Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions

Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions

Hardback Hellenistic Culture & Society

By (author) Frank L. Holt

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  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Format: Hardback | 217 pages
  • Dimensions: 159mm x 235mm x 19mm | 485g
  • Publication date: 24 November 2003
  • Publication City/Country: Berkerley
  • ISBN 10: 0520238818
  • ISBN 13: 9780520238817
  • Illustrations note: 14 b&w photographs, 6 line illustrations, 3 maps

Product description

To all those who witnessed his extraordinary conquests, from Albania to India, Alexander the Great appeared invincible. How Alexander himself promoted this appearance - how he abetted the belief that he enjoyed divine favor and commanded even the forces of nature against his enemies - is the subject of Frank L. Holt's absorbing book. Solid evidence for the "supernaturalized" Alexander lies in a rare series of medallions that depict the triumphant young king at war against the elephants, archers, and chariots of Rajah Porus of India at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. Recovered from Afghanistan and Iraq in sensational and sometimes perilous circumstances, these ancient artifacts have long animated the modern historical debate about Alexander. Holt's book, the first devoted to the mystery of these ancient medallions, takes us into the history of their discovery and interpretation, into the knowable facts of their manufacture and meaning, and, ultimately, into the king's own psyche and his frightening theology of war. The result is a valuable analysis of Alexander history and myth, a vivid account of numismatics, and a spellbinding look into the age-old mechanics of megalomania.

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Author information

Frank L. Holt is Professor of History at the University of Houston. He is the author of Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria (California, 1999) and Alexander the Great and Bactria: The Formation of a Greek Frontier in Central Asia (1988) and editor of The Greeks in Bactria and India (1985).

Review quote

"Fascinating detective work...A chilling psychological profile of Alexander. Holt's scholarship is superb, his prose style elegant and crystalline." - Peter Green, Times Literary Supplement (tls)"

Table of contents

List of Maps and Illustrations Prefaced 1. Man of Mystery 2. A Treasure 3. Picking a Fight 4. Whose Pachyderm, Whole or Halved? 5. Another Treasure 6. A Closer Look 7. A Dark and Stormy Night Appendix A. The Published Elephant Medallions Appendix B. Some Possible Forgeries of the Large Medallion Appendix C. The 1973 Iraq Hoard Select Bibliography Index