For nearly two and a half millennia, Alexander the Great has loomed over history as a legend-and an enigma. Wounded repeatedly but always triumphant in battle, he conquered most of the known world, only to die mysteriously at the age of thirty-two. In his day he was revered as a god; in our day he has been reviled as a mass murderer, a tyrant as brutal as Stalin or Hitler. Who was the man behind the mask of power Why did Alexander embark on an unprecedented program of global domination What accounted for his astonishing success on the battlefield In this luminous new biography, the esteemed classical scholar and historian Guy MacLean Rogers sifts through thousands of years of history and myth to uncover the truth about this complex, ambiguous genius. Ascending to the throne of Macedonia after the assassination of his father, King Philip II, Alexander discovered while barely out of his teens that he had an extraordinary talent and a boundless appetite for military conquest.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
October 10, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Alexander by Guy Maclean Rogers
The Blood of Heroes
When Ludwig van Beethoven was eleven years old, he composed some piano pieces too difficult to play with his small hands. His music teacher was said to have remarked, "Why, you can't play that, Ludwig." To which the boy replied, "I will when I am bigger."
History is full of the notable quotes and feats of precocious geniuses. The common thread of such stories is that they foreshadow the great deeds to come. Of course young Beethoven knew that someday he would be able to play the most difficult works for piano; after all, he was Beethoven!
Many such stories were told about Alexander the Great. Most can be found in the first ten chapters of Plutarch's biography. Plutarch relays them to suggest Alexander's future invincibility; his vehement nature (barely controlled by his self-discipline); his self-possession; his confidence; and his wit. The adult Alexander was famous for all of these. It would be a mistake, however, to forget some salient facts about his background and upbringing as we read through Plutarch's delightful litany of youthful triumphs.
Alexander was a prince, with the blood of some of Greece's greatest heroes (real and mythical) flowing through his veins from both sides of his family tree. Moreover, this young prince did not grow up among "barbarians," as some ancient writers have intimated, but at a wealthy, sophisticated royal court filled with great painters, writers, diplomats, and soldiers. He also received the finest education possible. Unless we keep these facts in mind we can never understand how Alexander, the Macedonian prince, eventually became the king of Asia and a god.
The Blood of Heroes
Alexander's mother, Olympias, was a princess of the royal house of Molossia in Epirus (northwestern Greece). Molossos, after whom the royal house was named, was supposedly the son of Andromache and Neoptolemus. It was Neoptolemus who had slain King Priam at the altar of Zeus Herkeios ("of the Household") during the sack of Troy. He also happened to be the son of Achilles. On his mother's side, Alexander was thus a blood descendant of the flawed hero of the Iliad and his savage son. To Alexander, the significance of his descent from the heroes of Greece's epic past was not a matter of passive identification with ancient history; the past was alive, and Alexander was part of a living epic cycle.