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Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness by Guy…
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Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness

by Guy Maclean Rogers

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I am no scholar of ancient history, so I can't comment too much on accuracy, completeness, etc. This was a decent introduction to the career of Alexander - it basically marches along with Alexander and just lists all the battles etc.

Alongside the basic narrative of facts, the author pursues a counter-revisionist project. Sure, Alexander the Great was really great. But even great people have warts. Get over it! Hmmm, actually, we are fed more a line about greatness being great. Zeus likes the best, the great. Alexander was no Woodrow Wilson. Forget about equality, brotherhood... hmmm, we don't really hear at all about freedom. But greatness, yeah. Why shouldn't the best be on top, where they belong?

The author is basically thumbing his nose at those revisionists who compare Alexander to Hitler and Stalin. Alexander was no Hitler! Well, of course, Hitler had big warts and every great person has at least a few little warts. So there is at least some tiny resemblance. Get over it. Woodrow Wilson had warts. Oooo this author got his PhD at Princeton! It would be delightful to hear... I bet he is now a staunch defender even of the great Woodrow Wilson with his warts, since certain left wing student factions at Princeton have chosen to denigrate, uh, criticize, whatever, put down, Wilson because of his, hmmm, maybe medium sized warts. Wilson was no Hitler!

I have no doubt that the catalog of facts here is plenty accurate. The counter-revisionist arguments at least create a little bit of narrative drive. But here is just no depth. We don't hear who it is that compares Alexander to Hitler. Did such revisionists actually equate Alexander with Hitler, or just point out some similarities in certain facets? This book could have been a lot more interesting if it had really used an in-depth discussion of the Alexander debate as a motor. How about like the sherry and cheese after the colloquium, get into the personalities, the name calling, etc. This book could have been a lot more fun! ( )
  kukulaj | Jun 27, 2017 |
Guy Maclean Rogers has written a readable overview of the life and battles of Alexander the Great. He covers Alexander's life in chronological order, preceded with a brief overview of Phillip's achievements in starting the empire which Alexander would later expand.

Maclean draws heavily on Arrian, although he does incorporate other ancient and modern sources. He deftly covers some of the long-standing controversies of the life of Alexander(his possible participation in Phillip's murder, questions about his generalship in certain battles, his ruthlessness in replacing/executing his appointed governors, etc.) and draws reasonable conclusions from the available sources.

The only real complaint about the book has to do with Maclean's defense of Alexander against those who would compare him to Hitler or Stalin. While he does a good job of describing Alexander as a man of his time who was brutal and cruel but not a modern monster, it's hard to see what he's complaining about. The times I bothered to check the endnotes when he referred to other historians who compared Alexander to modern totalitarians did not have sources. Either a historiographic essay or more complete notes would have been helpful.

Overall, it was a very worthwhile read. ( )
2 vote CLR | Feb 17, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812972716, Paperback)

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. A virtuoso of violence, he was gifted with an uncanny ability to visualize how a battle would unfold, coupled with devastating decisiveness in the field. Granicus, Issos, Gaugamela, Hydaspes–as the victories mounted, Alexander’s passion for conquest expanded from cities to countries to continents. When Persia, the greatest empire of his day, fell before him, he marched at once on India, intending to add it to his holdings.

As Rogers shows, Alexander’s military prowess only heightened his exuberant sexuality. Though his taste for multiple partners, both male and female, was tolerated, Alexander’s relatively enlightened treatment of women was nothing short of revolutionary. He outlawed rape, he placed intelligent women in positions of authority, and he chose his wives from among the peoples he conquered. Indeed, as Rogers argues, Alexander’s fascination with Persian culture, customs, and sexual practices may have led to his downfall, perhaps even to his death.

Alexander emerges as a charismatic and surprisingly modern figure–neither a messiah nor a genocidal butcher but one of the most imaginative and daring military tacticians of all time. Balanced and authoritative, this brilliant portrait brings Alexander to life as a man, without diminishing the power of the legend.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:58 -0400)

"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 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. A virtuoso of violence, he was gifted with an uncanny ability to visualize how a battle would unfold, coupled with devastating decisiveness in the field." "Alexander emerges as a charismatic and surprisingly modern figure - neither a messiah nor a genocidal butcher but one of the most imaginative and daring military tacticians of all time. Balanced and authoritative, this portrait brings Alexander to life as a man, without diminishing the power of the legend."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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