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A fresh approach to the Roman imperial tradition on Alexander the Great

Table of contents

Table of Contents
List of Images
Chapter 1 Contested Pasts: Alexander the Great and Determinist History           
   Great Man History and Determinism
   Alexander, the Romans, and Determinist History     
   Alexander and Augustus        
   Roman Historiography and Alexander the Great      
   Chapter Contents       
Chapter 2 Trojan War Reprisals        
   Alexander arrives at Susa: a Prelude 
   Susa and the Greek World     
   Alexander and Troy   
   In the Ages of Heroes: Trojan War 2.0         
   Thrice Reprised: The Romans and the Trojan War   
Chapter 3 Writing Rivalry: The Persian Wars and the Battle of Thermopylae
   The Romans at Thermopylae
   Thermopylae and the Succession of Empires
   Re-writing Thermopylae       
   Subverting Spartan History   
Chapter 4 Imagining Imperial Power Figures
   The Context of the “Last Plans”        
   The Campaigns Against the Carthaginians and the West     
   The Road to the Pillars of Hercules  
   The Synoecism of Peoples from Europe and Asia    
   The Construction of Temples
   The Tomb of Philip   
Chapter 5 Alexander in Civil War(s)
   Antony and Octavian 
   Pompey’s Imitatio Alexandri and the Sertorian Wars           
   History Rewritten: Two Alexanders  
Chapter 6 Con(text)s of Invention: Alexander the Great at Jerusalem           
   Inventing History in the 1st century CE        
Contested Pasts: Conclusion 
Contested Pasts: Bibliography


Taking as a key turning point the self-fashioning of the first Roman emperor Augustus, author Jennifer Finn revisits the idea of “universal history” in Polybius, Justin, and Diodorus, combined with the Stoic philosophy of determinism present in authors like Plutarch and Arrian. Finn endeavors to determine the ways in which Roman authors manipulated narratives about Alexander’s campaigns—and even other significant events in Mediterranean history—to artificially construct a past to which the Romans could attach themselves as a natural teleological culmination. In doing so, Contested Pasts uses five case studies to reexamine aspects of Alexander’s campaigns that have received much attention in modern scholarship, providing new interpretations of issues such as: his connections to the Trojan and Persian wars; the Great Weddings at Susa; the battle(s) of Thermopylae in 480 BCE and 191 BCE and Alexander's conflict at the Persian Gates; the context of his “Last Plans”;” the role of his memory in imagining the Roman Civil Wars; and his fictitious visit to the city of Jerusalem. While Finn demonstrates throughout the book that the influence for many of these narratives likely originated in the reign of Alexander or his Successors, nevertheless these retroactive authorial manipulations force us to confront the fact that we may have an even more opaque understanding of Alexander than has previously been acknowledged. Through the application of a mnemohistorical approach, the book seeks to provide a new understanding of the ways in which the Romans—and people in the purview of the Romans—conceptualized their own world with reference to Alexander the Great.

Jennifer Finn is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Classical Studies, Loyola University Chicago.

"Contested Pasts is a valuable contribution to this literature. Highly recommended."