhile read even for that more serious student.
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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