Most Comprehensive Book

Recommend, or otherwise, books on Alexander (fiction or non-fiction). Promote your novel here!

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rocktupac
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Most Comprehensive Book

Post by rocktupac »

I'm wondering which book all of you think is by far, the most comprehensive book on Alexander out there. (By modern or ancient, all opinions welcome) Which book has the most information about Alexander, his family, his men, the battles, the logistics, terrain, weapons, various enemies, etc?

I'm just curious which stands out to everyone. You can either list or give a full explanation. Thanks all.
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Paralus
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Post by Paralus »

Difficult question.

I always go back to AB Bosworth's Conquest and Empire and much else of what he has penned is excellent.

That said, Green's is the most readable. I'd love to have his turn of phrase.

Arrian is the fullest and most readable of the ancient sources. He can, though, be confusing at times.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Semiramis
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Post by Semiramis »

I have to agree with Paralus about Bosworth. Not only does he focus on Alexander in the most neutral way possible, he does a good job with the other individuals and especially the vast areas Alexander conquered and his impact (during his lifetime). Best Alexander book I've ever read.
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Ooh, can I choose dozens?

Post by marcus »

Semiramis wrote:I have to agree with Paralus about Bosworth.
I'd agree also, at least that it's a great book. Peter Green is probably the most readable, while I'll always carry a soft spot for Robin Lane Fox (although I wish he'd write shorter paragraphs).

I reckon there's never been a fully, fully comprehensive on Alexander, but that's why I have about 30 different biographies/histories on my shelf, alongside the topic-specific ones. Honestly, trying to pick an absolute favourite is too difficult for me.

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Post by jasonxx »

Marcus

I think your all right with books.Quite a few have a lot to say and some relatively little. I call lane Fox my bible lets face it the text is about as small and the pagers wafer thin. But still says a lot about Alexander. Bosworth green Etc put particular slants on stuff.

Fuller is about the best regarding Alexanders generalship. As with Marcus i count 43 books and basically read them as and when they appear in book shelves.i loved Alexander Killer of Men. Most people hate Manifred but I liked it.

The worse one for Me was partha Boss art and strategy. but in parts explained Alexanders financial strategy etc.

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Post by Paralus »

Hey Kenny - got the pm and I will get to answering it. Been a bit preoccupied with other matters of which you know a bit.

In the meantime, given the fact you've followed Rome on TV (which series is this by the way?) and have a fledgling interest, if you can go pick up Rubicon by Tom Holland I think you'll love it.

I can think of no better book to take someone into Roman History. This bloke has a novellist's way with words and is the most readable historian on the planet (along with Green). If you want an introduction to Republican Rome, the Triumvir wars, the wars against Mithridates, Sulla et al this is your book.

Yes, it is that good.

In the meantime: Plutarch, Pyrrhus.16.3 - 17.4
Pyrrhus had not yet been joined by his allies, but thinking it an intolerable thing to hold back and suffer his enemies to advance any nearer, he took the field with his forces, having first sent a herald to the Romans with the enquiry whether it was their pleasure, before waging war, to receive satisfaction from the Italian Greeks, employing him as arbiter and mediator. But Laevinus made answer that the Romans neither chose Pyrrhus as a mediator nor feared him as a foe. Pyrrhus therefore went forward and pitched his camp in the plain between the cities of Pandosia and Heracleia. When he learned that the Romans were near and lay encamped on the further side of the river Siris, he rode up to the river to get a view of them; and when he had observed their discipline, the appointment of their watches, their order, and the general arrangement of their camp, he was amazed, and said to the friend that was nearest him: "The discipline of these Barbarians is not barbarous; but the result will show us what it amounts to."

The Romans, however, anxious to anticipate the coming of the forces which Pyrrhus had decided to await, attempted the passage, their infantry crossing the river by a ford, and their cavalry dashing through the water at many points, so that the Greeks on guard, fearing that they would be surrounded, withdrew. When Pyrrhus saw this, he was greatly disturbed, and charging his infantry officers to form in line of battle at once and stand under arms, he himself rode out with his three thousand horsemen, hoping to come upon the Romans while they were still crossing, and to find them scattered and in disorder. But when he saw a multitude of shields gleaming on the bank of the river and the cavalry advancing upon him in good order, he formed his men in close array and led them to the attack. He was conspicuous at once for the beauty and splendour of his richly ornamented armour, and showed by his deeds that his valour did not belie his fame; and this most of all because, while actively participating in the fight and vigorously repelling his assailants, he did not become confused in his calculations nor lose his presence of mind, but directed the battle as if he were surveying it from a distance, darting hither and thither himself and bringing aid to those whom he thought to be overwhelmed.

This taught Pyrrhus to be more on his guard; and seeing that his cavalry were giving way, he called up his phalanx and put it in array, while he himself, after giving his cloak and armour to one of his companions, Megacles, and hiding himself after a fashion behind his men, charged with them upon the Romans. But they received and engaged him, and for a long time the issue of the battle remained undecided; it is said that there were seven turns of fortune, as each side either fled back or pursued. And indeed the exchange of armour which the king had made, although it was opportune for the safety of his person, came near overthrowing his cause and losing him the victory. For many of the enemy assailed Megacles and the foremost of them, Dexoüs by name, smote him and laid him low, and then, snatching away his helmet and cloak, rode up to Laevinus, displaying them, and shouting as he did so that he had killed Pyrrhus. Accordingly, as the spoils were carried along the ranks and displayed, there was joy and shouting among the Romans, and among the Greeks consternation and dejection, until Pyrrhus, learning what was the matter, rode along his line with his face bare, stretching out his hand to the combatants and giving them to know him by his voice. At last, when the Romans were more than ever crowded back by the elephants, and their horses, before they got near the animals, were terrified and ran away with their riders, Pyrrhus brought his Thessalian cavalry upon them while they were in confusion and routed them with great slaughter.

Dionysius states that nearly fifteen thousand of the Romans fell, but Hieronymus says only seven thousand; on the side of Pyrrhus, thirteen thousand fell, according to Dionysius, but according to Hieronymus less than four thousand. These, however, were his best troops; and besides, Pyrrhus lost the friends and generals whom he always used and trusted most. However, he took the camp of the Romans after they had abandoned it...

Interesting eh?
Last edited by Paralus on Wed Jul 11, 2007 2:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Vergina Sun
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Post by Vergina Sun »

Personally, my favorite Alexander book would have to be Peter Green's. Green created a colorful, rich book, which, as many have said before, is fairly easy to read. It tends to be disconnected (or at least I thought so) which allows the reader to make his or her own conclusions about the man. It's not overly romanticized, and by no means makes Alexander seem perfect. All in all, I'd have to say Green's is a great book to read.
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Post by Semiramis »

This is in no way a criticism of Lane Fox. He writes wonderfully, like a novelist almost. I enjoyed his biography of Alexander immensely and it got drew me into ... shall we say Alexander World? :) His passion for the subject is amply demonstrated in his vast knowledge, careful attention to detail, original ideas, explanations etc.

But I do find him sliding into hero worship too many times. He almost never criticizes any of Alexander's actions, rather end up apologizing for them. Also, being an ardent Hellenist, he tends to gloss over areas outside of Greece and Macedonia in his biography. Almost to the point where these vast and varied regions blend into one amorphous "oriental" mess. This was one of the drawbacks of the Stone movie, where Lane Fox was the adviser, I thought...
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Post by Paralus »

Can't say as I disagree with the above.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by jasonxx »

Paralus hail

Your battle description. Shows how realistically Phyrius was equal amd in some ways better than the Romans. the battle was basically either way.

It beggers the question I think you must agree Phrius was not Alexander. Alexander would have crushed Romans as with Martini. Any Time any place any where.

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Post by athenas owl »

Semiramis wrote:This is in no way a criticism of Lane Fox. He writes wonderfully, like a novelist almost. I enjoyed his biography of Alexander immensely and it got drew me into ... shall we say Alexander World? :) His passion for the subject is amply demonstrated in his vast knowledge, careful attention to detail, original ideas, explanations etc.

But I do find him sliding into hero worship too many times. He almost never criticizes any of Alexander's actions, rather end up apologizing for them. Also, being an ardent Hellenist, he tends to gloss over areas outside of Greece and Macedonia in his biography. Almost to the point where these vast and varied regions blend into one amorphous "oriental" mess. This was one of the drawbacks of the Stone movie, where Lane Fox was the adviser, I thought...
I just reread Lane-Fox's book and I have to say that I disagree. I find him neutral more or less and if I remember correctly, it was written in response to the Green book. ( I must be the only non-fan of Green, who certainly had his own axe to grind in his work and it screams throughout his work). When it is dismissed as a "Boy's Own" bio, I think that's ridiculous, IMVO. I was hoping that the fashion for anyone who has anything positive to say about Alexander being dismissed as "hero-worship had passed.

He is the middle to positive counterbalance to Green, et al. Both are necessary, though I wish that RLF would update his book... he is no Hammond or Renault, certainly no Tarn when it comes to hero-worship of Alexander.. :D

As for any of these books, it is important I think, to also refer to the archaeological evidence that has been found and better understood since many of the authors we are discussing wrote their books.
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Post by Paralus »

athenas owl wrote:[When it is dismissed as a "Boy's Own" bio, I think that's ridiculous, IMVO. I was hoping that the fashion for anyone who has anything positive to say about Alexander being dismissed as "hero-worship had passed.
Actually, I grew up reading those "Boys' Own" thingys. Biggles as well. Rediculous but fun.

On the contrary, the tide of Alexander "hero-worship" has turned from a seventies low. It is, as yet, not full I would think.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by athenas owl »

Paralus wrote:
athenas owl wrote:[When it is dismissed as a "Boy's Own" bio, I think that's ridiculous, IMVO. I was hoping that the fashion for anyone who has anything positive to say about Alexander being dismissed as "hero-worship had passed.
Actually, I grew up reading those "Boys' Own" thingys. Biggles as well. Rediculous but fun.

On the contrary, the tide of Alexander "hero-worship" has turned from a seventies low. It is, as yet, not full I would think.
Well that's good to hear, though I must hang out at the wrong places, where people only read Green and quote Wood's book (shivers) like it's gospel. I am being a bit hyperbolic there. ;)

I personally do not want the tide turned completely..a nice slack water is good I think. Whether the theme is the evils of the Greek junta or the brotherhood of man, both hold no interest ot me and are hopelessly anachronistic..or something like that. There's enough of it in the "original" sources to be piling on even more. :lol:
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Post by karen »

Rocktupac I really think you're asking for one book to do the job of several.

If we break down your request by topic, the recommendations (at least for some of them, for me) are obvious.

E.g. -- his men -- Waldemar Heckel's Who's Who in the Age of Alexander the Great.
Battles: J.C. Fuller, The Generalship of Alexander the Great.
Logistics: Donald W. Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army.
His family: Elizabeth Carney, Women and Monarchy in Macedonia, N.G.L. Hammond, Philip of Macedon.
Terrain: Michael Wood, In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (not a book, I know -- forget the book -- watch the TV documentary)

...and so on...

(Perhaps other Pothosians with libraries larger than mine can help out with weapons & various enemies.)

Just for the record I consider Lane Fox the most neutral, taking the middle ground between the vituperation of Green and the hero worship of Hammond. (I haven't read Bosworth.)

Karen
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Post by amyntoros »

athenas owl wrote:I just reread Lane-Fox's book and I have to say that I disagree. I find him neutral more or less and if I remember correctly, it was written in response to the Green book. ( I must be the only non-fan of Green, who certainly had his own axe to grind in his work and it screams throughout his work). When it is dismissed as a "Boy's Own" bio, I think that's ridiculous, IMVO. I was hoping that the fashion for anyone who has anything positive to say about Alexander being dismissed as "hero-worship had passed.


Well, one litmus test for assessing an author's viewpoint is how much he omits when discussing certain events. In India, before Alexander is severely wounded by the Mali (pages 378-9) Fox describes Alexander and his men as having "arrived in time to storm the unsuspecting inhabitants of Kot Kamalia fortress and hound down fugitives from marsh-bound Harapur. Driving the tribesmen east across the river Ravi, they made light work of steep Tulamba, a town which proved too much for Tamurlane, and then 'pressed on boldly' until all the citizens had been enslaved."

In reality, according to Arrian, most of the unsuspecting inhabitants were killed because they were outside the walls and unarmed; those who had taken refuge in the citadel, "to the number of about 2,000" also died. Plus a good many of the tribesmen driven across the river were killed, as were those who actively defended the town Fox calls Tulamba. Perdiccas too, on Alexander's orders, caught up and "massacred" (Arrian 6.6.6) any fugitives from another city who hadn't managed to hide in the marshes. These may not seem like impressive numbers and we may, if we wish, accept them as a natural consequence of ancient conquest. However, Fox does not give his readers the opportunity because he glosses over the deaths with terms such as "storm the unsuspecting inhabitants," "hound down," and "made light work of." A reader unfamiliar with Alexander's story could be forgiven for thinking that there were hardly any deaths and that everyone was captured. Fox does not tell us anything to the contrary.

There's much similar to the above elsewhere in the book and thus I can understand why it has been described as "A Boy's Own Story". So, as a counter to your statement about it being the fashion for anyone who has anything positive to say about Alexander being dismissed as "hero-worship" I'd like to suggest that just because a book has a positive approach to Alexander doesn't mean it should be immune from criticism. My feelings anyway. :)

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