Grainger finds a way to focus in on some of the details of the early Hellenistic period by concentrating on the shortest-lived dynasty of the Successors, while arguing for its pivotal position in the period. I think he stretches the point a bit at the end, but in general, it’s convincing.

The bulk of the book is about Antipater himself, and examines what can be known of him from the sources. The first part starts with his early life (which is pretty much all speculation, if reasonable), and carries through to the death of Alexander. Antipater was presumably of one of the prominent families of Macedon (a subject that the sources just don’t go into at all), and saw first-hand the chaos around civil wars and unstable dynastic struggles from before Philip II.

Grainger assumes this is behind a lot of Antipater’s later actions as he first administers Macedon for Philip while he’s on campaign, and then when Alexander is on campaign, and then acts as effective regent for Philip III and Alexander IV. He’s shown as interested in stability and continuity, and doesn’t show any real signs taking power in his own name during the early wars of the Successors. Its one of those things that’s hard to know, but it is reasonable.

There is of course, also a good history of the Lamian War in here, as the apparent maneuvers are looked at in some detail. Other conflicts (notably with Epirus and the northern frontier) are covered less well, mostly because of the lack of sources, which still leads to a fair amount of supposition with any of these. I could really have used a detail map of Macedonia and the directly adjacent regions.

The second section deals with Kassander, showing him moving into position as regent and King of Macendon after his father’s death, and his attempts at state-building. The big surprise here was his foundation (and re-foundation) of a few cities, only one of which really took off, named after his wife, Thessalonike. The last three chapters go into the remnants of the family after his death and the end of the dynasty with the Antigonids taking over Macedonia. This part really suffers from being about people not at the center of power, and therefore not mentioned as much in the sources, but Grainger pulls out a few facts, and certainly shows Antipater’s daughters as having some real influence.

Grainger states up front that part of the idea for the book was to be able to focus his attention down, and it works. This is a nicely detailed history from just pre-Alexander through much of the diodochoi era, and brought a lot of things into focus. It suffers a little from going into things that there’s not a lot of sources for, but that is often the curse of ancient history.