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Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions (Hellenistic Culture and Society)

Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions (Hellenistic Culture and Society)
Author: Frank L. Holt
ISBN 13: 9780520244832
ISBN 10: 520244834
Edition: 2nd Revised ed.
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: 2005-01-25
Format: Paperback
Pages: 217
List Price: $29.95

"Frank Holt probably knows more than anyone alive about the mysterious Greek kingdoms in Bactria and on the frontiers of
India that were one of the odder legacies of Alexander's Eastern conquests. The literary evidence is sparse, the coins remain ambiguous, the topography defeats all but the toughest. Holt's forays into this world are those of a clever and persistent detective: he loves cracking problems, and the tougher they are, the better. This time—very properly beginning by invoking the name of Sherlock Holmes—he has given us what Conan Doyle would probably have called 'The Adventure of the Elephant Medallions.' Debate has raged over the scene these portray ever since the first was discovered. A cavalryman with a lance confronts an opponent on an elephant. Who are they? What is the occasion? Guesses have ranged from Alexander to the Greco-Bactrian monarch Eucratides, from Porus at the Jhelum to Darius at Gaugamela. Using his numismatic and historical skills like a Holmesian magnifying-glass, Holt takes us through the theories, deftly explodes the fallacies, and comes up with a (for me) entirely cogent and satisfying solution. He has also, somewhere along the way, acquired a really marvelous prose style. Not only is the problem in itself a page-turner; Holt also throws in, by way of introduction, the best short impressionistic account of Alexander's career I have ever read. This is high scholarship at its most exciting."—Peter Green, author of Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B. C.: A Historical Biography

"[This book] brings to a wider audience one of the few contemporary pieces of evidence for the image and ideology of Alexander the Great. While relatively well known to experts in the field, the 'elephant medallions' of the title are far less well understood, and have thus played a smaller part, in popular accounts of Alexander than they

probably should. Holt's book offers a well thought out introduction first to Alexander and the Alexander story, second to the entrance of the 'medallions' into modern scholarship, and third to the medallions themselves."—Andrew Meadows, Curator of Greek Coins, British Museum

Library Journal

To justify this intriguing work, Holt (history, Univ. of Houston; Thundering Zeus) quotes Harvard classics professor Ernst Badian: "Coins will one day be the most important source [for Alexander studies], since independent of literary conventions and prejudices." While Holt traces the historical background of the famous Elephant Medallions (bearing the warrior likeness of Alexander) since their discovery in 1880, the book's value lies also in its review of Alexander studies. Holt looks at the changes that have taken place in the field since these artifacts first appeared in Afghanistan and Iraq and ably illustrates the last 150 years of scholarship. Whether one is truly interested or not in the numismatics of the period, this work will fascinate. For students who may worry that little work remains for historians, this book is certainly encouraging. Holt's efforts toward creating a mystery of sorts is a tad tired, but the history of the Medallions is literally the stuff of Kipling-and it's historiography at its best. Recommended for academic collections.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.