Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Journey to the End of the Earth

Book - 2005
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"Alexander's behavior was conditioned along certain lines -- heroism, courage, strength, superstition, bisexuality, intoxication, cruelty. He bestrode Europe and Asia like a supernatural figure."

In this succinct portrait of Alexander the Great, distinguished scholar and historian Norman Cantor illuminates the personal life and military conquests of this most legendary of men. Cantor draws from the major writings of Alexander's contemporaries combined with the most recent psychological and cultural studies to show Alexander as he was -- a great figure in the ancient world whose puzzling personality greatly fueled his military accomplishments.

He describes Alexander's ambiguous relationship with his father, Philip II of Macedon; his oedipal involvement with his mother, the Albanian princess Olympias; and his bisexuality. He traces Alexander's attempts to bridge the East and West, the Greek and Persian worlds, using Achilles, hero of the Trojan War, as his model. Finally, Cantor explores Alexander's view of himself in relation to the pagan gods of Greece and Egypt.

More than a biography, Norman Cantor's Alexander the Great is a psychological rendering of a man of his time.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c2005.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780060570125
0060570121
Branch Call Number: 938.0709 ALEXANDE
Characteristics: ix, 180 pages : map ; 22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Ranieri, Dee

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dnk
Feb 04, 2018

The first 70 pages of this are all over the place. Which is somewhat forgivable since the stated purpose of these chapters is to place Alexander's life in the context of his culture and relevant historical events. But the book itself is only 173 pages. Further, while the context doesn't by necessity need to be in chronological order, it's jarring to read first about how Alexander's successors were done away with after his death and then read about what happened to his father's other family after he took control of Macedonia.

Cantor makes the point throughout the book that it's a mistake to romanticize either Alexander or his time. True. However, I object to Cantor's categorizing both widespread homosexuality and bisexuality with pedophilia, child abuse and slavery. He also uses the word "whore" more than once, and without irony. For someone making the case for a subjectivist view of history, he's pretty judgmental.

Cantor also can't resist the urge to psychoanalyze his subject. In some ways we understand, but his theory that Alexander was caught in a Freudian love triangle with both of his parents isn't thoroughly backed up. Yes, they both sound overbearing and sexed up, but that doesn't entirely make his argument.

But: once he gets going, it's a good, quick read. Really, it doesn't take a long time to make the point that Alexander was an energetic, skilled leader who was more general than politician. Also, while Alexander was shrewd enough to give the people he "freed" from Persian rule more freedom than they had had before (most of the time), he did no such thing in Greece itself, where he destroyed Thebes to make a point to any other city-state that might rebel and regularly installed dictators. He was a man of expediency, not principle.

All in all, I found this to be a balanced account of the man's life, and while it took much of the sheen off of the legend, it was still impossible to discount the sometimes incredible achievements Alexander accomplished. However, it also demonstrates that there is a fine line between committed brilliance and stubborness.

v
Vyara
Aug 14, 2010

As someone with very little background knowledge on the subject, just personal interest, I found Cantor's style of writing and depiction of the events very assimilable. I quite enjoyed the book and found myself eager to read on and learn more, as opposed to struggling through pages and pages of dry writing just to learn the gist of the history as I have experienced with some other writers.

If indeed all that he has done is "cite nothing but old info and others' resources," at least he has reframed the information in a concise, captivating layout that the layman can appreciate without having to go sieve through more in depth and less accessible literature on Alexander the Great.

h
handerson
Oct 13, 2009

What a HUGE waste of money and time for the library and myself!!!! The author is arrogant, and cites nothing but old info and other's resources!!!!
Towards the end the author goes on about how Alexander lived before the "Christian ages" vs the "Pagan ages" and therefore we should not and cannot understand his motivatation, well
duh!!!! And finally, is not a dictator a dicator no matter when he murdered or ruled the world!!!!

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