Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness

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Random House, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 420 pages
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For nearly two and a half millennia, Alexander the Great has loomed over history as a legend–and an enigma. Wounded repeatedly but always triumphant in battle, he conquered most of the known world, only to die mysteriously at the age of thirty-two. In his day he was revered as a god; in our day he has been reviled as a mass murderer, a tyrant as brutal as Stalin or Hitler.

Who was the man behind the mask of power? Why did Alexander embark on an unprecedented program of global domination? What accounted for his astonishing success on the battlefield? In this luminous new biography, the esteemed classical scholar and historian Guy MacLean Rogers sifts through thousands of years of history and myth to uncover the truth about this complex, ambiguous genius.

Ascending to the throne of Macedonia after the assassination of his father, King Philip II, Alexander discovered while barely out of his teens that he had an extraordinary talent and a boundless appetite for military conquest. A virtuoso of violence, he was gifted with an uncanny ability to visualize how a battle would unfold, coupled with devastating decisiveness in the field. Granicus, Issos, Gaugamela, Hydaspes–as the victories mounted, Alexander’s passion for conquest expanded from cities to countries to continents. When Persia, the greatest empire of his day, fell before him, he marched at once on India, intending to add it to his holdings.

As Rogers shows, Alexander’s military prowess only heightened his exuberant sexuality. Though his taste for multiple partners, both male and female, was tolerated, Alexander’s relatively enlightened treatment of women was nothing short of revolutionary. He outlawed rape, he placed intelligent women in positions of authority, and he chose his wives from among the peoples he conquered. Indeed, as Rogers argues, Alexander’s fascination with Persian culture, customs, and sexual practices may have led to his downfall, perhaps even to his death.

Alexander emerges as a charismatic and surprisingly modern figure–neither a messiah nor a genocidal butcher but one of the most imaginative and daring military tacticians of all time. Balanced and authoritative, this brilliant portrait brings Alexander to life as a man, without diminishing the power of the legend.

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User Review  - kukulaj - LibraryThing

I am no scholar of ancient history, so I can't comment too much on accuracy, completeness, etc. This was a decent introduction to the career of Alexander - it basically marches along with Alexander ... Read full review

Contents

The Blood of Heroes
10
The Assassination of Philip 11
27
CHAPTERS The SpearWon Prize of Asia
41
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

GUY MACLEAN ROGERS holds a Ph.D. in classics from Princeton University. He has received numerous grants and fellowships, including ones from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, and All Souls College Oxford. His first book, The Sacred Identity of Ephesos: Foundation Myths of a Roman City, won the Routledge Ancient History Prize. Chairman of the Department of History of Wellesley College from 1997-2001, he grew up and still lives in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

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