Bestselling historian Cantor (Antiquity, 2003, etc.) provides a fantasy-free study of the richly gifted, seriously flawed Macedonian whose dozen years of military conquests yielded immortality.
His assessment of Alexander’s personal proclivities may well underscore why the recent Hollywood offering directed by Oliver Stone, similarly frank with regard to sex, failed to win audiences. Though Cantor calls Alexander “undoubtedly bisexual” and cites his several wives, in the end the author concludes that Alexander “had a lifelong gay lover” and had almost nothing to do with women. Cantor stresses in the same breath that the pre-Christian world, unlike today’s box office, would have assigned no stigma to bedroom liaisons with juvenile male prostitutes. Of the many sources he cites, including Roman archivists, all affirm Alexander’s personal courage and martial genius. During his brief but spectacular tenure (336–23 b.c.) as ruler of Macedonia and field commander of its armed forces, he combined verve with military cunning. The author contends, however, that Alexander’s initial defeat of Persia, which provided him both the impetus for further subjugation and the treasury to pay the thousands of mercenaries who marched with him, was abetted by King Darius’s failure to take the Macedonian threat seriously. Darius could have assembled a force so numerically superior as to be unbeatable, but he didn’t. Thus Alexander’s push all the way to India became legend, and part of the glory that was Greece as resurrected and codified mostly by British Victorians. Not bad, Cantor implies, for a merciless militarist who once killed a close friend while in a drunken stupor and probably died clinically insane.
Well informed, chatty and opinionated.