The military success of Alexander and his early death lends itself perfectly to the realm of counterfactual history. No less than nine authors partook in the creation and propagation of Alexander counterfactual history. Our extant examples range from as early as the third century BCE to the sixth century CE. This paper examines first the scholarly debates surrounding the placement of Livy’s digression in his larger narrative, the objectives of Livy’s digression, and the reasons for its existence. It then turns to a discussion of the popularity and consistency of the Roman tradition of Alexander counterfactual history. The tradition not only attempted to represent Rome and Italy as places of relative international importance in the late forth century BCE but also served to compare a young Roman state, which would rise to dominance in the Mediterranean world, favorably to the mightiest conqueror in all of ancient history.
The consequences of Crassus’ invasion of Mesopotamia in 54–53 BCE were unanticipated and unintended; however, his disastrous failure shocked the Roman world and suddenly established the Parthians as a serious rival to Rome. Moreover, the shame the Romans felt after the Battle of Carrhae was considerable. The battle scarred the Roman psyche and severely damaged the Roman ego. This study synthesizes and investigates what became a vicious and virulent Roman literary tradition of anti-Crassus propaganda, examining how numerous Roman writers over the course of numerous centuries used the dead and disgraced Crassus as a convenient scapegoat to help explain Rome’s failure to dominate the East and subdue the Parthian rival. It demonstrates that these writers ignored the legitimate causes for the First Romano-Parthian War (56 BCE – 1 CE), which Crassus had inherited, and illustrates that the disaster at Carrhae became a popular moralizing lesson about the consequences of greed, impiety, and hubris.