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Alexander the Great Paperback – Oct 5 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (Oct. 5 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143035134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143035138
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #415,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A magnificent, compelling epic...He has honored him splendidly." —Sunday Telegraph

"Dramatic, rich in details about little things as well as great...filled with persistent probing into human psychology.... Throughout there is an air of excitement and tension." —The New York Times Book Review

"Fox writes on the heroic scale.... [He] has covered the ground with immense thoroughness." —The Economist

About the Author

Robin Lane Fox is Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford, and was until 2014 Reader in Ancient History in Oxford University. He is the author of Pagans and Christians (1986), The Unauthorised Version (1992) and many books on classical history, including Alexander the Great (1973), The Classical World (2005) and Travelling Heroes (2008), all of which have been widely translated. He has been the gardening correspondent of the Financial Times since 1970. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Two thousand three hundred yean ago, in the autumn of 336 B.C., the king of the Macedonians was celebrating another royal wedding. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Robin Lane Fox was only 27 when he wrote his biography of Alexander, but it's twice as good as many Alexander biographies written by authors who were twice Fox's age. Fox was a very young Oxford don when he researched and wrote this book, and his immaturity shows in a few spots when he makes assertions that seem to be based on "because I said so". But overall, it's a very, very well-researched and well-written biography that presents Alexander in a balanced light, being neither hagiography nor hatchet-job. It should be mentioned here that Fox's speculation that Philip's murder was probably masterminded by his wife Olympias was not original; it's specifically outlined in Mary Renault's "Fire From Heaven" and Renault is mentioned more than once as a resource in Fox's biography. (One might wonder why a biographer would list a historical novelist as a resource, but Renault scrupulously researched her own novels for historical accuracy before she published them.) The one jarring note in this book is Fox's substituting modern place names for historical names; it may be easier to look them up on a map but unless you already know that Ekbatana is the modern-day Hamadan, it gets a tad confusing. However, this is a minor cavil. Fox writes extremely well; his style carries you right along in the narrative, and there are voluminous footnotes for reference at the end of the book. One comes away somewhat awed that someone so young could have written such an excellent biography on one of history's most towering figures.
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Format: Paperback
R.L. Fox does a wonderful job of weaving his story of Alexander with a mix of interesting anecdotes, balanced intepretations and a critical weighing of classical literature and accounts of Alexander's life. There are few people who have so long held the Western imagination as Alexander and there has been left a myriad of references, biographies, opinions and pamphlets written about him for the past 2300 years. With so much fact and fiction, Fox deftly guides the reader not only through his childhood and conquests, but also briefly outlines some of the major conflicts in the literature and speculation about Alexander's character and major decisions.
Fox is equally apt to the task of describing the world, both mythological and political into which Alexander would enter upon following his first footsteps at Troy, giving a solid background to readers who may only have a basic familiarity to the classical world.
Fox's gift of description and mellifluousness ties into this book's most glaring weakness, which is perhaps more the fault of its publisher - the lack of maps and their poor formatting. Much of Alexander's feats in Iran and the Punjab are left to the imagination. Countless rivers, cities, place names and engagements that are described with such detail have no secondary visual representation. Some maps also use a topographical shading format which seems to be most effective in obscuring place names that occupy the same space.
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Format: Paperback
This book is insanely great. The author was shockingly young when he wrote it, but then, that's in keeping with Alexander himself. The author is so detailed and so knowledgeable, it's hard to believe anyone under 40 could have read so much. If you're into the period, Robin Lane Fox goes into marvellous detail on many fascinating points, most of which are glossed over by other authors. I wish someone had just told me to read this book and skip the others. The original works by Arrian and Plutarch only really make sense in the context of a work like Fox's.
In addition, Fox isn't scared to make a few conjectures - like the one that Alexander's mother was likely the one behind his father's murder. Now that you look at it, it sort of makes sense, but the thought never would have occurred to me.
I'm sure the book drives hardcore Alexanderologists (or whatever they call themselves) insane because of these conjectures, but it allows Fox to bring the man to life in a way no other author has - especially keeping in mind that no commentary direct from authors in Alexander's lifetime exists (quite like Christ, a point Fox doesn't fail to mention).
I just wish I could read it again for the first time!
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Format: Paperback
Try as I might, I cannot bring myself to give Fox's treatment of Alexander the lavish four and five stars that others have given. It's not that there aren't some qualities here worthy of praise, it's that there is far too much that detracts from the enjoyment.
This is the first biography of Alexander I have read, so I'm in no position to compare it to others out there. I can say, however, that Fox succeeds marvelously in bringing geography to life. Despite reading countless books about events in the Middle East, I never truly appreciated how formidable the climate there is until reading Fox. Fox presents a picture that is literally Alexander against the world - against deserts, mountains, heat, cold, snakes, and disease. For this alone, Fox's biography of Alexander is worth reading. I can think of no other historian who so skilfully matches events to geography.
Alas, there are some daunting downsides. While Fox's descriptions of geographic features are amazing, his maps are terrible. This is not entirely his fault; much of the blame lies with the black-and-white reprint. But even putting that aside, the maps given do not completely follow the text and are too few and too far spaced through the book to be much use. Far better to put several maps in one place at the beginning or end of the book for ease of reference. Too, Fox has a depressing tendency to talk in circles for pages on end, retelling the same event over and over and over with slight variations, then giving his own conclusions that sound an awful lot like the original version of the story presented pages before. The effect is to make the reader all the more sympathetic with Alexander's soldiers as they marched through the Makran desert; like them, the reader becomes opressed by the thought that the journey will never end, no matter how worthwhile the result will be.
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