What George W. Bush called the "first war of the twenty-first century" actually began more than 2,300 years ago when Alexander the Great led his army into what is now a sprawling ruin in northern Afghanistan. Accounts of Alexander's invasion of ancient Bactria read eerily like news from our own day. In this vivid, meticulously researched, and elegantly narrated book, Frank L. Holt follows Alexander's historical, archaeological, and numismatic legacy back and forth between ancient Bactria and modern Afghanistan. Recounting the plight of the most powerful leader of the time as he led the most sophisticated army of its day into the treacherous world of tribal warlords, Holt describes those grueling campaigns and the impact they had on Alexander, his generals, their troops, and the world. Into the Land of Bones also examines the conflict from the point of view of the local warlords who pushed the invading Greeks to the limits of their endurance—and sometimes beyond, into mania and mutiny. The lively narrative situates the current war in Afghanistan in a broader historical perspective.
Holt explains how the three modern superpowers that have invaded Afghanistan—Britain in the nineteenth century, the Soviets in the twentieth, and the United States in the twenty-first—are continuing the struggle that Alexander began centuries ago. That this legacy continues to play itself out today is a testament to the timeliness of Holt's fascinating and original account.
List of Illustrations
Chapter One. Introduction
The Crosshairs of History
A Deeper Perspective
Chapter Two. Hunting The Enemy
City of Bones
Chapter Three. A Desperate Struggle
Chapter Four. The Hydra Heads Of Bactria
Chapter Five. Love And War
Little Star of Hope
Chapter Six. Dark Shadows
Chapter Seven. The Legacy
Lost and Found
And Sometimes Lost Again
Chapter Eight. Conclusion
Appendix. Ancient Sources
Frank L. Holt is Professor of History at the University of Houston. He is the author of Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions (California, 2003), Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria (California, 1999), and Alexander the Great and Bactria: The Formation of a Greek Frontier in Central Asia (1988) and editor of The Greeks in Bactria and India (1985).
“Holt’s striking parallels between the warlords Alexander pursued and their modern Afghan avatars result in that rarity of history books: one immediately practical to current-day events. Surely, the journalists, humanitarian workers, and officials rotating into Afghanistan today would profit from Holt’s insights.”—Gilbert Taylor Booklist
“A great book . . . It brings the results of scholarship to a larger public. The commanders of the Coalition forces in Afghanistan should be under orders to read it.”—Jona Lendering Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"Into the Land of Bones
is the fullest narrative of Alexander's campaigns in Afghanistan available in English. It is informed by a comprehensive knowledge of the ancient sources, geography, and archaeology of Afghanistan. The work uses the history of Alexander to raise provocative questions about current affairs. Its long-term value, however, lies in its detailed and masterly account of Alexander's Bactrian campaigns in light of the history and geography of Afghanistan. This is one of the most important works on Alexander to appear in the last ten years."—Stanley Burstein, author of Outpost of Hellenism: The Emergence of Heraclea on the Black Sea
“The terrain, climate, and volatile socio-political milieu of Afghanistan have always been a logistical nightmare for invaders. Holt's vivid evocation of Alexander the Great's grueling, brutal, inconclusive war, and the telling parallels he draws with British, Soviet, and U.S. attempts to bludgeon the region into submission, make for grim reading.”—Amelie Kuhrt, author of The Ancient Near East, c.3000-330 BC