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The Nature of Alexander Paperback – November 12, 1979


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st American Ed edition (November 12, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039473825X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394738253
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #776,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Reading this book is like having a talk with someone very close to Alexander.
kchen@promed.com.pa
Mary Renault is best known for her historical fiction, and she is clearly fascinated by Alexander, who was without a doubt the most towering figure of ancient times.
JLind555
Mary Renault's history of Alexander the Great is very interesting and easy to read.
Carolyn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 92 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on February 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Mary Renault is best known for her historical fiction, and she is clearly fascinated by Alexander, who was without a doubt the most towering figure of ancient times. Renault scrupulously researched the texts as background for her novels, and the same scholarship is evident in this excellent bio. Starting with the legends that grew up around him in his own lifetime and continue down to this day, Renault explores Alexander not only as a king and a general, but as a man, a figure at once simple and complex, for whom the words doubt and failure simply didn't exist. She takes us through his childhood with his battling parents (what a horror his controlling mother Olympias must have been), his mother's possible role in the murder of Philip, and Alexander's subsequent accession to the throne of Macedon and his campaign to liberate the Greek city-states of Asia from Persian domination. Interestingly, as Renault shows us, Alexander didn't set out to Asia to conquer the known world; it was when he saw the quality of the opposition that he realized he could do a much better job of being Great King than the current title holder.

Renault based most of her biography on Arrian, whose scrupulously level-headed account of Alexander's life and achievements was based on the writings of Ptolemy, who knew Alexander intimately as a friend, a general, and possibly as his half-brother (Philip's philanderings were notorious and Olympias' reaction can be only too easily conjectured). However, whereas Arrian's pro-western bias shows through when he repeatedly refers to the Persians as "foreigners", although it was the Macedonians and their allies who were invading a foreign continent, Renault is free of any such insularity.
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71 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Last October, I read and reviewed Peter Green's biography of Alexander the Great, ALEXANDER OF MACEDON, 356-323 B.C., to which I gave five stars. It was subsequently suggested to me that Green's book was a "hatchet job", and that I should read Mary Renault's THE NATURE OF ALEXANDER for a more balanced view.
Renault's volume is very readable. In factual substance, it seems to my unscholarly eyes to be pretty much the same as Green's. I certainly didn't learn significantly more about Alexander from the former than the latter, though that portion of Renault's narrative concerning Alexander's death was fleshed out a bit more. Renault, however, strikes me as a much more sympathetic biographer. Whether this adds more truth to her version is, and will remain, indeterminable by me.
In balance, I think I would choose and recommend Green's biography for the simple reason that he includes over a dozen route maps and battle plans that help the reader put Alexander's accomplishments in better perspective. Renault provides none at all, and the absence of such is a significant omission, in my opinion. Alexander led his Macedonians from the north of Greece to the western border of the Indian subcontinent - the edge of his known world - and almost all the way back again. Twenty-five thousand miles in eleven years! It isn't until you see this plotted on a map of the region that the remarkable accomplishment can be appreciated.
THE NATURE OF ALEXANDER reinforced my opinion that Alexander was the greatest military commander of all time and the most charismatic and successful leader of men who's ever lived. At one point, just prior to marching homeward from India, Alexander was gravely wounded by an arrow that penetrated his lung.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 1997
Format: Paperback
How does one begin to understand the nature of one of the most famous figures in world history? What is the reason
for the enduring fame of this western conquerer in Asia
and the rest of the world? Who is Alexander The Great?
Read Mary Renault's The Nature Of Alexander. Mary Renault
does more to explain Alexander and the reasons for what
he did in her book than all the scholars in their academic
works. And she does it very entertainingly too.
You'd think you're reading another of her historical romances but
this one is true. Anyone who is remotely interested in
ancient Greece and Alexander in particular should make
this a must-read item in their booklist.
This book also comes with a brief chronology of Macedonian
kings. The opening chapter of this book is unforgetabble -- it
tells of Alexander's death and of how his body was moved
to Eygpt. Ms Renault's eye for historical details transports you to
the place so much so you feel you're witnessing the incidents yourself.
Her canny reading of Alexander's character makes you
beleive the often held belief that Ms Renault had somehow transcended
time and managed to get in touch with his spirit. Simply
brilliant!
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By PuppyTalk on September 15, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To write a biography of a man who lived so long ago and with hardly any first-hand sources at hand, while so many myths, tell-tales and legends are vivid all over the world, it is every writer's challenge to portray him justly. I have read 5 other biographies of Alexander written by different authors, all of them covering the exact same events such as: capturing of Darius' royal family, Darius' death, execution of Bessus, execusion of Phillotas, each battle, Callethenes's execution, Murder of Cleitus, marriage with Roxane, his Persianizing, prostration, mutinies of his men, crossing of Makran desert, reconciliation with his men, Hephaistion's death, and many more.
It is astonishing to find that, using the same sources (Arrian, Plutarch, Curtis and such), different authors have totally different interpretations and understandings of this great man. Some portray him as a man with ill-will, evil and hopelessly violent dictator, some portray him as an officer-gentleman, others are totally lost, leaving him like a madman with split personality.
While some of these carefully examined works are admirable, I found Mary Renault's portray of Alexander most natural, convincing, fair, and makes most sense. She carefully examines the psychology of this man, at the same time crossexamining his relationship with his men and how these men behaved and acted in each event toward him, and how he treated them. This book is brief, compare to other Alexander biographies I've read, but it is to the point, and very satisfying. It makes you think you can understand him finally. My only reason for giving 4 stars instead of 5 is because it is more like a shadow of her another excellent book, the Persian Boy, which is much more powerful and vivid. At any rate, this is a very good, level-headed work.
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