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Literature

The Latest Alexander the Great Biography

November 18, 2019

Alexander the Great: His Life and His Mysterious Death by Anthony Everitt explores what we can learn from the impressive rise and mysterious death of the ancient world’s greatest conqueror. The acclaimed biographer reconstructs the life of Alexander the Great in this revisionist portrait which attempts to understand Alexander rather than judge him.

According to the book’s description, more than two millennia have passed since Alexander the Great built an empire that stretched to every corner of the ancient world, from the backwater kingdom of Macedonia to the Hellenic world, Persia, and ultimately to India— all before his untimely death at age thirty-three. Alexander believed that his empire would stop only when he reached the Pacific Ocean. But stories of both real and legendary events from his life have kept him evergreen in our imaginations with a legacy that has meant something different to every era: in the Middle Ages he became an exemplar of knightly chivalry, he was a star of Renaissance paintings, and by the early twentieth century he had even come to resemble an English gentleman. But who was he in his own time?

In the book, Anthony Everitt judges Alexander’s life against the criteria of his own age and considers all his contradictions. We meet the Macedonian prince who was naturally inquisitive and fascinated by science and exploration, as well as the man who enjoyed the arts and used Homer’s great epic the Iliad as a bible. As his empire grew, Alexander exhibited respect for the traditions of his new subjects and careful judgment in administering rule over his vast territory. But his career also had a dark side. An inveterate conqueror who in his short life built the largest empire up to that point in history, Alexander glorified war and was known to commit acts of remarkable cruelty.

As debate continues about the meaning of his life, Alexander’s death remains a mystery. Did he die of natural causes, a fever, or did his marshals, angered by his tyrannical behavior, kill him? An explanation of his death can lie only in what we know of his life, and Everitt ventures to solve that puzzle, offering a solution to Alexander’s story.

Everitt, a former visiting professor in the visual and performing arts at Nottingham Trent University, has written extensively on European culture. He is the author of Cicero, Augustus, Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome, The Rise of Rome, and The Rise of Athens. He has also served as secretary general of the Arts Council of Great Britain. As noted in his biography, Everitt lives near Colchester, England’s first recorded town, founded by the Romans.

“Reads as easily as a novel… Nearly unparalleled insight into the period and the man make this a story for everyone,” Kirkus Reviews reported.

Publishers Weekly said of the book, “Ancient history expert Everitt attacks the young Macedonian king’s astonishing conquests on three continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe—with relish… This detailed account of the intriguing ancient military genius will fascinate military history readers eager to learn more about Alexander’s motivation and the lifelong fearlessness that propelled him to near-mythic status.”

Alexander the Great: His Life and His Mysterious Death by Anthony Everitt is available in bookstores and online.

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