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Darius in the Shadow of Alexander by Pierre…
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Darius in the Shadow of Alexander

by Pierre Briant

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To scholars of ancient studies, Pierre Briant will be undoubtedly be a recognizable name. His Histoire de l'empire perse: De Cyrus à Alexandre (translated into English in 2002) broke ground in historical studies as an exemplum for an egalitarian incorporation of Classical and Near Eastern source material, and its methods were at the forefront of a profusion of novel interpretations of cultural interaction in the ancient Mediterranean. Promised in this initial study was an evaluation of the source material related to Darius III, the much-beleaguered opponent of Alexander the Great. Briant delivered, with the publication of Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre in 2003. This edition, now translated into English, is unmodified, excluding the addition of a new preface. Briant maintains that the last sentence of the introduction to the first edition should be unchanged: the objective remains “to explain why Darius, along with so many others, is condemned to haunt the realm of historical oblivion” (x).
 

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Pierre Briantprimary authorall editionscalculated
Todd, Jane MarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674493095, Hardcover)

The last of Cyrus the Great’s dynastic inheritors and the legendary enemy of Alexander the Great, Darius III ruled over a Persian Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus River. Yet, despite being the most powerful king of his time, Darius remains an obscure figure.

As Pierre Briant explains in the first book ever devoted to the historical memory of Darius III, the little that is known of him comes primarily from Greek and Roman sources, which often present him in an unflattering light, as a decadent Oriental who lacked the masculine virtues of his Western adversaries. Influenced by the Alexander Romance as they are, even the medieval Persian sources are not free of harsh prejudices against the king Dārā, whom they deemed deficient in the traditional kingly virtues. Ancient Classical accounts construct a man who is in every respect Alexander’s opposite—feeble-minded, militarily inept, addicted to pleasure, and vain. When Darius’s wife and children are captured by Alexander’s forces at the Battle of Issos, Darius is ready to ransom his entire kingdom to save them—a devoted husband and father, perhaps, but a weak king.

While Darius seems doomed to be a footnote in the chronicle of Alexander’s conquests, in one respect it is Darius who has the last laugh. For after Darius’s defeat in 331 BCE, Alexander is described by historians as becoming ever more like his vanquished opponent: a Darius-like sybarite prone to unmanly excess.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:24 -0400)

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