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The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great
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The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  3,726 Ratings  ·  200 Reviews
I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. So begins Alexander’s extraordinary confession on the eve of his greatest crisis of leadership. By turns heroic and calculating, compassionate and utterly merciless, Alexander recounts with a warrior’s unflinching eye for detail the blood, the terror, and the tactics of his greatest battlefield victories. Whether su ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Bantam (first published 2004)
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Bogdan You could try the Alexander Trilogy by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. It's good. Or if you would prefer a more academic view on Alexander, I recommend…moreYou could try the Alexander Trilogy by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. It's good. Or if you would prefer a more academic view on Alexander, I recommend Arthur Weigall's Alexander The Great. And it's a no brainer that you could also try reading the main sources for Alexander: Plutarch, Arrian, Curtius etc.(less)

Community Reviews

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Steven Pressfield does it again with this haunting tale of Alexander the Great. I believe this book was released the same year as the Alexander movie starring Collin Farrell, and fans of the movie would probably enjoy this book as well. Both painted a vivid picture of Alexander's life through a brilliant narrative. Some of the battle sequences were written as if Pressfield was sitting astride his own mount on the periphery of the battlefield. Spectacular technical description was combined flawle ...more
Myke Cole
Feb 26, 2016 Myke Cole rated it really liked it
Virtues of War is what its title suggests, a treatise on the personality characteristics and decision making process of great warriors. It is, in the guise of narrative fiction, an instruction manual for leaders of troops, and is incredibly effective at what it does. I only wish I had read it before assuming my first command.

Pressfield is a singular writer, and this is on offer in his ability to make Alexander, a historical figure so remote as to be deified, a sympathetic character who resonate

I actually liked this one more than I thought I would. I started reading it coming off the back of having read Mary Renault’s excellent Alexander trilogy not long before, which, for me, is the definitive Alexander fiction, and I went into this book feeling dubious as to whether it could compare. It couldn’t, but it wasn’t all that bad. I certainly enjoyed it more than I did Steven Pressfield’s Last of the Amazons, which was confusing, anachronistic, and had huge plotholes.

The voice of Alexander
Jun 27, 2013 Nate rated it liked it
Shelves: antiquity, owned
This my second Pressfield novel and is one of those books that inspired a lot of mixed feelings in me. I originally rated it four stars but I think I have to ultimately give it three. What it does, it does excellently, but what it lacks is totally nonexistent. While it does have a ton of fascinating information on Alexander's military and how he carved such a massive empire in a relatively short time without losing a single battle, it's almost impossible to engage on a personal level, which I re ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Jane rated it it was ok
The novel was interesting, but not Pressfield's best. I thought he reached his apogee with Gates of Fire or possibly Afghan Campaign.

This story begins with Alexander's men wishing to turn back from India and go home; they feel they've fought and died far enough from home for long enough. Alexander's in his tent with Itanes, his young brother-in-law, and wants "someone to talk to ... who can listen without judgment and keep his mouth is my role to instruct you [in the art of war]." He
Feb 25, 2009 maricar rated it really liked it
An imagination of dazzling and epic scope.

With “Steven Pressfield” on the cover, it took less than a heartbeat for me to grab this book—after Gates of Fire, I was more than eager to be caught up again in the author’s enthralling prose of storytelling.

Even with the author’s Note on the Reader expressly stating this as a work of fiction, I soon found myself actually believing that it really was Alexander speaking his own thoughts—as he tasted the first of his numerous victories, received the adora
Apr 30, 2008 Scott rated it liked it
Written in first person, this novel tells the story of Alexander's conquests through his own words. This book was a major turn-off in the beginning because it was nothing more than a statistical summary of all the components of his army during one campaign versus another. He would list in detail the types of weapons his men carried, how much these weapons weighed, how they were utilized and why they were so effective in certain situations. Also a lot of detail on battlefield strategy, which inte ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
May 19, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing
"I am the living soul of the army. As blood flows from the lion's heart to its limbs, so courage flows from me to my countrymen. A million mend stand in arms against us. I will rout them by my will alone."

That line absolutely captures the feeling of Alexander in this novel. Even though this work was not a good as Gates of Fire it is still and outstanding work. Reading it alongside another authors rendition of Alexander, this work breathes fire. Pressfield has an absolute masculine energy that is
Jun 25, 2008 A.J. rated it really liked it
There are very few stories in the short history of civilization that can match that of Alexander the Great. The name alone inspires a kind of awe, and after reading Steven Pressfield's impressive historical-fiction account, I feel as though I have a better appreciation for just how amazing Alexander's life was. In his twenties he was breaking apart the Sacred Band of Thebes, assaulting the Persian empire, and conquering further and faster than anyone to the time had dreamed of doing. It's one th ...more
Jul 24, 2007 Sean rated it really liked it
This Alexander isn't very gay, or very megalomaniacal. He does kick ass, however, and take names, all the way to the Indus and back. Got yer Gaugamela right here, Darius.
Tanya Hristova
Jun 11, 2013 Tanya Hristova rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical, dropped, war
I dropped the book after reading more than 300 pages of it, which is not something I do often. It was, however, in turns frustrating and boring, and - after Gaugamela - I couldn't even bring myself to care if and how Alexander defeats Porus. [Spoiler alert: Alexander died without ever losing a battle.] When I say the book was boring, however, I don't mean boring in the sense of ponderous, verbose or over-descriptive. On the contrary, "The Virtues of War" was awfully concise. To the point of bein ...more
Clif Hostetler
Wouldn't it be neat to have an interview with Alexander the Great in which he tells of his life as a soldier in a very introspective manner. Short of a time machine, this novel provides the next best thing thanks to Steven Pressfield's ability to crawl inside the mind of the world's greatest conqueror. The story as told in Alexander's voice covers the spectrum of language from noble rhetoric to earthy solder's vernacular as it narrates the stories of horror and triumph. The battles are described ...more
Bryn Hammond
Aug 16, 2012 Bryn Hammond rated it liked it
Shelves: imagined-fiction
I get specific so I’ll put this under a spoiler. The short version is, I took quite a dislike to Alexander as here portrayed - he wasn’t a hero-figure for me. I thought, from an Alexander novel, what I want is a hero figure. But this turned out to quite interest me, with its ambivalence. I’d like to be more certain about the author’s intentions: I don’t suppose I was meant to take so against Alexander.

(view spoiler)
May 23, 2011 Terri rated it liked it
It's a 3 star. For many that translates into a fail, and most of the time it does for me too, but this one does fit well with the Goodreads description of what 3 star book means to a reader. 'Liked it'. Because I did. I liked it. It was not always thrilling or humanised enough for me. I never felt connected to Alexander (this is likely due to the first person narrative style of the book) and yet I did not dislike the book. It was simply one of those steady as she goes, beat the drum slowly kind ...more
Arun Divakar
May 21, 2010 Arun Divakar rated it really liked it
There are three military commanders whom i hold in awe for their genius and prowess : Napoleon, Alexander & Julius Caesar. All men of different times and circumstances but whose feats of valor have still been unmatched in the annals of military history. I read upon the feats of these three men and cant help but think of what grandiose vision, what manic quest for glory drove them forward...Having read and liked Steven Pressfield's rendition of the Battle of Thermopylae here i was with 'Virtu ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
120 pages in a week? Inconceivable.

I wanted to like this book, and there were moments when I did. But overall, I was bored out of my skull. Couldn't make it halfway. I already renewed it once at the library and I can't see holding onto it when I'd rather read medication warning labels more exciting stuff.

I think I could like Pressfield, if he'd focus on characters and story rather than play-by-play details of battles. His narrative voice for the first person Alexander is off too. Doesn't make h
Dec 15, 2013 Luke rated it it was amazing
my fascination with Alexander the great started with this book. pressfield, as always depicts battles in a way that makes you feel like you were there with the burning desire to fight alongside those ancient heroes and achieve glory. as if that wasn't enough, the philosophies and lessons presented in this book on what it is too be a soldier and what it means to be a man were truly captivating and inspiring. great read!
Aug 03, 2012 Bobby rated it liked it
Solid 3 stars but not because of any fault of the author!! Just too technical for my tastes. His knowledge of Alexander's campaigns is unbelievable and any student of Alexander, I'm sure, will rave about this read. I appreciated, near the end, the description of what is needed to vanquish an army utilizing guerrila tactics and that logic would explain the U.S. inability to have success against such an eney in Vietnam!
Brian Bova
Oct 01, 2014 Brian Bova rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-owned
Another great book from Pressfield. Alexander was a military monster who didn't take no as an answer. Would recommend this book to anyone into reading about old world military. A+++++
Oct 18, 2009 Nicholas rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 03, 2011 Stephen rated it it was amazing
I have read this book exactly nine times. Enough said.
A Kritzer
Feb 11, 2017 A Kritzer rated it really liked it
Gee I very much enjoyed the book. It was pretty much as I expected. No fantastic literal achievement, but an honest straight forward, swashbuckling novel that reads quick. I do have two items to point out. 1) The book made me stop to pause a few times with the liberal use of modern language to convey action. The use of "highway" to describe paths was a chuckle. Surely an oversight? Hmmm. and 2) For a book that is promoted as, "The Virtues of War", ...why is there not one battle map? There should ...more
Tim Ludy
Oct 20, 2016 Tim Ludy rated it really liked it
A fictionalized account of Alexander's campaign across the known world. The battle descriptions in this book make it so fun to visualize every battle and watch it unfold from Alexander's point of view. Every battle starts with him breaking down the field, then describing what he thinks the enemy plans to do and how he will devise his strategy based on that information. Seeing the strategy broken down like this made every battle come alive.
Near the end it starts to drag a little but this coincide
Terri Oak
Oct 30, 2016 Terri Oak rated it it was amazing
Pressfield's book is one of my favorites. He portrays a very human, but very powerful Alexander. He gives a balanced approach and great insight into the "behind the scenes" aspects of Alexander's life. Fiction, yes, but it almost doesn't file like it. Good book.
Kane Mason
Jan 26, 2017 Kane Mason rated it it was ok
I really couldn't maintain interest in this book enough to continue past the 2/3rds mark. For me it focused way too much on the tactics of warfare which bored me quite a bit, and also the character of Alexander is kind of dull in my opinion lacking any real engaging contradictions.
Al Lock
Jan 21, 2017 Al Lock rated it it was amazing
Steven Pressfield's books are great reads because although they are not history, they stay within the confines of known history and as a result, one will learn a great deal of history from them. This is one of those books, and it gives a great look at the life and times of Alexander the Great.
Feb 22, 2017 Robyn rated it it was ok
skimmed - character insight largely sacrificed for details about battles.
Jan 18, 2017 Susan rated it liked it
I liked it, but I think those who enjoy military history could appreciate it more than I.
Hamza Nasir
Nov 29, 2014 Hamza Nasir rated it really liked it
Awesome book about Alexander the Great, a man who became king at 20 and used his military expertise to conquest Egypt, The mighty Persian Empire, India and much more of the known world. This book is a novelization of his life, and one gets a front seat view of his mindset as the book is written in first person. So how does someone who achieves, conquers and even destroys so much think?

Take away lessons:

1) Complete and utter certainty of purpose. Alexander's destiny, as he calls it, was to conq
Katie/Doing Dewey
Aug 29, 2012 Katie/Doing Dewey rated it really liked it
The Virtues of War is the perfect mix of fact and fiction to make a good book. The author clearly did his research and uses accurate details to form a fascinating picture of life around 320BC. However, as he states in the introduction, he’s also able to take liberties with the facts and put battles and speeches in the order which makes the best narrative. Best of all, the book is told as though Alexander is speaking to a nephew, leading to what I think are some of the major strengths of this boo ...more
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I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943 to a Navy father and mother.

I graduated from Duke University in 1965.

In January of 1966, when I was on the bus leaving Parris Island as a freshly-minted Marine, I looked back and thought there was at least one good thing about this departure. "No matter what happens to me for the rest of my life, no one can ever send me back to this freakin' place a
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“A cavalryman's horse should be smarter than he is. But the horse must never be alowed to know this.” 170 likes
“A horse must be a bit mad to be a good cavalry mount, and its rider must be completely so.” 87 likes
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