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Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography Paperback – October 5, 1992

4.6 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There's no shortage of biographies available on Alexander the Great, but Peter Green's Alexander of Macedon is one of the finest. The prose is crisp and clear, and within a few pages readers become absorbed in the world that made Alexander, and then the story of how Alexander remade it. Green writes, "Alexander's true genius was as a field-commander: perhaps, taken all in all, the most incomparable general the world has ever seen. His gift for speed, improvisation, variety of strategy; his cool-headedness in a crisis; his ability to extract himself from the most impossible situations; his mastery of terrain; his psychological ability to penetrate the enemy's intentions--all these qualities place him at the very head of the Great Captains of history."

From Publishers Weekly

Green's vibrant biography--a History Book Club main selection and a BOMC alternate in cloth--deromanticizes the Macedonian general, portraying him as a ruthless megalomaniac.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 617 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (October 5, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520071662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520071667
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Mr. Joe TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 11, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Only occasionally have I read a work of history that's in the "can't put down" category. DISTANT MIRROR by Barbara Tuchman, MEN TO MATCH MY MOUNTAINS by Irving Stone, and Shelby Foote's monumental Civil War trilogy come to mind. ALEXANDER OF MACEDON, 356-323 B.C. by Peter Green is now another.
This material first appeared as ALEXANDER THE GREAT in 1970. This particular volume, a revision and expansion of that earlier book, is the second reprint (1991) of the title first published in 1974.
For the sake of background, the author necessarily begins his masterpiece with Alexander's father, Philip of Macedon, whose achievement was to unify Macedonia and coerce the Greek states to the south to join with him in an Hellenic League. But, after Philip is assassinated on page 105, it's all Alexander as he marches his army on a peripatetic route of conquest against the Persian Empire throughout Asia Minor and the Middle East as far as present-day West Pakistan - and then back again. Twenty-five thousand miles - the circumference of the Earth - in eleven years. I kept turning the pages to see what he was going to do next.
In his "Preface to the 1991 Reprint", Green makes it clear that his study of Alexander is a work in progress, and that even this book needs further revision in the light of new information. However, as flawed as the author may consider his ALEXANDER OF MACEDON to be, his masterful distillation of 17 pages worth of ancient and modern sources makes the narrative of Alexander's life sing. Green's prose is crisp and touched with a dry humor, and it never bogs down.
Though Green concludes that Alexander is "perhaps ... the most incomparable general the world has ever seen", he doesn't spare his subject from charges of megalomania and tyranny.
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This is a truly excellent biography of a near-mythical figure. First of all, this book provides a thorough review of the known history of Alexander the Great - I have no idea how someone could consider this book "fictional," as one reviewer did. What's most impressive is how Green insists on treating Alexander as a human being. An exceptional person, but still a person, motivated by human passions and concerns. Most ancient history treats its subjects like the stone statues seen in museums. But we can't forget that there were people behind the marble, and they acted like, well, people. Alexander may have considered himself chosen by the gods - and by the end, even divine himself - but Green isn't buying it. At every turn, Green insists on interpreting Alexander's actions just as he might interpret a leader's actions today. Green weighs the poltical, military, family and psychological factors that affected Alexander's decisions, and leaves divine will out of it. Some readers may be put off by Green's demythologizing. I think that Green revitalizes Alexander by restoring humanity to his myth.
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By A Customer on February 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is absolutely brilliant--one of the best I've everread on any topic. If this were Siskel and Ebert, it would rate twothumbs, up, way up! To be sure, things get off to a slow start, as the author lays out the setting, introduces a large cast of characters, some of whom had the same name, so it was hard to keep up at times. But after the first several dozen pages, the story just takes off and you can't put the book down. The author does a superb job of putting you right there--I really felt like I was along for the ride clear across Asia to India and back again. But what clearly distinguishes this work is Green's dissection of Alexander. He refutes the traditional description of Alexander as an elightened civilizing force spreading Western culture. It turns out the enemy Persian Empire was a sophisticated, enlightened establishement in its own right--so much so that Greeks in Asia Minor decline to join Alexander's crusade--they've got it good under the Persians. Alexander himself is a ruthless megalomaniac who stamps out anyone he thinks is standing in his way. That said, Green judges him the greatest military commander in history and provides the goods to prove, i.e. wins under every consceivable circumstance. The descriptions of the major operations and battles--Tyre, Issis, Arbela, etc.--are first rate. I also liked the way Green wove in modernist terms (the artillery, the propaganda section, etc.) to show that certain principles and concepts are timeless. In short, this is an absolutely brilliant historical biography. Two thumbs up, way up!
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Format: Paperback
I grew up in the age of an idealized Alexander. First was the Robert Rossen film starring Richard Burton. It was 46 years ago, and though I don�t remember much detail I do remember Alexander cutting through the Gordian Knot, his affection for the warhorse Bucephalus, and the deaths of Hephaestion, and Alexander � his soldiers walking past his death bed. I was struck by Alexander�s loyalty, and his emotional depth. Next came a voracious reading (and later re-readings) of Mary Renault�s romantic trilogy. The brave son, the bold warrior, the loyal friend � founder of cities, lover of women and men, etc., etc; heady stuff for a boy entering adolescence. And though my intellectual interest in Alexander waned, his life as reflected in those works marked me.
Not too long ago I read �The Soul of Battle� by Victor David Hanson and came to learn that not everyone held Alexander in the same esteem. I think Hanson may have even called him a �butcher.� It finally dawned on me, of course, world conquest is not an act of loving kindness. A man could not be responsible for that much death and destruction and not be a brute. I figured I had to read something other than fiction to get a more accurate accounting of my boyhood hero.
The Amazon.com site ran a review of �Alexander of Macedon� that caught my eye with the claim that Peter Green�s biography was �one of the finest.� I was immediately pleased with the title, �Alexander of Macedon� rather than the expected, �Alexander the Great.� The book is not a difficult read, in fact, for history it�s often quite breezy. The Alexander portrayed is no less a wonder than I always thought, but much more a human. Alexander�s greatness, according to Mr. Green, was somewhat erratic, as he could be both great and petty but not in equal measures.
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