Everitt (The Rise of Athens: The Story of the World’s Greatest Civilization, 2016, etc.) shows us the genius of Alexander (356-323 B.C.E.) in a biography that reads as easily as a novel.
In order to provide a full picture of this fascinating figure, the author seamlessly weaves in comments from friends and foes alike, including Demosthenes and Aristotle. Alexander was driven to conquer the impossible, whether it was fording a river or driving his army to India’s “river ocean” to see the “world’s edge.” From the strong influence of his mother, Olympias, and father, Philip, who shifted the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean, he received a Greek education and the strength to take over the world. Philip was not cruel but certainly ruthless as he became leader of all Greece, exhibiting how self-government by the defeated could minimize expenses. After Philip’s murder (with lots of suspects), the task of invading Persia fell to Alexander. He inherited a large, disciplined army, a wealthy empire, and Philip’s military genius, allowing him to quell uprisings. He had no personal ambition but delighted in danger; he was audacious to the point of lunatic courage; he was devoted to his friends, respectful of enemies. Alexander’s masterful engineers, artillery, and siege engines, along with his incredible luck, helped as he defeated the Persians time and again. He won the day against the Persians at the Granicus, which made him the leader of Asia Minor. Darius III escaped not once but twice, leading Alexander further into unknown territory. Moving into India, Alexander respected the different cultures and rejected racism, but he alternated chivalry with ferocity. Wartime massacres and total destruction of Thebes, Tyre, and Persepolis were cases of cruel necessity rather than gratuitous cruelty. Celebrations could turn into drunken quarrels and turned his men’s respect into fear as they longed for home. Everitt has a wealth of anecdotes and two millennia of histories to work with, and he delivers and interprets them flawlessly.
Nearly unparalleled insight into the period and the man make this a story for everyone.