Was Alexander's Empire screwed kinda from the start?

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Closed
Sep 2019
68
Vergina
Except it didn't? The parts he conquered held together fine, under the various generals. Had there been one general who defeated the others, he'd have held the whole territory much as Alexander (or the Persian predecessors did)
I would agree. Perdiccas might have fit the role had he given up his ambitions while regent. He could have chosen to simply keep the peace and hold the empire together until Alexander IV came of age. However instead he decided to make a play for power himself by divorcing Antipater's daughter Nicaea and trying to marry Alexander's sister Cleopatra. If Perdiccas had of stayed married to Antipater's daughter and recognized Ptolemy's rule in Egypt the outcome would have been better. As far as I know Antipater and Ptolemy were always loyal to the dynasty and Alexander IV.

Other options are Antigonus crushes everyone or Seleucus avoids assassination, taking Macedon, and leaving only Egypt independent.
 
Mar 2018
861
UK
Except it didn't? The parts he conquered held together fine, under the various generals. Had there been one general who defeated the others, he'd have held the whole territory much as Alexander (or the Persian predecessors did)
I agree with you, but the fact that the generals *did* immediately fight each other rather than wait for the heir to come of age does suggest a lack of robust state institutions. States with weak institutions are more likely to suffer civil wars than states with strong ones. Of course, for such a young empire, it could hardly be expected to have built up those institutions by Alexanders death.
 
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Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,639
Australia
I agree with you, but the fact that the generals *did* immediately fight each other rather than wait for the heir to come of age does suggest a lack of robust state institutions. States with weak institutions are more likely to suffer civil wars than states with strong ones. Of course, for such a young empire, it could hardly be expected to have built up those institutions by Alexanders death.
Most Kingdoms, with an absolute monarch, will have a civil war if the heir is either unclear, or not of age. I don't think Alexander's Empire was unusual in that regard.
 
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Sep 2016
1,324
Georgia
Most Kingdoms, with an absolute monarch, will have a civil war if the heir is either unclear, or not of age. I don't think Alexander's Empire was unusual in that regard.
There was no civil war in France after Louis XIV's death despite Louis XV still being a baby. Alexander's Empire was also not an absolute monarchy like Russia was in 18th cetnury, for example.

How could it be, when Satraps had so much power ? The main problem for empire was it's satrapic administration, which is why Achaemenids had so many rebellions and some big civil wars during the reign of their dynasty. Persian and Alexander's Empire was more similar to Holy Roman Empire ( where Emperor would also be viewed as a God ), than France in 17th/18th century or Russia in 19th century or other absolute monarchies.

Alexander would need to centralize the empire and abolish satrapic system in order to ensure internal stability for decades to come. Otherwise, everything will continue to rest on the shoulders of one man - his charisma, personality and ability to subdue the others. Alexander himself experienced power struggle after Philip's death and had to kill his enemies, even his relatives and other children of Philip II.
 
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Sep 2019
68
Vergina
How could it be, when Satraps had so much power ? The main problem for empire was it's satrapic administration, which is why Achaemenids had so many rebellions and some big civil wars during the reign of their dynasty. Persian and Alexander's Empire was more similar to Holy Roman Empire ( where Emperor would also be viewed as a God ), than France in 17th/18th century or Russia in 19th century or other absolute monarchies.

Alexander would need to centralize the empire and abolish satrapic system in order to ensure internal stability for decades to come. Otherwise, everything will continue to rest on the shoulders of one man - his charisma, personality and ability to subdue the others. Alexander himself experienced power struggle after Philip's death and had to kill his enemies, even his relatives and other children of Philip II.
The satrapal system was problematic but was a centralized state a realistic alternative?

The size of the empire, with its multitude of local power bases, would be a significant obstacle to any centralization. Artaxerses III tried to centralize his authority to an extent by ordering the powerful Asia Minor satraps to disband their armies, this measure was met with a four year long rebellion. Alexander would have to had face numerous rebellions of this kind if he had of challenged local power bases. This seems to be why the Seleucids maintained a modified version of the satrapal system and allowed the continued existence of sub-satrapal rulers.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,639
Australia
There was no civil war in France after Louis XIV's death despite Louis XV still being a baby. Alexander's Empire was also not an absolute monarchy like Russia was in 18th cetnury, for example.

How could it be, when Satraps had so much power ? The main problem for empire was it's satrapic administration, which is why Achaemenids had so many rebellions and some big civil wars during the reign of their dynasty. Persian and Alexander's Empire was more similar to Holy Roman Empire ( where Emperor would also be viewed as a God ), than France in 17th/18th century or Russia in 19th century or other absolute monarchies.

Alexander would need to centralize the empire and abolish satrapic system in order to ensure internal stability for decades to come. Otherwise, everything will continue to rest on the shoulders of one man - his charisma, personality and ability to subdue the others. Alexander himself experienced power struggle after Philip's death and had to kill his enemies, even his relatives and other children of Philip II.
I said "most". Exceptions just prove the rule.
 
Sep 2016
1,324
Georgia
The size of the empire, with its multitude of local power bases, would be a significant obstacle to any centralization. Artaxerses III tried to centralize his authority to an extent by ordering the powerful Asia Minor satraps to disband their armies, this measure was met with a four year long rebellion. Alexander would have to had face numerous rebellions of this kind if he had of challenged local power bases.
Yes, he would face numerous rebellions. However, French kings also faced numerous rebellions when they challenged local power bases. Same thing happened in Russia. That's a normal thing when there is a struggle between Monarch's authority and local baron's.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth also had a problem of too powerful Magnats and Szlachta. Which is why there was never a true internal stability and that weakened the country. Polish kings faced numerous rebellions when they challenged local power bases as well.

The size of Roman empire was also a significant obstacle and they has to suppress many rebellions. Still, their empire lived longer than Achaemenid or Seleucid Empires.
 
Sep 2016
1,324
Georgia
I said "most". Exceptions just prove the rule.
Civil wars also didn't happen in 19th or 18th century Russia because of new monarch's tender age. I also don't remember any civil wars in Prussia, despite Frederick II not fathering a child. Civil War didn't start in Sweden after the death of Charles XII. What ,, most '' are you talking about ?
 
Nov 2011
1,111
The Bluff
Even if the young King had lived, he was a terrible administrator and was now tasked with administrating and consolidating an Empire which reigned from the Danube to the Indus. Is my Alexander hate just getting to my head, or is there really no chance for a long lasting Macedonian Empire?
Yes. Your "Alexander hate" is getting to your head. You proceed from the premise that Alexander was "a terrible administrator". The evidence is, in fact, quite the opposite. You then declare he was an extreme narcissist and a megalomaniac. It's difficult to see how, with those opinions firmly rooted in your mind, you expect any answer other than that which you've already formed.

As has been pointed out, Alexander, on his return from the east, was fully occupied with the administration of empire. Indeed his last years are near completely occupied in this endeavour. This because the empire needed to be put into order given that several satraps never thought he'd be back and took their own paths. The replacement of governors, the disbanding of mercenary forces under satrapal control, the management of affairs in Greece and the arrangement of societal affairs (the marriages for example) are just some of these matters. Another has pointed out the embassies from the various states as well. To claim he was no administrator (or a "terrible" one) is to ignore the voluminous source testimony to the opposite.

Claims that the Macedonian generals had plans even had he survived is a view totally based on hindsight. I'd like to see the evidence for that. That the marshals rearranged the management of empire upon his death was a natural response and not one ever to be considered while Alexander was alive. The constitutional crisis which confronted the Macedonian leadership on Alexander's death was unprecedented in the state's history. The usual problem on the death of an Argead was the sheer number of claimants for the throne. In Babylon quite the opposite obtained: the abject lack of claimants or a successor. Hence the protracted debate and politicking resulting in the Babylonian Settlement. A settlement that, while intended to last, was destined to break on the ambitions of competing marshals. Power abhors a vacuum and an infant successor is a vacuum no matter the expressed intentions of the marshals.

Had Alexander survived, none of this will have taken place. It is likely that had Hephaistion survived, he will have had a position similar to Antipatros only over the Asian empire while Alexander campaigned. He didn't and so this is most likely the reason Antipatros was summoned east (Krateros was to replace him in Macedon).
 
Sep 2013
632
Ontario, Canada
Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire had every possibility of lasting, had he managed a long life. His administration was sensible, and would've increasingly united the west and east. The wealth that he had at his disposal beggers the imagination, and literally anything was possible. Only early death at 32 intervened.

One of the reasons for the long term survival of the Roman Empire was the longevity of its architect Augustus. He become sole master of the entire Roman World after winning at Actium over Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BCE, also at 32 years old. But the difference was he lived another 40 years, long enough for his policies and institutions to become lasting, and for taxable peoples being ruled under the eagle (except Germania east of the Rhine) to become compliant, Romanized, and productive.

It also gave him time to eventually ensure a smooth transfer of power to his successor and a continuation of the respect of the imperial office. Which Alexander was unable to provide, resulting in the fracturing and exhaustion of the Empire in the wars of the Diadochi after his death.
 
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