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Book Reviews: Commentary (Modern Views of Ancient and Older Texts)

The Medieval Alexander, George Cary (1928-1953), Cambridge, England, University Press, 1956
Reviewer: Forum Contributor

Excellent text for those interested in gaining perspective on how the medieval age viewed Alexander. The author asked the critical questions: 1. What did people think of Alexander in the Middle ages? 2. What did the moralists think of him? 3. What did the theologians think of him? 4. How was Alexander viewed during the Middle Ages? From these questions, George Cary (with some revisions by Dr. David Ross) drew a penetrating picture of how cultures and people interpret and mythologize historical figures, and, in doing so, can change the historical perception of a person or event. There is also some good discussion on the various sources for the development of the medieval Alexander. A must-have for the serious Alexander reader, given that the author’s style of analysis could be usefully applied to modern Alexander works as well. This was a good read, too, for exploring where many of our modern perceptions of Alexander probably derive from.

The Romance of Alexander the Great by Pseudo-Callisthenes, translated from the Armenian, A.M. Wolohojian. Columbia University Press, 1969
Review needed...

Three Historians of Alexander the Great, the so-called Vulgate authors, Diodorus, Justin and Curtius, N.G.L. Hammond, Cambridge University Press, 1983
Reviewer: Forum Contributor
Hammond does an excellent job of analyzing the three primary texts of ancient authors that are too-often lumped together without considering the vast differentiation in information to be found in these texts. Hammond argues that, in failing to analyse sources, we can create trends that enforce misinterpretation, misinformation and bad history. While Hammond himself was often guilty of doing just this, I find that a majority of modern writers also pick and choose what they will or won’t include, too often based on what they need to support their own theories- so remember to read everything with caution.

The Lost Histories of Alexander the Great, Lionel Pearson, American Philological Ass’n, 1960 (This was later reprinted by Scholars Press, 1983)
Features discussion on such texts as those by Callisthenes, Chares, Medeius, Polyclieitus, Nearchus, Ptolemy, Cleitarchus and others.

From Arrian to Alexander, A.B. Bosworth, 1992
Reviewer: Marcus Pailing
Bosworth had already published a detailed analysis of Arrian through the Oxford University Press. This book is an excellent assessment of the sources (not just Arrian) using good examples – the set-piece speeches in Arrian, for example – to evaluate the validity of the extant sources and to posit theories on their original material.

A Historical Commentary on Arrian's History of Alexander; Volume II, Books IV-V, A.B. Bosworth, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995 (380 pages).
Reviewer: Nick Welman
I have exactly the same feeling about this book as about Heckel's commentary on Justin and Heckel's "Marshals". I am aged 42 now, became impressed by Alexander when I was 15 - and I have read both the popular biographies (Lane Fox, Hammond, Bosworth) as well a the ancient sources and fiction (Couperus, Renault - the Dutch translation of Manfredi's book is on my shelf but I could not force myself to continue beyond page twelve... ). To me a study like Bosworth's "Commentary" is really the only type of book that still satisfies my appetite. If you are new to the subject of Alexander, be sure to skip this one. But do you know (by heart) which two books of Curtius are missing? Do you know whose "life" Plutarch described as a parallel to Alexander's? Can you guess who said: "I venture to claim the first place in Greek literature, since Alexander, about whom I write, held the first place in the profession of arms"? All three questions correct? Then do not hesitate and get hold of a copy of Bosworth's "Commentary". I have swallowed it page by page like it was a novel. But you need to be able to refer to all basic facts of Alexander's history to enjoy it. (And I am still looking for Bosworth's Volume I.)

Alexander the Great in Fact and Fiction, A.B. Bosworth and E. Baynham (reprint due September 2002)
Reviewer: Marcus Pailing
Some of today's leading Alexander scholars have contributed to this collection of essays which, though very academic in some places, are all easy to read and offer some fascinating results of recent research. Not really suitable for readers unfamiliar with the history.