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Pyrrhus of Epirus by   Jeff Champion  The time of the Diadochi has always been one of my favorite eras of hi...

Pyrrhus of Epirus by Jeff Champion Pyrrhus of Epirus by Jeff Champion

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Jeff Champion

by

 



 The time of the Diadochi has always been one of my favorite eras of history for reading and gaming. Forget Alexander; without the cast of generals he had around him, he might just be a footnote in history. Pyrrhus's life spans through the time of the Diadochi and Epigoni. As a youth he is fighting along side Antigonus and Demetrius in the largest battle of the Hellenistic period, Ipsus. Pyrrhus's life is definitely one that should have a movie made of it. His fortunes were always up and down, but his personal bravery and his generalship was never in question. Hannibal ranked him as either the greatest or second greatest general of the ancient world   (Plutarch recounts both in different places). Left adrift at the age of two to the fortunes of war, his battles for his patrimony and conquest are the stuff of legends. Out of all the kings at the time, he was the one that most people considered to be a true successor to Alexander, who was actually his second cousin. Pyrrhus's uncle Alexander Molossus invaded Italy, and fought the Romans as his nephew later would. Livy has Alexander Molossus saying at his death "that he fought men, while his other nephew Alexander waged war against women". On to the actual book.

 First, the book has something that all history books should have, maps, and it has eight pages of them. Some people who read history have an innate map system that allows them to be able to see in their heads where everything being written about is, and actual battle placements. Others have to keep cross-referencing while reading, which is a bit of a hassle. History books, and especially military history books, should always have maps and the more the better. Mr. Champion starts the book with a background history of Epirus. The biography continues with Pyrrhus's exile, his return and then his short tenure of king of Macedon. During his fight for the crown of  Macedon is where he gained his nickname 'the eagle'. Then Pyrrhus's life enters the best known part, his invasion of Italy and battles against the Romans. Unlike Hannibal, the Romans were actually debating whether to submit to Pyrrhus. If not for the old blind man Appius Claudius Caecus, a peace treaty would have been signed between Rome and Pyrrhus. What changes would have occurred in the rest of history if this had happened?

 His life continues with many victories against Carthage in Sicily. He then becomes embroiled once more in fighting Rome and then returns to Greece where his life is cut short in Argos by an old women wielding a roof tile, of all things.

 Mr. Champion does a very good job of showing all of the different accounts of his battles and Pyrrhus's history in general. Where there are conflicting accounts, Mr. Champion makes sure the reader is aware of them. History, as we know, is usually written by the victors. So most of the accounts of Pyrrhus in his struggles with Rome do not make sense if he lost battles or his casualties were as high as some state. Well-written and stuffed full of history of not only the man, but also his time, this book is very easy to recommend. Thankfully we live in an age where there are historians who are finally filling the blank spots in the great Hellenistic age. We can only weep at the many histories that Plutarch, etc. mention that have until now never been found.


Robert 


Book: Pyrrhus of Epirus
Author: Jeff Champion
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishers

Antigonus The One-Eyed By Jeff Champion    Mr. Champion adds to his obscure historical works with this biography of Antigonus...

Antigonus The One-Eyed by Jeff Champion Antigonus The One-Eyed by Jeff Champion

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Jeff Champion

Antigonus The One-Eyed

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 Mr. Champion adds to his obscure historical works with this biography of Antigonus the greatest of the Diadochi or successors. His other works include 'The Tyrants of Syracuse' volumes I and II, and a biography of Pyrrhus. These two works have shed a large and new light on the history of the people and eras that they represent. It is far time that we have a biography of one of the greatest men of Hellenistic society.
Demetrius poliocretes son of Antigonus


 Antigonus was not one of the new men that grew to power underneath Alexander; indeed at his death he was already sixty years old. Antigonus was like Antipater, a general from Alexander's father, Phillip the second's time. When he was born, Macedon was a backwater and considered to be at the fringe of the Greek world, if the Greeks believed it belonged in their world at all. Between the various barbarian tribes surrounding Macedon, and the constant death and murder of her kings, Macedon was like a leaf in a whirlpool. No one would have believed in 380 B.C. that within sixty years this small country would have conquered almost the entire eastern portion of the known world and brought the mighty Persian empire to its knees. Antigonus himself was an imposing man for this era. A  large man over six feet tall and built solidly, he was able to overawe people by his presence. He was cruel at times, but also had a sense of humor. He had lost the sight in one eye and sometimes referred to himself as a cyclops. Once when getting a dispatch from a subordinate that was printed in large letters, he declared "that even a blind man could read this". Like many great generals, he had the common touch with his soldiers. He was one of the few ancient generals who were able to win battles after they were seemingly lost. Unfortunately, we have no statues or anything to show us what he looked like, so I added pictures of  his son and two of his inveterate enemies.


Lyssimachus



 Like many of the elder generation of Macedonians, we really know nothing about Antigonus' family or their place in his society. Some stories have him being a son of a simple farmer. As the author shows, that would have been highly unlikely. He would have had to be born into one of Macedon's leading aristocratic families. Exactly when and where is hidden in the depths of that era's history. 

 Antigonus was put into the position of satrap (governor) of Phrygia by Alexander. The satraps promoted by Alexander were sometimes given territories that the Macedonian army never went near. So the newly appointed satrap would have to conquer or at least subdue the indigenous populations. After Alexanders death in 323 B.C. Antigonus was just one of many satraps. In addition, his satrap of Phrygia was nowhere near any of the different sources of power at that time. His rise from this backwater to almost becoming the king of the entire Macedonian empire is detailed by the author. The author has had to piece together the life of Antigonus from the many scraps that we are left from the ancient historians. Unfortunately, the ancient authors jumped about like a cat being teased with a laser. Their accounts of different years hop around the ancient world from year to year without really following a clear path through any kingdom or person's life. Mr. Champion is to be congratulated for his detective work in bringing the lives he has to our attention, and hopefully prodded to bring more out of the dustbin.

Ptolemy I


  Antigonus' many battles and wars are shown to us, as is his ultimate failure and defeat in old age at Ipsus in 301 B.C. His son Demetrius poliocretes (the besieger) life is also a tale of rise and final ruin, however Demetrius' life was more of a roller coaster ride than his fathers. 

 The Antigonid kingdom at its greatest extent encompassed the entire Asian conquests of Alexander, and some additions that were conquered by the Macedonians after his death. The Antigonids went on to rule Macedon and some of Greece after the fall of Antigonus at Ipsus. Macedon saw many rulers in a few short decades. One of them was Demetrius, son of Antigonus. His grandson, also named Antigonus, became ruler after that; the Macedonian kingdom was ruled by the Antigonids until its fall in 168 B.C. The Antigonids as a family were very different from the Ptolemies and Seleucids. There was no patricide or filicide in the Antigonids for over a hundred years. The other Hellenistic kingdoms' families were lucky to go a generation without it happening.

 Antigonus' rise to power and eventual loss of his life and kingdom at Ipsus was used by the ancient writers as a prime example of hubris, which is unfortunate because all great conquerors have had the need to possess and reach for more than they have. I wonder if Mr. Champion is working on the biography of Demetrius next?


 Robert

 Book: Antigonus The One-Eyed
Author: Jeff Champion
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Distributor: Casemate Publishing
Date of Review: 10/14/2016
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