BMCR 2006.01.49

Basileis ê tyrannoi: Filippo II e Alessandro Magno tra opposizione e consenso. Società Antiche, 6

, Vasileis ē tyrannoi : Filippo II e Alessandro Magno tra opposizione e consenso. Società antiche ; 6. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino, 2004. 234 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.. ISBN 8849808925 €13.00 (pb).

The book by Giuseppe Squillace, published in the series Società Antiche: Storia, Culture, Territori directed by Giovanna de Sensi Sestito, is a revision of author’s Ph.D. dissertation prepared under supervision of the series’ general editor. Squillace’s volume belongs to the immense bibliography of studies on Philip II and Alexander the Great. In this vast field of interest it is particularly important to direct a work to a well-defined readership. Being the revision of the Ph.D. thesis Squillace’s book is expected to be written for other scholars. However, Squillace has chosen a rather broad theme investigated by many before him, and at the first glance its approach may appear popularizing: one more book on the picture of two great Argeads combined with an analysis of the contemporary political oratory and theorists as well as historiography on Philip (with Demosthenes, Hyperides and Lycurgus among Philip’s enemies; Isocrates, Aeschines, Speusippus, Theopompus among his friends) with a similar treatment of histories of Alexander the Great, both lost (with Ptolemy, Aristobulus, Callisthenes1 among others) and extant.

The author seems to have been aware of risk connected with re-approaching the propaganda picture of Philip and Alexander. He has tried, therefore, to escape the danger of writing another student book on Aeschines and Demosthenes treatment of the great Macedonians. Instead he is more interested in reconstructing the propaganda policies of the two greatest Argeads. In order to achieve this more sophisticated goal Squillace sacrifices a chronological or geographical approach and divides his narrative in two main parts, Logoi (Speeches) and Praxeis (Actions). The former group includes also a problem of political slogans used by the Macedonian kings. However, this division is unnatural, and Squillace fails to draw a clear distinction between rhetoric and politics. A reconstruction of political and military history and Quellenforschung is banned from the book. The absence of the former does not surprise. However, the avoidance of Quellenforschung is not fully explained by the fact that a study in propaganda exists due to discrepancies between existing traditions (p. 9). One should remark that some existing traditions on Alexander the Great could reflect political debates of the Principate, rather than be genuinely rooted in the fourth century B.C.

What we can then find within Squillace’s book? The author touches on many important aspects of the Greco-Macedonian history in the late fourth century BC. However, he does not attempt the impossible, and it is not a study in the whole of Greek propaganda in the second part of the fourth century. Thus, despite starting from loci classici of the Athenian political rhetoric on Philip II he reasonably does not enter too deeply into the speeches by the Attic orators. Instead, he tries to give a possible complete picture of the propaganda of the two last Argead kings of Macedon and to place it the broader Macedonian and pan-Hellenic context. The author seems to be well prepared to do this: his knowledge of the Argead bibliography is impressive, and he manages it with no difficulty. One should underscore the unique consistency with which Squillace deals with his examples. He discusses sources within his limited aims, and successfully resists the temptation to discuss political history at length.

Squillace is aware that every single Argead monarch had to fight on two distinct propaganda fronts: he had to influence Greek politics and he had to convince the Macedonians to support his policies. On the other hand Squillace sometimes forgets to ask who was the addressee of a particular action by the kings, as in the chapter II 1 La strategia del silenzio (p. 77-94), where he studies cases of Philotas, Parmenio, Cleitus and Callisthenes. Any action that had pleased the Macedonians could have at the same time irritated the Greeks (or in reverse). Not surprisingly, more work is done on the Philip’s and Alexander’s actions aiming at the Greek audience, but there are some differences in a treatment of the father and the son. Squillace does not study Philip’s Macedonian politics at all, whereas he includes considerable material on the relation between Alexander and the Macedonians, nobles and army, and makes his Alexander more balanced. If we possessed more historians of Philip II, Squillace could probably write more on Philip and the Macedonians. On the other hand, one can easily enumerate problems of Philip’s Macedonia-aiming propaganda overlooked or omitted by Squillace. For example, one should remark that Squillace does not pay any attention to the accusations of being a barbarian directed against Euridice, the mother of Philip. These charges belonged most likely to the intra-Macedonian discussion but certainly shaped also Philip’s standing in the pan-Hellenic propaganda game. There is also no attempt at a reconstruction of Philip’s early years. Similarly, Theopompus’ mysterious attack on Philip and his Companions (FGrHist 115F27) deserves a more detailed treatment than two short mentions in notes. Of course, Squillace is interested more in the propaganda initiated by Philip and Alexander than in attacks against them (cf. his closing remarks on p. 163-4), but at the same hand he offers considerable sections in his book to the charges directed against the Argeads by the Athenian orators. This over-representation of Athens-related material does not, however, justify fully Squillace’s classification of Athens as the enemy to face in the (battle)field of ideology (163). One should also note that in the face of the recent boom in studies of Alexander’s relation with the Persians surprisingly little is done in this book on his Persian-directed propaganda.

The book, although inexpensive, is nicely edited. There remain, however, some flaws in foreign titles and names.2 One can wonder why the Rubbettino Press added maps to this scholarly production. They are not original drawings, but simple reprints from other works (the map of Greece taken from the fifth edition of The Routledge Atlas of Classical History by M. Grant is reprinted in English!). Frankly speaking, all illustrations, with exception of coins, seems to serve merely as adornments of the text and do not provide additional information to help follow the author’s line of argument.

The book consistently shows Philip and Alexander as politicians aware of needs of propaganda combining religion and secular matters, past and present, deeds and words in order to persuade or threaten, to mollify or encourage their Greco-Macedonian public. This undoubtedly learned and valuable production is, however, difficult to use. This study must be read as a whole, and I am afraid that impressive indexes cannot help an occasional reader much to pick out a discussion he needs from the book: to understand Squillace’s interpretation of particular cases one has to follow his book from the very beginning to its very end.


1. Squillace names Callisthenes and few other historians of Alexander the Great storici di professione. Such a name attributed to any ancient historian seems anachronistic.

2.Thus, e.g., in Bibliografia we will find the subtitle of Ernst Badian’s article “The Eunuch Bagoas. A Study in Method” as “A Study on Methody”. Being a Pole, the reviewer was annoyed by reiterating misspelling of the name of J. Bielawski, the editor of the Aristotelian letter to Alexander the Great (he appears in Squillace’s book always as Bielawskj).