From Publishers Weekly
Alexander of Macedonia, student of Aristotle and conqueror of an empire that reached to Asia and Persia, vacillated often between cynicism and superstition. While distrustful of many of his companions, he believed that most of his misfortunes during the last decade of his life were "caused by the anger of the god Dionysus who wished to avenge the total destruction of his favorite city" of Thebes. It soon becomes clear from this analytical examination of Alexanders path to death, however, that the conqueror committed many merciless acts that may have angered the godsand several of his own acquaintancesto the point of revenge. Doherty (The Mysterious Death of Tutankhamun; The House of Death) starts out by giving readers a detailed lesson on Alexanders life, and spends the latter half of the book examining whether or not it was the gods or royal competitors such his general Ptolemy or Macedonian co-regent Antipater who poisoned Alexander. In 323 B.C., Alexander fell ill during a feast in Babylon and, according to the varying historical accounts, died either from too much wine, too little rest or too many enemies. The latter seems to be supported by the bad omens Alexander received during his campaigns in India, where he faced mass mutiny among his troops, and in Persia. Dohertys account of the young warriors day of reckoning reads like a dry mystery, expertly researched but written more like the summaries found in a detectives case files than an engrossing yarn. He does a fine job, however, revising the statesman-like image of Alexander propagated by 19th-century historians and thoroughly reconstructing Alexanders final nights.
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Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.E.) was king of Macedonia and conqueror of Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia, and his reign marked the beginning of the Hellenistic Age. Doherty's scrupulously researched and immensely readable book focuses on Alexander's final days and his sudden and mysterious death at the age of 33. The author concludes that Ptolemy, the king's personal bodyguard, was the main culprit in Alexander's murder. "The circumstances surrounding Alexander's death appear to be permeated with a deliberate theater, full of drama of events being arranged by a stage manager. Who better fits that role than Ptolemy, the companion entrusted with guarding the door to the royal chamber," Doherty posits. He insists that Ptolemy used his position of trust, his closeness to the king, to mix the fatal poison, arsenic, in Alexander's wine; and he backs up his conclusion believably. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved