Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography

Front Cover
University of California Press, 1970 - History - 617 pages
4 Reviews
Until recently, popular biographers and most scholars viewed Alexander the Great as a genius with a plan, a romantic figure pursuing his vision of a united world. His dream was at times characterized as a benevolent interest in the brotherhood of man, sometimes as a brute interest in the exercise of power. Green, a Cambridge-trained classicist who is also a novelist, portrays Alexander as both a complex personality and a single-minded general, a man capable of such diverse expediencies as patricide or the massacre of civilians. Green describes his Alexander as "not only the most brilliant (and ambitious) field commander in history, but also supremely indifferent to all those administrative excellences and idealistic yearnings foisted upon him by later generations, especially those who found the conqueror, tout court, a little hard upon their liberal sensibilities."

This biography begins not with one of the universally known incidents of Alexander's life, but with an account of his father, Philip of Macedonia, whose many-territoried empire was the first on the continent of Europe to have an effectively centralized government and military. What Philip and Macedonia had to offer, Alexander made his own, but Philip and Macedonia also made Alexander form an important context for understanding Alexander himself. Yet his origins and training do not fully explain the man. After he was named hegemon of the Hellenic League, many philosophers came to congratulate Alexander, but one was conspicuous by his absence: Diogenes the Cynic, an ascetic who lived in a clay tub. Piqued and curious, Alexander himself visited the philosopher, who, when asked if there was anything Alexander could do for him, made the famous reply, "Don't stand between me and the sun." Alexander's courtiers jeered, but Alexander silenced them: "If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes." This remark was as unexpected in Alexander as it would be in a modern leader.

For the general reader, the book, redolent with gritty details and fully aware of Alexander's darker side, offers a gripping tale of Alexander's career. Full backnotes, fourteen maps, and chronological and genealogical tables serve readers with more specialized interests.

What people are saying - Write a review

Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B. C: a historical biography

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

When Alexander, king of Macedonia, hegemon of Greece, left the Balkans in 334 BC to conquer the Persian Empire, he undertook what was arguably the greatest physical adventure in human history ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This is surely a book worth its time. A roughly 500 page historical biography, or scholarly narrative rather, on Alexander, son of Phillip II, King of Macedon. The work examines the time from the rise of Macedonia under the reign of King Phillip II, and ending, somewhat abruptly, at the death of Alexander in 323 BCE. Rather heavy on ancient geography, the reader is best to refer to maps (of the then known world) to most easily follow the ever advancing conquests. The terse, linear, and accessible, presentation make this quite memorable biography a richly informative epic. The author goes to great length to clarify the difficulty in maintaining objectivity when utilizing so many conflicting sources and propagandists (much of which is from hundreds of years after the events), and seems ever the skeptic, though obviously nonetheless tells his tale.
Great work, highly recommended.


Philip of Macedon
The Gardens of Midas
From a View to a Death
The Keys of the Kingdom
The CaptainGeneral
The Road to Issus
Intimations of Immortality
The Lord of Asia
The Quest for Ocean
How Many Miles to Babylon?
Propaganda at the Granicus
Notes and References
Sources of Information
Genealogical Table

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1970)

Peter Green is Dougherty Centennial Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age (California, 1990).

Bibliographic information