Alexander the Great

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Harper Collins, Oct 13, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 192 pages
2 Reviews

"Alexander's behavior was conditioned along certain lines -- heroism, courage, strength, superstition, bisexuality, intoxication, cruelty. He bestrode Europe and Asia like a supernatural figure."

In this succinct portrait of Alexander the Great, distinguished scholar and historian Norman Cantor illuminates the personal life and military conquests of this most legendary of men. Cantor draws from the major writings of Alexander's contemporaries combined with the most recent psychological and cultural studies to show Alexander as he was -- a great figure in the ancient world whose puzzling personality greatly fueled his military accomplishments.

He describes Alexander's ambiguous relationship with his father, Philip II of Macedon; his oedipal involvement with his mother, the Albanian princess Olympias; and his bisexuality. He traces Alexander's attempts to bridge the East and West, the Greek and Persian worlds, using Achilles, hero of the Trojan War, as his model. Finally, Cantor explores Alexander's view of himself in relation to the pagan gods of Greece and Egypt.

More than a biography, Norman Cantor's Alexander the Great is a psychological rendering of a man of his time.


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Alexander the Great: journey to the end of the earth

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One hesitates to question the decision to publish this biography owing to its author's credentials - Cantor was professor emeritus of history, sociology, and comparative literature at NYU before dying ... Read full review

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Very short summary of Alexander the Great's life, focusing on family dynamics, politics, and cultural norms. This could have been titled Alexander the Not So Great. The author tries to argue against any assumption he feels the evidence calls into question. Is he right? Sadly, I only know what I read in books and am hardly in a position to know if his version holds water or not. Robert Garland, who has studied Alexander's life in depth, would probably argue at least some of the points presented in this book and would likely be unhappy with this particular depiction of his great hero.
For me, and this is possibly due to my lack of knowledge about Alexander's life and the general history of his lifetime, this book was one of the most interesting I have read about Alexander's life. The author attempts to psychoanalyze Alexander but does so in a way that, to me, seems balanced and founded upon the myriad facts he produced about Alexander's life. This culminated in a very personal portrait of a passionate, narcissistic, delusional, yet often great man. I loved it.


Who Was Alexander?
The March of Conquest
The Last Years
How Great Was Alexander?

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About the author (2009)

Norman F. Cantor was Emeritus Professor of History, Sociology, and Comparative Literature at New York University. His many books include In the Wake of the Plague, Inventing the Middle Ages, and The Civilization of the Middle Ages, the most widely read narrative of the Middle Ages in the English language. He died in 2004.

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