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Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the…

Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (1978)

by Donald W. Engels

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221783,019 (4.11)10
"The most important work on Alexander the Great to appear in a long time. Neither scholarship nor semi-fictional biography will ever be the same again. . . .Engels at last uses all the archaeological work done in Asia in the past generation and makes it accessible. . . . Careful analyses of terrain, climate, and supply requirements are throughout combined in a masterly fashion to help account for Alexander's strategic decision in the light of the options open to him...The chief merit of this splendid book is perhaps the way in which it brings an ancient army to life, as it really was and moved: the hours it took for simple operations of washing and cooking and feeding animals; the train of noncombatants moving with the army. . . . this is a book that will set the reader thinking. There are not many books on Alexander the Great that do."--New York Review of Books… (more)

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I got this book because I saw it recommended somewhere as a potential good resource for writers, and I think the recommendation was a good one! I don't know a whole lot about Alexander's campaigns, but I still found the book interesting, and it definitely had a lot of very useful information about the type and amount of supplies one needs to move men and pack animals over large distances.

The author makes the point that Alexander and his generals were very conscious of these issues, and that all of their movements to build his empire were driven by the need to make sure they had adequate supplies of food and water available at all times; this thesis seems well supported by the historical evidence available. Engels also, very usefully, abstracts away from the specifics of Alexander's situation to provide some general numbers and calculations about the amount of supplies needed to move given numbers of men and animals over what time frames and distances, which is very helpful for a writer. It is information that could easily be applied to any large group on the move, not just a military force. ( )
  ethelindaw | Nov 19, 2018 |
Engels adds a great deal to the understanding of how Alexander’s army managed to accomplish what it did, and how issues of logistics sometimes dictated the route that it took. Engels’ examination of the physical requirements of men and animals in conjunction with the limitations of transport and communications is an important model for anyone studying pre-modern armies, especially those of the ancient and medieval periods. ( )
  Steve.Bivans | Jul 20, 2014 |
Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army by Donald W. Engels

This is a great book, full of facts, dates, maps, tables and a extensive bibliography. Engels does a wonderful job explaining what it took to move the Macedonian army from point "A" to point "B". I found one of Alexanders rules interesting NO carts, No Oxen. Oxen move slower than Horses mules and camels so they had no place in his army except maybe on the menu. Baggage also slow down the army, so no carts, if you couldn't carry it you didn't need it.
  Pebblesgmc | Feb 26, 2014 |
Donald Engels provides a useful counterweight the the numerous military strategic accounts of Alexander's conquests. He deals with the neglected subject of ancient world military logistics and concludes that 1) Alexander's campaign routes and timing were logistically determined 2) when a logistic plan failed, it could destroy an army as surely as a military defeat, an example being the loss of 3/4 of his army in the Gedrosian desert when the Monsoon winds halted supply by sea.
The essence of Alexander's strategy was the fast movement of troops with the smallest baggage train possible, achieved by his soldiers carrying much of their own equipment and being accompanied by horses and mules with supplies. The book provides interesting detailed calculations, showing that there was little margin for error. The army that crossed the Hellespont comprised of 65.000 personnel plus cavalry and pack animals that had a combined grain requirement (not counting water or fodder) of 269.000 lbs per day that had to be carried, delivered by river or sea or drawn from an extensive area of rich agricultural land after a harvest, facts which greatly determined when and where Alexander could proceed and how he had to divide his forces. ( )
2 vote Miro | Mar 14, 2010 |
An insightful and exceptionally well-sourced history of Alexander's campaigns through the prism of the enormous logistical challenge he confronted -- and largely surmounted until that final, disastrous march through the desert.
1 vote DanelMaddison | Feb 27, 2010 |
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