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Alexander the Great

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  809 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Paul Cartledge, one of the world’s foremost scholars of ancient Greece, illuminates the brief but iconic life of Alexander (356-323 BC), king of Macedon, conqueror of the Persian Empire, and founder of a new world order.

Alexander's legacy has had a major impact on military tacticians, scholars, statesmen, adventurers, authors, and filmmakers. Cartledge brilliantly evokes
Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2004)
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Mar 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: alexander
I hate the way this book is organized and I dislike all of the repetition. I blame both of these problems on the fact he reworked and rewrote a bunch of lectures.

There is some very excellent salty commentary, though, and the supplementary materials in the back are A+.
As the goodreads blurb states, Cartledge is one of the leading experts on ancient Greece. He provides an accessible, not-to-anachronistic biography of one of history's most interesting men. I don't know what the other reviewers are referring to. This book was meant to be an introduction to Alexander the Great. So, of course it's not a detailed discussion. Finishing this book will make you more conversant on Alexander's life and times than probably 95% of the people you meet at the water cooler ( ...more
Sakina (aforestofbooks)
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, 2017
This book was just amazing! I'm so glad I took a course on Alexander - I've learned so much that I feel like I know Alexander on a personal level! I loved analyzing the different sources and learning military tactics and politics, as well as learning more about Persian and Macedonian history! Highly recommend!
Rick Davis
First of all, Paul Cartledge is one of the world’s foremost experts on ancient Greece, and is an extremely careful and scholarly writer. As such, I knew before I even began that this book would be great. This book is not actually a biography of Alexander the Great in the traditional sense of the word. Rather, it is an introduction to the historiography of Alexander the Great. I made sure this summer to read a narrative biography of Alexander so that I would be prepared to read this book, and I’m ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive view of Alexander, covering social, religious, cultural, and military aspects to provide an entire picture of the man. Presented in what I've come to think of as the "old style" of histories, Cartledge takes a thematic approach rather than chronological so it's probably not the best first history of Alexander to read. I give it 4 stars for comprehensiveness and will keep on my shelf for future reference but probably will not re-read in its entirety.
Ginette Seare
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting read!
Neal Brown
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A more accurate title would be 'Phillip and Alexander the Greats' as a large part of this book focuses on Phillip's life.
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a really enjoyable read. The topic is already something I'm interested in, but Cartledge's immense learning and deft portrayal of this mysterious historical figure made this a fascinating read. The book is arranged thematically, which is a bit unusual for a biography like this. If you are expecting a chronological approach, you may want to pick up one of the many other biographies of Alexander. The thematic approach worked for me. Sometimes the same information reappears in several chap ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Cartledge is undoubtedly an exemplar historian, and his knowledge of Alexander and his sources are impressive to say the least; in his "Hunt for a New Past" he offers a fascinating insight into his interpretation of Alexander that is fully justified and remarkably unbiased. He neither presents an overly romantic view of Alexander, nor overly critical, but finds a comfortable and fair middle ground that considers both Alexander's glory and the more distasteful aspects of his character.

The reader
Sophi Link
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked this one up in a thrift store because they were having a half-off sale, and I was like "hey, Alexander the Great, there's a person I don't know much about." So I don't have much to compare Cartledge's analysis against, but after reading this book I feel like I already know what the others are saying. He presents multiple different arguments before taking his own stance, which is usually somewhere in the cautious, well-reasoned middle. It's not sexy Alexander the Great, but I certainly k ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Cartledge paints a coherent picture of Alexander that is quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. He admires Alexander, that much is evident in his writing, but he also presents a side of Alexander which encourages the reader to see Alexander without being blinded by the romantic view of him. Certainly, what Alexander the Great had achieved by the time he was only a quarter of a decade old is impressive by any standards, however, Mr Cartledge also highlights that neither was Alexander complete ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, unread

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. (Alex
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
A well-written and well-researched book on Alexander, who comes off as the ultimate pragmatist.

The book is not a traditional biography, and is organized thematically rather than chronologically. The narrative jumps around quite a bit as a result. Also, the author presumes a good deal of prior knowledge about Alexander’s life. Cartledge’s use of sources is judicious and conservative, which makes the book come off as a bare-bones outline.

The writing is light, almost informal. Some of the prose and
There is a lot of information in this book, but so much of it was repeated, I kept thinking I had inadvertently lost my place and was re-reading passages. I also thought there was a lot of needless focus on Alexander's sexuality. In places it was relevant - for example when reading about whether his marriages were strictly politically motivated or not and whether his relationships with certain other men were more than platonic, etc. However, plenty of people are interested in little else, and th ...more
Jesse Broussard
Nov 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: good, non-fiction
I have a request to make. Could all of you "scientifically respectable" authors who decide to, for the sake of being on the cutting edge of whatever you're writing about, just make a statement in the beginning of your book. The statement should be along the lines of "Just to let my readers know, I hate God, and I don't believe in Him, so all dates will be marked as 'Before Common Era' and 'Common Era.' Just so you know." And how is replacing the Latin "anno domini" with the English "common era" ...more
James Nolle
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Alexander the Great by Paul Cartledge was an ok book as far as biographies go. One thing that i did not like was the fact that the author used long difficult to understand words. When i looked the words up i discovered that these complicated words were entirely uneccesary and the synonyms were actually very basic easier to understand words. I did like the great detail the author went into though. He was not biased at all and presented both sides to all the controversial topics of Alexander's lif ...more
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio, ancient-world
Let's call this one 2.5 stars. I think I was hoping for more historical narrative than this book provided. It had the (appearance, at least of) scholarly neutrality (disinterest) that I seem to value in my bios, but too much of it was the post-narrative analysis phase. The author explicitly refrained from speculation--I just wish that his neutrality and focus on what is known and what can reasonably be inferred was done in a more traditional "story-ish" mode. Other reviewers are correct: don't h ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ancient
Very good biography of Alexander the Great. Brings a lot of questions and speculations to the forefront while trying to walk the middle road about the man himself and his character. The author does a good job of maintaining his middle ground, not going into the 'Romantic Perfect Alexander' nor giving into the 'Evil Hitler-esque Alexander'. I would say though this book is not for beginners looking to learn about Alexander, it is written out of chronological order. Some parts are in order, others ...more
Elliott Cross
Oct 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
A good book, although I found it repetitive at times. Also, it didn't delve into Alexander’s ‘psyche’ or motivation for conquest and immortal glory as much as I would have liked. It also seemed a tad ‘rushed’, as if the author needed to get the book finished in time to coincide with the release of Oliver Stone’s movie Alexander. I think it would have benefited tremendously from having each of the chapters (e.g. The Generalship of Alexander or The Divinity of Alexander) written by a different exp ...more
Scott Bezett
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Certainly not a biography on Alexander (for that I would recommend Peter Green's book) but a wonderful study into the worlds most charismatic and enigmatic general and ruler. With frequent cross examination of evidence and fantastic insight from one of Ancient Greece's most well learned scholars this book is an incredible companion to any casual Classicist's exploration on the man, myth and legend that was Alexander of Macedon
Greg Pettit
I didn't finish this book because it wasn't what I was looking for. I was hoping for a basic narrative of Alexander the Great's life and battles. This book, though interesting, seemed to assume a famiarity with the subject matter that I just didn't have. I think the book probably contains some good insights, and it would probably be a good supplementary book. However, for me, it wasn't what I wanted.
I do wish I'd read the other reviews here before starting this. Although I'm sure it's a great work, this is not the book for someone coming new to Alexander and wanting to be informed. It is more 'how we know what we know' than 'what we know'. Since the other Alexander related book on my shelf is the Mary Renault trilogy I guess I will be going down the fictionalized route to learn about this figure.
David Kowalski
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a magnificent survey of Alexander the Conqueror, Man, General, Divinity, Thief, etc... Big Al has been the focus of so many works and this despite the facts that the sources are surprisingly scant and unsurprisingly contradictory. Cartledge always places his view within the context of an analysis of the sources. Wonderful for the armchair historian this book serves as a great starting point for deeper investigation as well as a thorough review of an amazing individual.
May 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a good look at Alexander that touches on a lot of aspects of his life and psyche without re-interpreting his entire history in relation to one thesis. Different historians have told Alexander's story through the prisms of alcoholism, sexuality, or even as a deity. Carledge touches on these topics without being controlled by them.
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The best source of information on the Macedon and his people. Great insight how he shaped the world but also the greek civilization. The author does a great job of describing past events and the reader must determine how they still impact us today.
Oct 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
He needed to say at the beginning only once that there is very little definitive information on Alexander and his time, so this book is based on conjecture. As it is, I read this qualification so many times until I could not take it any more and gave it up.
Mar 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: history nerds
It is pretty basic, but manages to cover all the most important dates and what not. I felt myself wondering why I devoted time to this book, because it does not delve deep enough but pretends like it has. Oh well.
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was an informative book on Alexander. I didn't like the author's style very much, but he was an expert on Alex, that's for sure. I learned a great deal that I never knew and that's what I was going for.
Dec 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I learned a lot but it got tedious towards the end.
Apr 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Repetitive. Academic.
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Paul Anthony Cartledge is the 1st A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University, having previously held a personal chair in Greek History at Cambridge. He was educated at St Paul's School & New College, Oxford where he took his 1st degree & completed his doctoral thesis in Spartan archaeology in 1975 under Prof. Sir John Boardman. After a period at the University of War ...more
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