What can we learn from the stunning rise and mysterious death of the ancient world’s greatest conqueror? An acclaimed biographer reconstructs the life of Alexander the Great in this magisterial revisionist portrait.
“[An] infectious sense of narrative momentum . . . Its energy is unflagging, including the verve with which it tackles that teased final mystery about the specific cause of Alexander’s death.”—The Christian Science Monitor
More than two millennia have passed since Alexander the Great built an empire that stretched to every corner of the ancient world, from the backwater kingdom of Macedonia to the Hellenic world, Persia, and ultimately to India—all before his untimely death at age thirty-three. Alexander believed that his empire would stop only when he reached the Pacific Ocean. But stories of both real and legendary events from his life have kept him evergreen in our imaginations with a legacy that has meant something different to every era: in the Middle Ages he became an exemplar of knightly chivalry, he was a star of Renaissance paintings, and by the early twentieth century he’d even come to resemble an English gentleman. But who was he in his own time?
In Alexander the Great, Anthony Everitt judges Alexander’s life against the criteria of his own age and considers all his contradictions. We meet the Macedonian prince who was naturally inquisitive and fascinated by science and exploration, as well as the man who enjoyed the arts and used Homer’s great epic the Iliad as a bible. As his empire grew, Alexander exhibited respect for the traditions of his new subjects and careful judgment in administering rule over his vast territory. But his career also had a dark side. An inveterate conqueror who in his short life built the largest empire up to that point in history, Alexander glorified war and was known to commit acts of remarkable cruelty.
As debate continues about the meaning of his life, Alexander's death remains a mystery. Did he die of natural causes—felled by a fever—or did his marshals, angered by his tyrannical behavior, kill him? An explanation of his death can lie only in what we know of his life, and Everitt ventures to solve that puzzle, offering an ending to Alexander’s story that has eluded so many for so long.
Ancient history expert Everitt (Cicero) attacks the young Macedonian king's astonishing conquests on three continents Africa, Asia, and Europe with relish. He starts off slow, with lots of background on family and context, but kicks things into gear when Alexander starts marching. Quick-thinking and able to learn from his mistakes, Everitt's Alexander displays a facility with tactics and strategy on a diverse array of battlefields as well as cleverly meshing Macedonian and local cultures to help him more nimbly govern his extensive empire. Everitt evenhandedly reminds readers of Alexander's failings, too, such as incredibly dysfunctional family dynamics and a penchant for self-aggrandizing claims (including being the offspring of a deity). Despite increasing paranoia and heavy drinking toward the end of his short life, the battle-scarred leader still commanded incredible loyalty from his army while understanding the boundaries of that loyalty. Everitt carefully discusses the controversy surrounding Alexander's premature death at age 32, including a convincing probable cause. This detailed account of the intriguing ancient military genius will fascinate military history readers eager to learn more about Alexander's motivation and the lifelong fearlessness that propelled him to near-mythic status.