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CLAS341 After Alexander: the Struggle and the Chaos

A study of the successors to Alexander. Topics covered include Alexander's death, the Diadoch Wars, Alexander's generals, polygamy, and the destruction of empires.

The death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE precipitated one of the most chaotic and bloody periods in history. We will study the initial struggle for power in Babylon and examine in depth the major military, political and social issues that develop as the Hellenistic Kingdoms are formed from the ruins of the Macedonian Empire.

The colourful personalities of Alexander's generals - such as Ptolemy the Saviour, Antigonus the One-Eyed, Demetrius the Besieger, Cleitus the White, Eumenes, Cassander and Seleucus the Victor - and their violent reactions to each other form a sustained backdrop to the paper, and there is particular emphasis on the evolution of Hellenistic kingship and study of the origins of the ruler cult. Basic problems of historiography and chronology are introduced, but there are also cataclysmic land battles, bitter sieges, splendid naval battles and hundreds of elephants. All of the semester's work is based upon sources in translation.

Paper title After Alexander: the Struggle and the Chaos
Paper code CLAS341
Subject Classical Studies
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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18 200-level CLAS, GREK or LATN points
CLAS 441
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Suitable for third-year students from all disciplines, especially with an interest in History, Politics, Historiography, Archaeology, warfare and Ancient Studies of all types.
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Pat Wheatley
Paper Structure
The paper has several key aims, including:
  • To analyse and understand how Greek and Eastern cultures interacted after being assimilated by Alexander's expedition
  • To analyse the colourful personalities of Alexander's successors and their interaction with each other
  • To survey the military tactics and strategies of the period, the political manoeuvring and social aspects of the culture, such as sexuality and economics
Internal Assessment 40%
Teaching Arrangements
Two lectures per week.

Diodorus of Sicily. The Library, Books 16-20 (tr.) R. Waterfield (Oxford World’s Classics, 2019). [also prescribed for CLAS 241 and CLAS 441]

Plutarch, The Age of Alexander (tr.) I. Scott-Kilvert and T. E. Duff, with introduction by T. E. Duff, (Penguin Books, 2011). [also prescribed for CLAS 241]

Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander (trans.) J. C. Yardley, with introduction and notes by W. Heckel (Penguin Books, 1984; repr. 2004). [also prescribed for CLAS 241]

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • To investigate the nature of ancient history and the methods and sub-disciplines used to analyse it
  • To investigate new evidence - especially epigraphic, archaeological and numismatic - which has become available in recent years
  • To debate and evaluate some of the scholarly interpretations and schools of thought on the patchy evidence, especially where conflicting conclusions have been drawn
  • To view the impact of the Alexander phenomena, or 'industry,' on popular culture and modern perceptions
  • An awareness of foreign cultures in a chronological context
  • The ability to think laterally in considering the numerous paradoxes and problems posed by the Alexander and Early Hellenistic era

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 12:00-12:50 9-14, 16-22
Wednesday 12:00-12:50 9-14, 16-22