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Holt, Frank L.

The Treasures of Alexander the Great

War, the most profitable economic activity in the ancient world, transferred wealth violently from the vanquished to the victor. Invasions, massacres, confiscations, deportations, the sacking of cities, and the selling of survivors into slavery all redistributed property with epic consequences for kings and commoners alike. The most notable example occurred in the late fourth century BC, when Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire. For all of its savagery, this invasion has generally been heralded as a positive economic event for all concerned. Even those harshly critical of the king today tend to praise his plundering of Persia as a means of liberating the moribund resources of the East. To test that popular interpretation, this book investigates the kinds and quantities of treasure seized by the Macedonian king, from gold and silver to land and slaves. It reveals what became of the king´s wealth, and what Alexander´s redistribution of these vast resources can tell us about his much-disputed policies and personality. Although war made Alexander unbelievably wealthy, it distracted him from managing his spoils competently. Much was wasted, embezzled, deliberately destroyed, or idled again unprofitably. These facts force us to reassess the notion, prevalent since the nineteenth century, that Alexander the Great used the profits of war to improve the ancient economies in the lands that he conquered.

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