- Hardcover: 617 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; New edition edition (Aug. 5 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520071654
- ISBN-13: 978-0520071650
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 3.8 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 862 g
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #223,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography Hardcover – Aug 5 1991
Customers who bought this item also bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
There's no shortage of biographies available on Alexander the Great, but Peter Green's Alexander of Macedon is one of the finest. The prose is crisp and clear, and within a few pages readers become absorbed in the world that made Alexander, and then the story of how Alexander remade it. Green writes, "Alexander's true genius was as a field-commander: perhaps, taken all in all, the most incomparable general the world has ever seen. His gift for speed, improvisation, variety of strategy; his cool-headedness in a crisis; his ability to extract himself from the most impossible situations; his mastery of terrain; his psychological ability to penetrate the enemy's intentions--all these qualities place him at the very head of the Great Captains of history." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Alexander the Great, as portrayed in Green's vibrant, immensely readable biography, was a megalomaniac, a ruthless murderer of civilians, a charmingly persuasive liar who bribed his own troops and a political opportunist supremely indifferent to the idealistic yearnings later ascribed to him. Pulling together circumstantial evidence, Green conjectures that Alexander conspired with his mother, Olympias, in the murder of his father, King Philip II of Macedonia, who was assassinated by a former homosexual lover. History leaps off the page in this passionate narrative. A professor of classics at the University of Texas, Green strips away romantic legends to lay bare an Orwellian tyrant whose unbroken ascent to absolute power led to his estrangement from reality. History Book Club main selection; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
(I wrote the following comments 10 years ago, but it was for some reason deleted without my knowledge. It was a highly appreciated comments, thus I do not understand why it was deleted, maybe for its negative and powerful argument or simply because it was posted too long ago?)
Mr. Green is possibly the best historian among novelists and the best novelist among historians. His book is very reader friendly by making the dry history events into coherent polished stories. But making stories is not the job of a historian but a novelist.
Mr. Green portrayed a very dark Alexander the Great. It is not that Alexander cannot be debated or criticized. It is that the history should not be distorted. In the book, we see too much Mr. Green’s personal allegations and judgments. Mr. Green, in the book, played the jury, the prosecutor and the judge in the court that he set to try Alexander. This is how the court looks like: If Alexander did not do things up to the standards of our time, that is due to Alexander’s character; if he did do then it was for propaganda.
Green quoted Arrian and other reliable historians to support his claims, while these quotes, by the original authors, lead to completely different conclusions from Green’s. Readers should read Arrian’s and others to balance the biased view of Mr. Green’s.
Mr. Green even went so far to welcome those that he himself admitted untrustworthy sources as ‘plausible’ repeatedly when he needed them to support his claims. I found Green’s methods were disturbing. It is not, I repeat, that Alexander cannot be criticized; it is that the history should not be written like a novel with little respect to facts. The following are some of the key items where Green failed as a historian:
1) Green failed to address the situation before Alexander’s expedition and the results and effects after. He ignored the historical results of Alexander’s achievements. He claimed that the reason for the expedition was that Macedon badly needed money and that was all. Green concluded that the financial difficulty and the profit were the only reasons for the expedition. It is quite absurd since even an ordinary person will not live his life for the only purpose of profit. Ironically, it is much safer to say that Green’s innovation of the history is certainly more profitable and more profit oriented.
2) Green failed to make any proper reference of Alexander to other historical figures. Who in history did better than Alexander? Until today we still cannot find any one who is remotely comparable to Alexander in politics, military and contribution to human civilization. If Green reserved such harsh judgment for Alexander, what would he comment on the figure of 1500 years after, Genghis Khan, who did nothing more than destruction in Asia and Europe. Ginghis Khan’s work was indeed destruction and his empire left nothing but destruction. Alexander was completely different. His respect to science and knowledge made him uniquely outstanding in the history. In politics and military alone, even Julian Caesar, Napoleon did not come close. If one refers the politicians of our own time, which one is more sincere than Alexander on any issue being criticized by Green? Green did not make any horizontal comparison (at Alexander’s time with other figures) or vertical comparison (with other figures at different eras). This would be a fatal ignorance by any historian.
3) If a historical figure should be judged by Green’s way, every one of them would be convicted in today’s court. Green used the saying in Animal Farm to ridicule Alexander’s so-called ‘brotherhood of mankind’. How sincere Alexander on this issue is not an issue. It could be a slogan, a mean for his political purpose as well as genuine as other historians concluded. But when we see the results that Alexander left behind him, an empire that covered Europe, Asia and Africa that produced so many great scholars and the knowledge that still is taught in our time and inspired great scientists since, should we give some credits to Alexander’s means and achievements? But Green, claiming every nation and culture is equal, on the other hand he is so sure that his time and his theories are so superior (or ‘more equal’ as he ridiculed Alexander) to others that he can use them to judge a figure living in 2300 years ago. There has been a movement of political correctness claiming every culture is equal. However, we have to realize that Greek culture was far more superior to the others. It is the only culture that created science and democracy. After Alexander, Greek culture entered another golden era.
4) Green’s book is reinventing history and jumping to conclusions: Green tried to make things favor his theory when there is a clue or even there is no clue. The battle of River Granicus did not weigh much in the career of Alexander, but since the records about it had some vacancies and inconsistencies, Green jumped to it to dig out something that was not there to conclude that Alexander lost a battle over there and lied to the world. He ignored the records by reliable sources and made his assumption sound as what really happened there with vague sentences in the book and then in the Appendix he made more theories to justify his assumption. However at the end of the Appendix, after all claims that he made, he said maybe the issue (The battle of River Granicus) is indeed ‘insoluble’. I saw an irresponsible gossiper who made many rumors and at the end, afraid of being liable for the rumors, he said ‘after all I did not say anything or at least I did not mean what I said’. Such attitude and action can hardly lead to anywhere but failure. In his ‘Preface to the 1991 Reprint’, Green had to admit that his theory, according to the more recent researches by the others, was ‘flat wrong’.
5) Green claimed that Alexander left behind him destructions and at the moment he was gone his empire collapsed. It is completely wrong. Green should remember that after Alexander, the center of academy and science moved from Athens to Alexandria, a city founded by him. Alexandria continued to be the leading role of the most magnificent civilization, Ancient Greek civilization, for over 7 centuries until it fell to Muslim’s hand. The burning of the books in the library of Alexandria, by Muslims who occupied Alexandria, made the bathhouses in Alexandria need no other fuel for 6 months. For the above facts, I don’t know how Green could claim that Alexander’s legacy was destruction and his empire was gone when he was gone. Green at the same time also claimed that only after 300 years after Alexander’s death the memoirs about Alexander started to appear because Alexander’s propaganda machine would not have allowed them to be published until then. A ‘collapsed’ empire controlled the publication for 300 years? I don’t know how Green can put these two claims simultaneously. One of them must be wrong and probably both.
Mr. Green spent almost a chapter to denounce Alexander at the end of the book in the fashion of human right tribunal of our time. History is not the business of fashion, which should not be styled to suit our time or our political purposes. I know it is difficult to put a person’s passion and political views aside when he is dealing with history. But at least he, as a historian, can respect the facts and base his arguments on them rather than his passion and purposes. Green failed in all such accounts. Green could be a better fashion designer than a historian, but, even so, the best cloth that he could ever produce would probably be ‘the emperor’s new cloth’. You should feel happy since Green, after all, is not your accountant.
I still gave the book 2 stars while the lowest is 1 for that Green is the best example of what a historian should NOT be. For this sense, 2 stars for the book is fair.
This material first appeared as ALEXANDER THE GREAT in 1970. This particular volume, a revision and expansion of that earlier book, is the second reprint (1991) of the title first published in 1974.
For the sake of background, the author necessarily begins his masterpiece with Alexander's father, Philip of Macedon, whose achievement was to unify Macedonia and coerce the Greek states to the south to join with him in an Hellenic League. But, after Philip is assassinated on page 105, it's all Alexander as he marches his army on a peripatetic route of conquest against the Persian Empire throughout Asia Minor and the Middle East as far as present-day West Pakistan - and then back again. Twenty-five thousand miles - the circumference of the Earth - in eleven years. I kept turning the pages to see what he was going to do next.
In his "Preface to the 1991 Reprint", Green makes it clear that his study of Alexander is a work in progress, and that even this book needs further revision in the light of new information. However, as flawed as the author may consider his ALEXANDER OF MACEDON to be, his masterful distillation of 17 pages worth of ancient and modern sources makes the narrative of Alexander's life sing. Green's prose is crisp and touched with a dry humor, and it never bogs down.
Though Green concludes that Alexander is "perhaps ... the most incomparable general the world has ever seen", he doesn't spare his subject from charges of megalomania and tyranny. But, in a man who never lost a battle and was proclaimed first the son of a god, and then himself a deity, can this be so surprising? Alexander is, in a sense, a tragic figure - one who couldn't see the wisdom in the statement of his subordinate commander, Coenus:
"Sir, if there is one thing above all others a successful man should know, it is when to stop."
ALEXANDER OF MACEDON is replete with a Table of Dates, fourteen maps and battle plans, and a 24-page appendix examining in detail the poorly documented battle on the River Granicus, Alexander's first victory in Asia against the Persian king Darius III.
My only complaint regarding this riveting historical piece is that the author didn't summarize the chaotic dissolution that overtook Alexander's empire immediately after his death. The contrast would have made me appreciate Alexander's achievement all that much more.
Want to see more reviews on this item?
Most recent customer reviews
based upon numerous historical authors.
The book could very much benefit from additional
maps included in the...Read more