Author: Pat Wheatley
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Demetrius the Besieger offers the first historical and historiographical biography of Demetrius Poliorcetes (336-282 BC) to be published in English. Also known as 'The Besieger of Cities', Demetrius is an outstanding, yet enigmatic figure who presided over the disintegration of Alexander the Great's Empire after 323 BC, and the most fascinating and high profile of the Diadochoi, or Successors to Alexander the Great. His campaigns, initiatives, and personal life bestride the opening forty years of the so-called 'Hellenistic' age and are pivotal in its formation as he became the first of the Hellenistic Kings. As his name suggests, Demetrius was prodigious in his military adventures, and profligate in his private life, rendering him an icon for artists, writers, politicians, and soldiers for many centuries. He was especially famous for his spectacular siege operations against enemy cities, and gained his unique nickname from his innovation in building gigantic siege engines, which became legendary in the ancient world. However, much of Demetrius' life was enigmatic, oscillating wildly between successful and catastrophic ventures, and his intrinsic qualities remain debatable to this day. What is indisputable is that he presided over a formative period in history marked by great flux and enormous change. His endeavours resulted in the fusion of Asiatic and Greek cultures, producing the hybrid Hellenistic kingdoms which dominated the ancient world for some 200 years until the rise of the Roman Empire. The period is of crucial importance in ancient Greek history, and marks the point from which Hellenistic influence became fundamental in the development of modern Western culture.