A portrait of one of the ancient world’s first political celebrities, who veered from failure to success and back again
“This colorful biography of Demetrius . . . explores his rich inner life and reveals an ancient world of violence and intrigue.”—New York Times Book Review
The life of Demetrius (337–283 BCE) serves as a through-line to the forty years following the death of Alexander the Great (323–282 BCE), a time of unparalleled turbulence and instability in the ancient world. With no monarch able to take Alexander’s place, his empire fragmented into five pieces.
Capitalizing on good looks, youth, and sexual prowess, Demetrius sought to weld those pieces together and recover the dream of a single world state, with a new Alexander—himself—at its head. He succeeded temporarily, but in crucial, colossal engagements—a massive invasion of Egypt, a siege of Rhodes that went on for a full year, and the Battle of Ipsus—he came up just short. He ended his career in a rash invasion of Asia and became the target of a desperate manhunt, only to be captured and destroyed by his own son-in-law.
James Romm tells the story of Demetrius the Besieger’s rise and spectacular fall but also explores his vibrant inner life and family relationships to depict a real, complex, and recognizable figure.
About the Author
James Romm is an author, a reviewer, and the James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Classics at Bard College. His reviews and essays appear regularly in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Review of Books.
“Romm has long been one of the most energetic interpreters of ancient Greek history for a nonspecialist readership. . . . Romm knows how to tell a story; . . . his narrative of the epic siege of Rhodes is the most exciting I have ever read. . . . For anyone new to this tangled but thrilling period of history, Romm’s whirlwind Demetrius is now the place to start.”—Peter Thonemann, Wall Street Journal
“This colorful biography of Demetrius, the vain and ambitious Macedonian monarch who sought to reunite Alexander the Great’s kingdom in the years after his death, explores his rich inner life and reveals an ancient world of violence and intrigue.”—New York Times Book Review
“Romm offers a sensitive and well-judged account which will appeal to anyone wishing to contemplate what the 18th-century German naturalist Georg Forster called ‘the “incomprehensible force” in human nature that drives history’s conquerors, and their crimes.’”—Antony Spawforth, Literary Review
“This part of ancient history is little known, which is a shame as it’s so incredible. . . . This story of competing dynasties and empires, fighting for control of the ancient world, should attract anyone with even a passing interest.”—Oliver Webb-Carter, Aspects of History
“With great erudition, and elegance, Romm tells the story of the years after the death of Alexander the Great, revealing an ancient world whose politics, intrigue, and penchant for war will seem familiar to modern readers.”—Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University
“Romm brilliantly sketches the life, character, and achievements of Demetrius the Besieger, the most charismatic and unstable of the Successors of Alexander the Great—and one of the most formidable.”—Robin Waterfield, author of Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece
“Romm’s gripping, sensitive biography traces the zigzagging career of Demetrius, cavalry commander at nineteen and notorious besieger of cities, as he strives to seize power as Alexander’s successor but ultimately languishes in luxury as a royal captive.”—Adrienne Mayor, author of The Poison King and The Amazons