A superb character study that's a massive expansion and revision of Green's Alexander the Great (1978, published only in Great Britain as a trade paperback). Like Robert Graves, Green (Classics/Univ. of Texas at Austin) can make the ancient world and its people come alive. Within a few pages, the reader knows that Alexander's father was devoted to wine, women, song, power, and young boys, and that Macedonia, typically perceived by us from the Hellenic view as backward and brutish, was most modern in being the first genuinely united nation in this part of the world. And barbaric: Alexander, his life saved by his nurse's brother, later killed the man in a drunken quarrel; his army purified itself before battle by marching between two halves of a slaughtered dog. Great names abound—Darius (utterly defeated), Demosthenes (casually brushed aside), Heracles (an ancestor), a sunbathing Diogenes (asking Alexander not to block the sun), and Aristotle (racist, dandy, manipulator, and xenophobe). The book is a thicket of intrigues, battles, treaties made and broken, and names that can't possibly be remembered. But it drives forward, clarified by Green's easy command of the material and saturated with his sense of that gorgeous, raging, brilliant time in which an implacable golden demigod rammed Hellenism forever into history and legend. The scale of Alexander's life is marvelously conveyed: For example, rebuked as a child by a tutor for wasting incense, when Alexander conquered the spice-trade centers years later, he sent the tutor 18 tons of myrrh, frankincense, etc., making him rich as a king. A magnificent biography—and an unflinching study of Realpolitik in the ancient world.
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