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Alexander the Great [Paperback]

Robin Fox
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 5 2004

Tough, resolute, fearless. Alexander was a born warrior and a ruler of passionate ambition who understood the intense adventure of conquest and of the unknown. When he died in 323 B.C.E. at age thirty-two, his vast empire comprised more than two million square miles, spanning from Greece to India. His achievements were unparalleled—he had excelled as leader to his men, founded eighteen new cities, and stamped the face of Greek culture on the ancient East. the myth he created is as potent today as it was in the ancient world.

Robin Lane Fox's superb account searches through the mass of conflicting evidence and legend to focus on Alexander as a man of his own time. Combining historical scholarship and acute psychological insight, it brings this colossal figure vividly to life.

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"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 was the main historical advisor to Oliver Stone on his Alexander film, and took part in many of its most dramatic re-enactions. He has been University Reader in Ancient History at Oxford University since 1990 and Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at New College, Oxford, since 1977. His books and articles include major works on the relation between the pagan and early Christian religions of the Roman Empire and his forthcoming History of the Ancient World will be published by Penguin in autumn 2005. --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
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, balanced biography Dec 18 2003
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of five books I've read on Alexander July 4 2002
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Well Written July 6 2004
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Like a trip through the Makran Aug. 12 2003
By jrmspnc
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced, thorough and effective.
Balanced and thorough telling that captures effectively the greatness of King Alexander. Fox offers context effectively to capture the novelty of Alexander's actions.
Published 5 months ago by Ahmad Hamdi Alkhatib
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexander the great
I feel like I've learned a great deal about the social norms in this society, and a very in-depth insight into Alexander's life, his concerns, his goals, achievements and... Read more
Published on April 21 2012 by Tom
5.0 out of 5 stars Great work of a Great man
I devoured "The Unauthorized Version" and "Pagans and Christians", two towering works by the same author at a later period in his life. Read more
Published on July 29 2003 by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars A good look at both the author and his subject
I devoured "The Unauthorized Version" and "Pagans and Christians", two towering works by the same author at a later period in his life. Read more
Published on July 14 2003 by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars The best so far
This book is the 7th book I read on Alexander, and I find it the most thorough one. He looks at events and episodes from all sorts of different angles, both pro and con point of... Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2002 by PuppyTalk
4.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force yet many unforced errors
My comments relate to a hardback edition published by the Folio Society but the same as the setting copy published by Penguin. Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2002 by Diotima
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but loooonnnggg - needs better maps
If you are a history buff, this is a very good "biography" of Alexander the Great. However, if you are just interested in Alexander, look for something simpler and... Read more
Published on Sept. 21 2001 by Jose Solera
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine blend of facts and interpretation
In my view, Lane Fox’s book on Alexander is the finest in the field (followed by the works of Tarn and Hamilton). Read more
Published on June 29 2001 by Dr. Ranajit Pal
5.0 out of 5 stars The only Alexander biography for the general reader
Biographers of Alexander the Great seem to tell us more about themselves and less about their subjects. Read more
Published on April 30 2001 by Anglo Jackson
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