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Alexander the Great Hardcover – June, 1970
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The book is probably more appropriate to academic audiences or readers familiar with the ancient world, but I would also cautiously recommend it to newcomers. At some points, Green seems intent on employing "elite erudition" (big words), such as "tergiversation" (def: evasive, tendency to switch sides). I'm no dummy - I have a J.D. from a top law school - but a few times I was lost. Some of his analogies aren't clear to a reader not steeped in ancient Greek history (I never did quite figure out what he meant when he said the Macedonian king's status was like that of a Mycenaean "wanax"). Nevertheless, these problems seem limited to the introduction and parts of the first chapter. As the narrative progresses, the writing becomes much smoother and accessible. By the middle of the book, you'll have trouble putting it down.
The first part of the book - a good 100 pages or 1/5 the total - focuses on Macedonia and Alexander's father, Philipp II. Unique among great historical leaders, Alexander's dad was an impressive ruler in his own right and exerted a powerful influence over Alexander the Great. This section also provides a very useful background to the Hellenistic world before Alexander's conquests.
Green recognizes that Alexander was a brilliant strategist, but also points out his flaws. In doing so, he demystifies Alexander and humanizes him into something we would recognize - a charismatic and brilliant, but flawed leader. Militarily, Alexander had a gift for guessing his opponents' moves and employing psychologically devastating tactics (what we'd call psychological operations). However, Alexander was a poor politician and government manager. After conquering a territory, he would generally either co-opt the local leadership and move on. He seldom stopped to improve public administration or consolidate his holdings. This led to subsequent local rebellions, plentiful usurpers, and ultimately the dissolution of the empire upon his death. And, as a Macedonian, he never really did learn how to get along with the Greeks, whom Alexander often feared would form a fifth front.
Green also shows a refreshing skepticism toward ancient sources, much of which he discounts as propaganda. Sometimes funny, often brash, Macedonian propaganda has helped shape much of our view of history. As such, Green's book necessarily challenges many of the ancient sources and some modern portrayals of Alexander (most notably Oliver Stone's Alexander, Revisited - The Final Cut [Blu-ray]). However, Green never engages in ad hominem attacks against his subject - he comes across as an eminently fair judge of history. He very helpfully proposes alternative interpretations to Macedonian propaganda and is not shy about highlighting gaps in the historical record. For example, Green cites convincing evidence that Darius' army at Issus was as small or smaller than Alexander's - not the 600,000 sometimes cited. Green even argues that Macedonian propaganda covered up Alexanders first - and only - defeat at the first battle of Granicus. The Appendix provides a particularly fascinating insight into his methodology toward ancient sources, recreating a radically different - and somewhat convincing - account of the battle. I think this ultimately provides the reader with a far more interesting and accurate biography of Alexander.
Ultimately, Green claims Hubris led to Alexander's downfall. At some point, Alexander went beyond his mission of defeating the Persian Empire and was consumed by an insatiable "pathos" or curiosity to keep conquering to the end of the world (in modern parlance, "mission creep"). But throughout his journeys, Alexander becomes even more egomaniacal to the point of claiming divine status. He engages in purges of his top officers at the slightest rumor. Perhaps the most devastating indictment is his march through the Gedrosian Desert, when Green claims Alexander took the desert route to set a new record, and as a result lost over 50,000 soldiers, women, and children (that is certainly a different type of record). In the end, power consumes itself.
If you've ever been curious about history's most famous general, I definitely recommend Peter Green's Alexander of Macedon.
With this non-fiction book Doherty proves that he is much more than just a story-teller, but uses his scholarly background to good advantage. In this book he attempt to unravel some of the mystery surrounding Alexander's death a the extremely young age of 33, in the month of May in 323 BC. Alexander complained of feeling ill while in Babylon. Within 10 days he was dead. A military genius and master tactician who had swept all before him.
But how did he die. Paul Doherty looks at the circumstances and scans the possibilities of the great man's death. Some say he was poisoned. It is written in the history books that he lay sweating beside a pool in the palace of the Persian Kings. Had he suffered a heart attack or an overwhelming attacking of malaria. Was he a drunk and an alcoholic? All these things are possibilities. What about the warning Alexander received not to enter Babylon? The author recounts the last days before Alexander's death.
Rather than waste my time explaining the many, many errrors I will say that perhaps Mr. Doherty should stick to fiction. This is a lurid and poorly researched book. Sadly, many people will read it and go away thinking that his version of events is historically accurate.