Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography is a notable book written by Peter Green. The author is a British novelist and classical scholar, famous for his historical books. The presented work can be considered one of the most significant ones Green has written. Moreover, the book can be seen as one of the most significant biographies of Alexander existing today, as it views the commander both as a complex personality and a single-minded person. In addition to addressing Alexander’s traits from various perspectives, Green offers a highly engaging read, allowing the reader to analyze the king’s character in detail.
In his work, the author presents a story of the great commander’s life and the events associated with it. Green traces Alexander’s life from early childhood through the time he became a king and started his conquests and until his death. He guides the reader through the general’s experiences, desires, and life goals. The book presents many notable events of the commander’s life, including the Battle of the Granicus, the manhunt of Darius III, and the siege of Tyre.
In Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography, Alexander the Great is presented from a non-romanticized perspective, as the author strives to address his traits and actions from a non-biased viewpoint. This aspect of the book is notable because it makes it different from many works about the commander. Green’s book provides valuable insight into his personality and character. It reveals the connection between Alexander’s traits and his relationships with others and outlines the events that happened in the commander’s life, supporting his viewpoint.
The purpose of this book report is to provide a summary of Green’s work, analyzing some of its most significant aspects. The paper addresses the author’s opinion on Alexander and the significant issues Green raises in his book. It presents Green’s perspective on other works in the field, outlining the differences between Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography and other books. The report also reflects on the significance of images, maps, and quotes featured in the paper and outlines their benefits for the reader. It outlines the reasons Green includes them into his book and the ways in which they make the book more informative.
Finally, the paper presents a personal perspective on the book and addresses the quality of the reading experience. It outlines the points that can be noted about the book from a personal viewpoint. This report concludes that Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography is a significant and outstanding work. It can be useful for those wanting to know more not only about the conquests and achievements of the commander, but his personal traits and the factors affecting them.
Summary and Analysis
It is necessary to start this report by offering a general idea of the contents of Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography. The book is a historical biography of Alexander the Great, the king known for his conquests and battles. Green addresses the commander’s characters, pursuits, and relationships with others. The book consists of ten chapters, each of which addresses significant aspects, helping the reader to understand Alexander’s character better.
The reader learns about Alexander’s father and his life before his son was born, the days when the future commander was a young boy and Aristotle’s student, and his life after Philip’s death. Moreover, Green provides his audience with an opportunity to learn about the battles and conquests of the great commander. The book is a historical one but is written as if it was a novel, with the author using epithets, descriptive language, and addressing his perspective on the events he describes.
It is possible to see that Green’s book is different from many of the ones written by popular historians from the very first chapter. The author wants to challenge the audience’s perceptions of Alexander of Macedon and does not portray him as a romantic figure wanting to share his vision with the world. From some sources, many readers may know that the dream Alexander the Great had was to achieve the brotherhood of men.
Other biographers, on the contrary, tell the audience that Alexander had a high interest in exercising his power. For Green, the commander was one of the historical figures whose idealistic persuasions were imposed on them by later generations (17). Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography shows that Alexander had a complex personality, which may be different from what today’s historians and bibliographers may think of it.
The author contributes to the public understanding of Alexander’s character by humanizing and demystifying him. There is a perspective that Alexander the Great was a significant and superior leader, unlike other ones living in his time. The book shows that the commander was, indeed, a talented and charismatic but flawed leader. For instance, Alexander of Macedon had an excellent ability to predict his opponents’ next moves and implement tactics that would put his enemies under psychological pressure (Green 125).
At the same time, it is possible to say that the commander was a poor government manager, as he rarely tried to improve the administration of the territories he had conquered. For him, it was more significant to gain control of the local leadership rather than consolidate his new holdings. As a result, the empire dissolved shortly after his death. This point reveals that being a good leader for the territories he conquered was not significant for Alexander. Instead, his goal was to proclaim himself as one; he wanted to win battles
Green’s perspective of Alexander the Great and his awareness of the differences of his representation by historians may be considered refreshing. The book shows that the commander was perceived in various ways depending on the time and the culture the writer lived in. For instance, in his time, Alexander of Macedon was perceived as a tyrant and a militant autocrat, which he did not like to hear (Green 146).
At the same time, during the rise of the British and Roman empires, the king was seen as an imperialist striving to enlighten the word through Hellenism. Finally, in the revolutionary period of the early 19th century, Alexander was referred to as a liberator from the monarchy (Green 268). It is possible to say that the author himself depicts the great commander as an excellent, but narcissistic planner and tactician driven by megalomania, which cannot be considered a romanticized perspective.
The point presented above is particularly significant for understanding the personality of Alexander the book tries to convey. Green notes that the audience should perceive the commander’s ruthlessness as the one Stalin or Pol Pot had and understand his internal desire for supremacy (11). The book reveals that Alexander the Great did not have a dreamy personality; he was paranoid about possible conspiracies and obsessional about conquest. In his work, the author addresses other historians’ perspectives specifically, noting that they seek to “modify this grim picture” by stating that the commander’s main goal was achieving permanent Greek-oriental collaboration and union (Green 11).
Notably, the author explains the causes of the differences in biographers’ opinions regarding Alexander’s motivations. For instance, he comments on the case presented above by saying that the commander was desperate to collaborate with nations other than Macedonians because he needed an army (Green 12). This point illustrates that, throughout his work, Green strives not only to introduce his perspective but explain why it may be different from others’ ones and present evidence supporting his viewpoint.
It is notable that the author refers to some of the works about Alexander directly, calling them propaganda. For instance, he addresses the two accounts of the battle at the Granicus, saying that they are irreconcilable (Green 21). It means that one person recording the battle presented a different perspective on it compared to the other one, although both of them were present in the scene. The author notes that the reason for it is that, at the time when Alexander lived, it was crucial to avoid publishing information about his mistakes and faults. Green shows that Alexander of Macedon’s life was surrounded by propaganda and that it is essential to analyze the available evidence critically to distinguish between trusted and potentially false sources. Although it is possible to say that the audience should question the data presented in all sources, Green’s work seems trust-worthy because the author provides much evidence to support his claims.
The book reveals that there are many aspects of Alexander’s personality readers should know about. For example, the author reveals that conquests were not the only interests of the commander; he was also fond of medicine and biology (Green 61). Notably, the king used his knowledge to cure his friends when they were sick and even prescribed them with various treatments. Alexander’s interest in these fields allowed him to have a more flexible mind and the ability to manage all arising problems timely.
Moreover, the teachings of biology and medicine helped Alexander the Great to minimize possible preconceptions, which was significant for a field-commander (Green 61). The author also reports that the king read much poetry, especially by Homer, and had knowledge in rhetoric, astronomy, and geometry. These points reveal why ordinary Macedonians thought that their leader was different from them; for some, however, the difference was not a positive aspect.
The book allows the reader to see the transformation Alexander of Macedon went through during his short life. As he gains the idea that Zeus was his father, his perspective of self changes drastically. Alexander wants to believe that he is no ordinary man, and expects that others think the same. As his conquests become more and more significant, the commander starts believing that he is superior to Achilles, Heracles, and Dionysus (Green 374).
Such views, along with megalomania, isolate Alexander from his people and allow him to engage in behaviors other Macedonians found humiliating. It means that, contrary to the commander’s expectations, people do not praise him for being a god; they do not trust him because of it. Eventually, these issues challenge his authority and career, which is also notable considering the significance of the historical figure people know today. A modern audience may never know the true perspective people of Alexander’s time had about him, but Green tries to show that some of his contemporaries did not believe in his godly origin and could not accept this idea.
As mentioned above, the book is notable from the very first chapter, as the author introduces not only the events of the life of Alexander the Great but his father, Phillip of Macedon. Such an approach to addressing the life of Alexander is significant, as information about his father can play a crucial role in understanding the commander. Green reports that the story of Alexander of Macedon is closely related to the one of King Phillip II and his country, Macedonia (1).
The reason for it is that Alexander’s father was a remarkable figure whose dominance allowed Macedonia to have a well-centralized military and government. It is possible to say that without Philip, his son would not become the leader he was. Philip made the country’s army stronger and trained the generals that fought for Alexander. He also conquered Greece and left it weakened, helping Alexander to frighten the entire population by leveling Thebes to the ground. Finally, King Philip II asked Aristotle to be his son’s tutor, which affected his development highly (Green 55). The attention the author places on Philip is crucial for understanding Alexander’s character.
It is crucial to mention that the relationships between the great commander and King Philip II were vital in forming Alexander’s personality. The father and the son had love-hate relationships; it was a blend of competitiveness and admiration (Green 40). Alexander strived to excel Philip while following his steps. It is possible to say that, at times, the great commander was even envious of his father. For instance, Green reports that Alexander of Macedon noted that Philip “left no great or brilliant achievement” for him and refused to believe that his father did it for his good (41).
Another fact that reveals the nature of the relationships between the two is that Alexander believed that he had a godly origin and was a son of Zeus. While admiring his mother, he was not fond of his father and enjoyed thinking that he was not his son. This point can be explained by several reasons, including the competition between Philip and Alexander of Macedon. However, one thing one can be sure about is that the relationships and interactions between the father and the son shaped Alexander’s upbringing and self-perceptions crucially.
One of the other notable aspects of the book is the author’s ability to convey the atmosphere of the events he describes. For instance, in How Many Miles to Babylon? chapter, he describes a banquet that was held to celebrate Alexander’s recovery. Green reports that, at the event, Corragus, one of the significant veterans of Macedon, challenged an Athenian boxer Dioxippus to single combat (424). The latter fought completely naked and only had a club with him, while the former was fully armed and had a spear and a sword; Dioxippus won this battle within seconds. Alexander was so angry about it that he had to leave the banquet, as his pride was mortified.
Then, the commander’s followers caused many problems for Dioxippus, which resulted in his suicide (Green 424). Alexander was in remorse, but he could not do anything to change the situation anymore. By providing the details about this situation, the author shows the reader that Alexander could be considered a tyrant; however, he did not have a purely violent nature and regretted his mistakes. Nevertheless, the information about his errors is not as public as the data presenting his victories.
The book is different from some of the other historical works because Green does not assume that his reader is aware of all of the aspects of the time Alexander lived in. For instance, in Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography, he not only tells the audience the story about King II Philip and his life but also addresses the development of Greece and Asia Minor. It is important for the author to discuss the state these lands had been in before they changed due to conquests. This point shows that throughout his book, Green strives to not only show his proficiency in the subject and address debatable issues surrounding Alexander’s figure but also ensure that the reader gains a full understanding of the commander’s life and environment.
Even the conclusion of Green’s work provides significant insight into the commander’s personality, offering historiography of his character and image. He explains why Alexander was viewed as a hero in some periods and as a totalitarian dictator in others. The points Green provides reveal that the king’s character is multifaceted, and it cannot be described only in one way. He was both a hero and a dictator, having the treats one could both admire and despise. The author’s opinion on the commander, however, is clear, as he does not idealize Alexander and tries to describe the events of his life the way they really happened. Such an approach is important for the readers, as Green helps them to see that Alexander the Great was an ordinary human, and his persuasiveness and strong character allowed him to become the person he was.
Significance of Images, Maps, and Quotes in the Book
Green’s book is notable not only for the details he addresses but for the images and maps he provides to support them. For instance, Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography contains maps of Alexander’s routes Afghanistan and Baluchistan, Central and Eastern Iran, and other travels (Green 298, 352). Moreover, it provides illustrations for some of the battles, including the battles of Issus, Gaugamela, and Chaeronea (Green 73, 225, 291).
The reader can see that the author of the book wants the audience to understand the events that happened during battles and have a clearer image of them. For instance, he provides the plan of Babylon that shows what the city looked like when the commander approached it with his army (Green 301). The use of maps and images is particularly significant for those not knowing much about the way cities and lands looked at the time of Alexander the Great. By introducing images, the author ensures that the reader can understand why a city could not resist Alexander or what tactics the commander used to win his battles.
The utilization of quotes is also crucial, as they serve as evidence about the personalities historical figures presented in the book had or the events they experienced. Notably, Green quotes not only Alexander the Macedon and the philosophers living at his time; he also refers to anecdotes relevant to his life. For instance, the author addresses the story about Alexander and Leonidas, which offers the reader an insight into the commander’s character and the relationships he had with his father (Green 44).
Green wants the audience to understand how Philip and his son interacted with one another because it had a vital contribution to the development of Alexander’s personality. The anecdote shows that the two met rarely, and King Philip II was on campaigns most of the time, and when he was in Pella, he was occupied with diplomatic work and the organization of banquets for visiting ambassadors (Green 45). This knowledge provides the reader with an idea of the situation Alexander grew up in and its possible impact on his personality.
Personal Perspective on the Book
As seen from the analysis above, the book by Green is a notable piece and can be viewed as a crucial source of information for those wanting to learn more about Alexander the Great. The author’s work can be considered particularly significant because it is easy-to-read due to the style of narration he used. The book does not just list the events of Alexander of Macedon’s life; it is a story that unveils with time, allowing the readers to see all parts of the puzzle as they continue reading. There are several impressing points the book presents; they will be discussed below.
One of the insights that Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography has provided is that Alexander might not have been as successful as a commander and conqueror if his father did not help him. It is possible to say that King Philip II was killed after he had arranged everything well, so it was easier for Alexander to develop his authority and become a powerful leader. For example, as mentioned above, he prepared the army for his son, taught Alexander how to be a soldier, and made him a well-educated man of his time by asking Aristotle to be his tutor.
Due to his father’s efforts, Alexander of Macedon was raised believing that he was special and had the desire to pursue a great destiny. The book reveals that his desire to conquer the whole world was not driven by the interest in the brotherhood of men; he genuinely believed that owning the world was his birthright (Green 93). Because of these factors, the commander was able to suppress various cultures and defeat them, which is notable even from the perspective of modern leaders.
It is notable to see that Alexander’s environment and upbringing have contributed to the fact that he achieved success as a commander significantly. Green’s narrative is outstanding because he pays attention to the people that surrounded the commander when he was a young boy and during his adult life. He addresses the dialogues Alexander the Great had with other people, helping the audience to understand the issues that frustrated or motivated him. Moreover, the author does not say that the commander is the only person responsible for his success. He admits that his father, teachers, and followers contributed to his growth and development a lot. This point also benefits the way the book is perceived because it shows that Alexander was an extraordinary figure but would not be able to achieve success without the support of other notable individuals.
Another aspect of the book that affected the reading experience positively is how many details and information about Alexander the Great and his environment it presents. It is surprising that there are so many data available about a historical figure that lived in 356-323 B.C. Notably, the commander himself contributed to the availability of this information for the future generations, bringing historians, botanists, and zoologists with him to note everything they witnessed (Green 61).
It is possible to say that the tutoring of Aristotle affected Alexander’s desire to record his life in such a manner. It resulted in the fact that, to this day, the population of the world can gain evidence about the commander’s life. For a reader, this point is significant because it means that it is possible to learn all aspects of Alexander’s life from one book, without the need to look for more details in other sources.
It is possible to say that the point presented above is one of the most outstanding aspects of Alexander of Macedon. The reasons why he wanted to retrieve evidence about his life and transfer it to future generations is not fully clear. However, it is possible to say that he was highly proud of his achievements and wanted them to become known to people who would live a long time after him. Moreover, he probably perceived his figure as highly significant for the world’s history and, therefore, aimed at conveying the information about his conquests and victories to others. This point is notable for present generations because it makes Alexander of Macedon one of the historical characters today’s individuals can analyze in detail.
Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography has also allowed seeing why Alexander the Great is considered a great commander. Green’s perspective on this historical figure is skeptical, as the author does not romanticize this person. The book reveals that Alexander was not particularly gifted to be a leader, but was rather a skilled manipulator that knew how to achieve his goals. Moreover, the author shows that some of the king’s traits were highly questionable, which means that he should not be perceived as an example of a flawless conqueror and a purely successful ruler. For instance, as mentioned above, Alexander was a megalomaniac; he was thirsty for conquest and glory and wanted to reach his aims at all expenses.
At the same time, the commander knew how to force people to do what he wanted to do and to help him in achieving his goals. He was good at communicating his desires and inspiring people to follow him. The book reveals that being a great leader means knowing how to pursue one’s desires effectively and motivating others to do the same.
It is possible to say that the author tries to analyze the deep motives and drivers the commander had instead of concentrating on military issues solely. Despite its novel-like narrative, Green’s skepticism makes the book trust-worthy. The author knows what words to use to present Alexander in the most realistic way while also showing that people respect him because of the person he was. It is important for Green not to turn his book into praise or critique of Alexander; he wants to abstain from commenting on the commander’s decisions and invites the readers to develop their opinions based on his narrative. For the audience, this point is significant because it makes the book more engaging and enjoyable while being highly informative.
Another aspect that has affected the opinion of the book positively is the sense of wonder it presents despite being a historical work. Green, while not being prone to hyperbole, presents the events of the commander’s life in the manner that they remind the reader of stories about fictional and non-fictional heroes admired by everyone. The author does not admire Alexander, nor does he belittle him. Green addresses Alexander’s life in a calm and a relatively non-biased way, which makes the audience believe that his perspective is close to what actually happened in the times when the commander lived. It is crucial to mention that the author has not chosen to highlight only one, for instance, the political perspective of the commander’s life. Instead, he strives to provide insight into the events from various viewpoints, including cultural and military ones.
It is crucial to provide a critique of the book, too, although the work offers a highly positive experience in general. Green’s piece may be considered an overly complex read for those wanting to gain a brief idea of Alexander the Great’s achievements and the events he is famous for. The reason for it is that, as mentioned above, the author aims at providing a multifaceted perspective on this historical figure, the causes of his actions, and his motivations.
For a reader not interested in Alexander’s background, the book may be not as useful as shorter biographies addressing the facts without adding less significant details. In addition, it is also possible to say that the book provides a controversial view of Alexander the Great because the author does not try to romanticize him. Green’s narrative is different from other historians’ viewpoint, and it is unclear whether his perspective is completely right.
However, Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography can be recommended to anyone who is aware of the commander’s achievements and wants to know the aspects of his personality and conquests in detail. Regardless of the points presented above, the book is suitable for the general audience because Green strives to explain all of the claims he makes. Moreover, the work does not have the purpose of cataloging the events of Alexander’s life, so it is written differently compared to short biographies. The fact that the author does not idealize the commander may be considered beneficial because, in the times when Alexander lived, he was already romanticized. For the modern reader, it may be necessary to understand the real life of Alexander of Macedon, not the information available as a result of propaganda associated with his figure.
In summary, the book has provided significant insight into the personality of Alexander of Macedon. It is fascinating that the commander has become such a great figure in the world’s history and achieved so much in such a short time. The biography is not focused on facts exclusively; instead, it offers the reader an idea about the environment Alexander grew up in, the relationships he had, and the issues that affected the development of his personality. Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography provides exceptional reading experience, as it is written in a simple but intelligent language and is easy-to-understand. The narrative of the book is one of its notable features along with the attention Green pays to Alexander’s character and personality traits.
This book report reveals that Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography is a highly significant piece of literature aimed at presenting the story of the great commander in detail. The work can be considered a highly useful guide for those wanting to learn more about Alexander’s conquests and, most importantly, his personality and the factors that affected it. The author’s perspective on the king’s life can be considered non-biased compared to the views of other historians.
He does not romanticize Alexander and avoids depicting him as a dreamy leader believing in the brotherhood of men. Instead, Green shows the commander as a manipulative and authoritative conqueror believing that the world is his by the birthright. The book is notable for featuring significant details of Alexander and his father’s relationships, which affected the development of his personality highly. The work allows the reader to reflect on the power of ego, persuasiveness, and manipulation in combination with great talent.
Notably, the author addresses the differences in the perceptions of the great commander throughout the years, which also helps the reader to understand Alexander’s personality better. He reveals that the king’s figure has been understood differently according to the times various bibliographers lived in. Moreover, some of the traits of his character have been concealed by historians of the early years because Alexander did not want others to know about his possible failures. The book provides a comprehensive perspective on the great commander, supporting the claims with evidence from situations recorded by the people who surrounded him. This point is highly significant because it shows that the author strives to present a non-biased opinion on Alexander while addressing other historians’ perspectives.
It is possible to conclude that Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography is a highly pleasant and engaging read. Green’s talent of narration allows for imaging all of the events he describes in detail, making the book truly enjoyable. The book is engaging and easy-to-read, which makes it different from some other bibliographies of historical characters. The work is suitable for all readers wanting to know more about the development of Alexander as one of the greatest historical figures of all times, regardless of their level of prior knowledge.
The evidence the author provides and the images, maps, and quotes he introduces to support his story allow the audience to gain a genuine interest and understanding of the commander and his motives. Green does not aim at listing the facts about Alexander the Great and the events of his life; he wants the reader to become aware of the issues affecting them. All in all, Green’s work can be recommended to anyone curious about the peculiarities of Alexander’s life and his achievements.
Green, Peter. Alexander of Macedon, 356–323 BC: A Historical Biography. University of California Press, 2013.