C. Kunst (Hrsg.): Alexander der Große am Granikos

Alexander der Große am Granikos. Die Erzählung der Schlacht als Konfliktort

Kunst, Christiane
Osnabrücker Forschungen zu Altertum und Antike-Rezeption 22
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€ 34,80
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Chiara Matarese, Institut für Klassische Altertumskunde, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

The volume contains a foreword, eleven papers (the first one is the introduction by Christiane Kunst), a bibliography and an index. The starting point of this project was a 2015 field trip of Osnabrück University to the Troad and to a place that is of high importance for every historian who deals with Alexander the Great. In spring 334 B.C., Alexander the Great's first battle with the Persians took place there, at the River Granicus, in what is now north-western Turkey.

The victory of the Macedonian-Greek allies against the multi-ethnic Persian army at the Granicus became one of the greatest symbols of Alexander's successful conquest policy in the years that followed. This assessment is based on different discourses on the events that identify the Granicus at different levels as a conflict landscape. The scholars have underscored that the accounts of the ancient authors (Diodorus, Arrian and Plutarch) present many discrepancies with regard to both the place of the battle and the course of the events. In the introduction, Die Schlacht am Granikos und ihre Übersetzung in Erinnerung (pp. 9–16), Christiane Kunst explains that these aspects are very marginal in this volume. She and the other authors look at the Granicus and related events not in their physical and factual aspects, but as a symbolic narrative that makes the place and events metaphors for different messages. Although some of the ancient writers' narratives are opposed to each other with regard to military action, they agree that the Macedonian king personally gained a great military success. The authors of this volume investigate – in this long historical perspective – the production of knowledge and illuminate a multifaceted landscape of conflict. The construction of the Granicus as a place of remembrance had already begun with Alexander. The Macedonian king strove to put his campaign in a universal context. To achieve this aim, it was necessary to interweave the conflict against the Persians with the narratives of the Trojan War and to let people think of the Granicus and other landmarks in the conquest of Asia in a heroising way.

Nicole Diersen, the author of the second contribution, Der Sieg am Granikos als aufwertendes Mittel zur Heroisierung Alexanders des Großen (pp. 17–36), shows how the battle of the Granicus has been used to glorify the Macedonian. Particularly interesting is the last part of the essay, in which Diersen emphasizes how Alexander himself and ancient authors grasped those elements from the history of the Persian Wars that could serve the heroisation of Alexander at the Granicus. It would have been reasonable to put this contribution after the next four articles, which report the different accounts of the sources and their problems.

Several accounts are devoted to the ancient sources about the battle. Anna Katharina Romund and Dirk Sievertsen present in Forschungsstand zu den Quellendarstellungen der Schlacht (pp. 37–42) writings about the battle by Diodorus, Arrian and Plutarch and some problems related to their differences. Anna Katharina Romund´s Diodors Bericht der Schlacht am Granikos: eine fragwürdige Quelle? (pp. 43–70) focuses on the account of Diodorus. A lot of its elements fit into discussions of the time, in which the author lived. In this context, the Persians became the mirror of the Roman Elite, which, according to the author, mismanaged the provinces. Through the figure of Alexander, who won at the Granicus due to his personal qualities, Diodorus stresses the need to turn back to virtue in his times. Louis Autin (Plutarch, Alexander und Homer am Granikos (Plut. Alex. 16) (pp. 71–94) is concerned with the account of Plutarch. In his opinion, Plutarch reverses the view of the Hellenistic literature, which presents Alexander as the new Achilles, emphasising that Alexander also killed Greek soldiers who were fighting on the Persian side. Dirk Sievertsen presents in Militärische Logik als Darstellungsmittel: Die Granikosschlacht bei Arrian (pp. 95–124) the third source of the battle, Arrian, and explains how Arrian is not very interested in military precision but uses the events at the Granicus to speak about the deeds of the Macedonian king. Contrary to the one depicted in Plutarch's account, Arrian´s Alexander acts in a sane and comprehensible manner.

In Die Schlacht am Granikos aus raumsemantischer Perspektive (pp. 125–142), Simone Feldker leaves the narrations of the events to come for a superordinate level of interpretation of the battle. She shows how the Granicus turns from a physical space into a political and ideological one. The borders of the river become symbolic limits and the hostile physical environment a threat that must be removed by the Macedonian king. Tim Helmke (Macht und Identität im Narrativ der Granikosschalcht im griechischen Alexanderroman des Pseudo-Kallisthenes (pp. 143–160) investigates the meaning of the battle at the Granicus in the Greek Alexander romance. It says that the Granicus is just a step of the victorious conquest of Alexander, which was achieved only through his ethnic superiority. This is also the reason no resistance in battles, neither at the Hellespont nor at Granicus, is shown in the romance.

The last articles focus on the later reception of the battle at the Granicus. Melanie Ulz explores the reception of the battle in 17th-century French historical painting in her paper Die Überquerung des Granikos als Thema der französischen Historienmalerei (pp. 161–166). The representation of Alexander in these paintings is ideal and heroic, as required by the time. Simone Feldker and Anna-Friederike Klink (Das Schalchtfeld am Granikos in wilhelmiischer Zeit am Beispiel von Judeich, Lehmann und Janke (pp. 167–186) show how the representation of the battle at Granicus by the historians of the time fits into the highly militaristic interest of the Wilhelmine Germany. For this purpose, even the falsification of the sources is taken into account. In the last contribution of the volume, Die Figur Alexanders in der orientalischen Alexanderrezeption und der modernen türkischen Erinnerungs- und Reenactmentkultur (pp. 187–204), Nils Taher-Schulz presents, firstly, how Alexander has been perceived in the Persian, Arabian and Turkish literature. Then, he shows that the battle at the Granicus has become Alexander's most important battle in the Turkish tradition because of its geographic localisation and how Alexander and the battle are integrated in the traditional “Biga Competition of Mounted Archery”.

The individual papers are closely related, and the volume is, apart from the inaccuracies I have mentioned, coherently organised. The papers demonstrated convincing that the events only form a fractional amount of knowledge about the Granicus. Christiane Kunst and the authors of this volume look at it as a symbolic narrative, and this is, in my opinion, the only approach that can bring a real understanding of the meaning of such a battle. Discussions about its precise location and the modern attempts to reconstruct the course of the conflict through lists of information will not shed light on the meaning of the battle. Apart from this, this amount of information remains very problematic: there is, for example, a conflict over the topography of the site, which will remain unsolvable due to the different information given by the sources. For these reasons, focusing on the symbolic narrative of this event seems the best decision to me. The “proof” that the Granicus has to be read as Christiane Kunst and the authors of this volume have done has been furnished by Alexander himself and his construction of the Granicus as a place of remembrance. Another positive aspect of this approach is that it inserts the Granicus into a bigger context. Now, its symbolic meaning can be easily compared to the symbolism of other conflict sites of the conquest of Alexander.

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