Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman

I finished reading Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman in early September. Reading Cleopatra in June, I was surprised to learn that Egypt was ruled by a Greek upper class that was descended from one of Alexander the Great's general. Combined with several other references to Alexander the Great in the story of Cleopatra, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.

I have four general observations. First, I didn't realize that Alexander the Great was Macedonian. I tend to associate Greeks with Athens and Sparta. Macedonia is in northern Greece. In the twentieth century, some of ancient Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia. With the break-up of Yugoslavia, there is actually a separate country of Macedonia.

Second, while I knew that he covered a lot of ground, it is amazing to follow his travels on map. He traversed a wide swath of land from Greece to Egypt to the Republic of Tajikistan to India.

Third, Alexander was smart. Tutored as a boy by Aristotle, Alexander had an inquisitive mind and was extremely well read. This served him well when he faced formidable obstacles during his military campaigns.

Lastly, the wanton disregard for life is unnerving. Alexander and his army would burn towns to the ground and kill every man, woman and child. It is hard to imagine the life of a soldier that spent almost 13 years fighting his way across Asia.

I enjoyed the book a great deal and would recommend it. Written by a professor, it has a much different voice than the Cleopatra book.

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