Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past, by Paul Cartledge

Second paragraph of third chapter (parsing a contemporary report of what else was happening at the time of Alexander's birth):
Philip and Parmenion we have already met. The Illyrians were Macedon's traditional enemies on their western border. The Olympics were the most prestigious of the Panhellenic festivals. Alexander's mother was Philip's fourth wife, Olympias, a Greek princess from Molossia in Epirus (to the south of Illyria), who had given birth at the Macedonian administrative capital of Pella. Alexander's name was already a royal one within the Macedonian kingly house. But the fact that it was also the alternative name of Homer's Paris may not have been irrelevant either, given our Alexander's passion for all things Homeric.
The author is a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and I was dimly aware of his existence when a student there myself, but do not recall ever having met him. This is an interesting but somewhat frustrating biography of Alexander the Great. It assumes a better knowledge on the part of the reader than I could summon up from my memories of L. du Garde Peach's Labybird Book on the subject more than forty years ago, hanging a structure of chapters each addressing different themes of Alexander's short life, which necessarily means that the same incidents get cited over and over again from much the same angle. (Alexander as leader, Alexander's sexuality, Alexander as a Greek, Alexander as a Persian ruler, Alexander as a living god among men, etc.) The most interesting chapter was the last, in which Cartledge looks at the difficulties of working out exactly what happened given the diversity of the sources - it reminded me a bit of the digressions on De Selby in The Third Policeman, only for real. I guess I should let fiction fill in where fact is lacking, and finally get to grips wwith Mary Renault.

This was the top book on my shelves acquired in 2012. Next on that list is The Stormcaller, by Tom Lloyd.

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