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Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia Hardcover – November 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306812681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306812682
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,191,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Once Alexander the Great had conquered the Mediterranean world, he turned his eyes eastward to Asia in what historian Prevas terms a "pathological compulsion" to expand his power. In a rather pedantic and workmanlike account, Prevas, who retraced Alexander's footsteps to Asia, examines this chapter of the Macedonian conqueror's life. According to Prevas (Hannibal Crosses the Alps), Alexander exhibited a dark side that his biographers rarely account for. Prey to a megalomaniac desire to rule the world unrestrained by self-control, Alexander thought of himself as divine and expected his constituents and armies to worship him as well as obey his commands, however unreasonable. Prevas recounts Alexander's unstoppable drive to conquer Persepolis in Persia and avenge his father's death, which he attributed to Darius, destroying monuments, statues, every vestige of Persian culture. In India, when his army demanded to return home, Alexander instead marched them through the Gedrosian Desert, one of the most brutal places on earth. By the time he returned to Babylon, Alexander had lost the respect of his followers, and many scholars speculate that he met his death at the hands of one of his governors. Prevas's straightforward account of these exploits reveals no new information about the ruler; readers will do better with Paul Cartledge's new Alexander the Great. 16 pages of b&w illus., maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

There seems to be no end to the books dealing with Alexander the Great, the king of Macedonia and conqueror of Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia. Prevas focuses on Alexander's campaign of conquest across Asia, having researched his book by retracing most of Alexander's route through what are now Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. He begins with Alexander's capture of Persepolis in the winter of 330 B.C and ends seven years later with his death in Babylon in 323 B.C. The author emphasizes "the tragedy of Alexander's demise," positing that the conquest of Persia would have satisfied the most ambitious of men, but even after Alexander had conquered all of Persia, he was compelled to explore further. By the time he died, Prevas shows, Alexander had become paranoid and eccentric, if not outright mad, and once he lay dying, his empire began to disintegrate. Prevas concludes that Alexander's story confirms the axiom that power is a dangerous commodity that must be handled carefully by those who possess it. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Prevas makes no attempt at hiding his biases or the fact that he is not going to even attempt to be impartial.
Amazon Customer
It flows like an adventure tale, yet it does a good job of explaining how Alexander's actions reverbarate throughout history.
Newton Ooi
It is an especially good study on the process of megalomania - how great men become tyrants and tyrants become monsters.
J. A. Marucci

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By H. Wolfe on June 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author seems to have a strong agenda-- he harps on every failure of Alexander, invents a few more, and skips entirely over anything that could be seen as a victory or positive step. I'm no expert, but some of his information even seems pretty flawed; for example, if you flip over to the glossary section and look up Hephaestion, the entry reads, "Alexander's close friend and lover. Died of gluttony and alcoholism 324 b.c." This is the only mention of this I've ever heard, and unless you're morbidly obese, it's pretty hard to die of gluttony. In the text, the author doesn't give any evidence for his supposed gluttony or supposed alcoholism-- he only states the well-known information that Hephaestion was ill, he ate and drank, and then he died.

I read this book immediately after reading "The Nature of Alexander," by Renault. I admit that Renault has an idolatry for the man (she seems about ready to believe that Zeus was his father), but Prevas goes way over the other border of good scholarship. The text is full of statements like, "Alexander was fair [of complexion] with a temperament that was often a volatile mixture of self-centered adolescent exuberance and feminine hysteria." I learned some things from this book, but mostly I was too irritated by Prevas' derisiveness to really glean much information.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Hannibal on February 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to this book to help shed some new light and ideas into the last few years of Alexander's short life but after reading it I was still very much in the dark. I enjoyed Prevas's book on Hannibal so I was expecting the same in this book. I was wrong. His story seemed to be a bit stretched and I think it could have been much shorter than as printed. Reliable sources for the life/times of Alexander are few and far between and one must read a variety of the texts that survive to get any form of picture into his life. Judgements made today on a king that seized a huge chunk of the known world over 2300 years ago are speculative at best, especially when they bring up possible psychological faults that have only been discovered in the past 100 years. It seems that a very pessimistic view of Alexander the Great has become popular today- a politically correct way of seeing the Ancient World. . Revisionists can/will try to topple the great depending on which way the winds of morality are blowing, even if incorrect. Prevas had some interesting facts in his book about Alexander's jouney into the East but I sensed an "Anti-Macedonian" sentiment after the first few pages that carried through the whole book. It seemed almost judgemental and negative towards the West ie. America. So Alexander was possibly and alcoholic, an unstable character that grew darker and more evil with age, a bad person. What does it matter? Alexander is long dead and his real inner self/motivations/faults are lost forever. Accept him for what he was- a fascinating historical figure that did more in his time than anyone has ever accomplished. This book will be going to the used book store instead of making into my ever growing library of Antiquity.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Todd Newly on September 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I learned a great deal from this book, but the first half seemed to have a lot of repetition in it. It is not a light read, but it is well researched. Alexander does not come off as much of a sympathetic figure, so when he dies there is not much of a sense that the world had lost a great man -- maybe in his exploits, but that is about it.

If you are expecting a fascinating biography of this man, you may want to look elsewhere.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Virtuoso Fan on April 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have read well over two-dozen books about Alexander and they cover the gamut from shameless idolatry to bias-ridden and agenda-driven negativity. This book definitely sits in the latter category. There are some good books that saddle somewhere in between the two extremes but they may not be as thoroughly researched or written very well. Understanding Alexander takes a lot of work because he is so often colored by the opinions (both positive and negative) of individuals (other human beings) who are often driven to shape the image of Alexander as they see fit for whatever reasons that we sometimes cannot fathom.

This is a well written book and thoroughly researched, but it is far too easy for an author/scholar to take some accounts of what happened (or supposedly happened) and extrapolate them into a story that's unremittingly dark and negative about the subject matter, in this case - Alexander. It's kind of funny to read some of these historians sit on some moral high horse they erect for themselves and attempt to apply the morals of this age to those of some 2300 years ago. It sometimes makes me wonder what they find so threatening about Alexander in their own lives and ideals. Is Alexander some sort of a spirit that haunts their lives? Does he represent the type of a leader and human being that they wish they could be but never can or will? The bias that these authors exhibit automatically diminishes the scholarly research and thoughts that goes into their writings. We are reading the prejudice of one man who happens to research history for his livelihood and who desperately wants to leave a mark with a viewpoint that, hopefully, will last the test of time.
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