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One of the very best!
am 13. März 2000
There is a truly vast quantity of books, articles, and texts available on Alexander, and I have read as many as possible. Without a shadow of doubt I can recommend Lane Fox's effort as the best I have yet encountered (for Alexander buffs I include in that list of inferiors Badian, Tarn, Wilcken, Schackermeyr, Green - both of them - Hammond, Dodge, Engels, Bosworth, Hamilton, and Griffith to name but a few). Robin Lane Fox is rightly sceptical of sentimentality when dealing with his subject. Nor does he come to Alexander with his mind already inflexible and set on the King's more cotroversial aspects - a practice deplorably monotonous within the field. On ethical issues he keeps in mind the moral tone of the day - a habit that many modern historians would do well to engage in. He is rigorous in the extreme in his use of sources; he is analytical without being academic to the point of tediousness; and he deals with Alexander as a broad and complex human being - that is to say that he deals with the Macedonian as a ruler, a general, a lover, a patron of the arts, a drinker, a hunter, a reader of literature, a quester after glory, a figure of charisma, and also as a man of complexity and failings. It is in this last respect, his varied view of the Alexander, that he succeeds the most, for many of his biographers tend to concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of all others and consequently fail to give a rounded picture of the King. Lane Fox realises that oversimplifying the personalities of long dead figures does more to cloud them than to clarify them. For this he is to be commended highly. His style is lucid and often pithy. If at times you are lulled into thinking that you are reading a novel, don't be fooled; you are constantly bombarded with scrupulously researched information that is presented in the most easy going style. He gives excellent notes and a comprehensive bibliography at the back of the book for those who are interested in the finer details of source and analysis - some 60 pages of miniscule print. I gather that some have labelled this a 'boy's own account' of the ruler. That is quite simply not the case. It is far more competent AND FACTUALLY CORRECT than most of the more academic texts currently available. If you haven't read this one you simply don't know Alexander. P.S. - If you are coming to Alexander on foot of seeing or reading the recent Michael Woods effort (In the footsteps of A the G), disregard everything you heard. The BBC series was shallow, journalistic in the worst possible way, and on more occasions than one would like to believe was factually incorrect. Fox is by far the better historian. I reiterate, this is a must.