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Posted March 11, 2000
This is an extraordinary history. Anyone expecting a conventional biography will be disappointed, since the biased and fragmentary nature of the primary sources makes modern biographical treatment for Alexander impossible, even more so than for other ancient heroes. However, one thing about the peripatetic conqueror that seems to be known with some certainty is the itinerary that defined his brief life. Starting from this, Mr. Lane Fox applies his own intimate knowledge of the middle and near-eastern landscape to create a book which, at its most basic, reads like a highly literate travelogue. This is all backdrop, though, for a kind of detective story as the author picks apart the tantalizing fragments of information and disinformation that, once boiled down, reveal for us Alexander's character. The bold military prodigy is clearly apparent here, but that's the standard textbook part of the story. Rounding out the picture, we see him as the cosmopolitan diplomat, beloved egalitarian leader-of-men, bisexual libertine, respectful supplicant to his gods, forgiving victor, gallant defender of women, ostentatious potentate, superstitious fool, charismatic orator, fearless in-the-trenches combat commander, wily tactician, boyish adventurer, child-like animal lover, sophisticated Greek intellectual, reckless gambler, visionary strategist, loyal and generous friend, bloody mass killer, and drunken lout. And the truly remarkable thing about the history is that all these persona somehow hang together, creating a believable portrait that makes it clear why Alexander has fascinated politicians, soldiers and scholars for twenty-three centuries. Stylistically, this book is dense and will deter casual readers. However, some patience through the early pages gives enough time to get into the exotic poetry of place names and the flow of the story. The turgid logic of the character study takes over from there, and the case unfolds majestically. This is a brilliant historian at work and I highly recommend the book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2008
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