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on 3 August 2000
Lane Fox is a brilliant writer, whose superb execution of the English language in this book is a joy to read. One of the most realistic appraisals of Alexander's life and achievements that I have read: he dispels many of the myths surrounding the young Macedonian king that have been perpetuated by later authors - particularly the Romans. Lane Fox attacks the source material with gusto, and clearly demonstrates the bias and economy with the truth perpertrated by some of his original biographers (e.g. Ptolemy). It is fascinating to learn how the rivalries of his Successors and the conceit of Roman writers have obscured much of the truth about Alexander. Still, Lane Fox gives credit where it is due, and for anyone interested in reading about one of the greatest adventures of all time, this one is a brilliant effort.
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on 17 April 2010
Couple of warnings about this book: Written in 1973, albeit with some revisions since, this is still a book where the majority of the text is heading towards being 40 years old. That in itself is not an issue (although some of the sections on homosexuality show a lot more of 70s sentiments than current thinking) as the book is detailed and well written.

And that is the other warning: It is VERY detailed. Don't expect a standardised history of Alexander, this is probably very close to the definitive detailed work and at times it can be hard going, but the expanse of detail makes it worthwhile.

If you are starting out looking for a history of the man, I'd probably point you away from this, but if you have chewed your way through a good many histories and want something more, then this is definately for you.

Well researched hardly describes it, but I do think casual readers will fall out within the first few chapters. Also as someone just about to graduate into their first pair of reading glasses along with their 'everday' specs, it is tightly printed so make sure you have some good specs handy!
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on 15 August 2004
I have not studied Classics and I had never read a biography of Alexander before but I could not put this book down. It was detailed and inspiring and I will be buying copies for friends. It is more than a biography, it is a tale of true adventure, war, bravery and leadership. I felt the author helped me, the reader, live in the times of Alexander. At the same time he reminded me that I was reading a historical chronical that was based on pieces of information that had been passed down or preserved. He distinguished between educated assumptions and facts, so I trusted him as an historian. The adventure and times as depicted in the book are thrilling and I recommend it highly.
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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2006
Oxford historian Robin Lane Fox has written a superb biography of one of history's most mythologised characters.

Fox never patronises his audience with his writing style but neither does he make any assumptions that the reader is pre-armed with a firm grasp of classical history. He clearly explains where he gets his sources from, who he trusts, if there are conflicting accounts and where his judgements lie.

The book relates an epic story and Fox tells it in great detail; normally, the more detail a book provides, the better but in this particular case, the book loses one star in its rating because Fox's sentences can run to great lengths and become rather muddy (I'd give it four and a half if I could). Don't let that put you off buying this book, though, as it animates quite successfully Alexander's life and times, the politics and the geography. This book is especially recommended to those of you who have Oliver Stone's film, Alexander Revisited, to which Robin Lane Fox was an advisor.
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VINE VOICEon 14 November 2003
To start, the good things about this book. It's very detailed. It questions and evaluates historical sources. It doesn't over-romanticise Alexander. Most importantly, it gives the impression of being very reliable, scholarly, and unprejudiced. I would recommend it strongly for these reasons alone - there seem to be lots of books out there which lack any of these desirable qualities.
But be warned.....there are some not so good things.
First, the language in which the book is written is unduly complex - lots of double negatives, very involved sentences, etc. I simply don't think this is good writing: admittedly the events being discussed are complex, but surely even the most complex concept or event can be expressed using simple, accessible, language?
Second, the maps really aren't particulary useful. They are small, dark, and difficult to read. So the geography is rather baffling - unless of course you already have considerable knowledge of the ancient world, or an atlas of it to hand.
Third, for the beginner it's easy to get bogged down in the level of detail. There's little sense of a wood, or even of the outlines of one, just of thousands of trees.
Fourth - so MUCH military history! Endless pages about chariots and spears. I did find these a little dull, though I'm sure that's an unfair criticism - tastes differ. And of course you could argue that an account of the world's greatest military leader would necessitate a certain amount of military history.
Overall, I found this book difficult to finish - although having done so, I know a lot more about Alexander and his world than I did before. And I'm tempted to re-read it. I imagine that it's a very rewarding book for someone who already has an overview of the subject - but perhaps it's not the best introduction to it.
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on 14 April 2008
This is "the" book for those wishing to get to grips with every detail. But I have to echo the drawbacks from previous reviewers: detailed, complex English in places, and very poor maps by today's standars: even the new 2004 edition is a essentailly a reprint from the 1970's.
Beginners would be far better off with Michael Wood's "In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great"; then read the original ancient sources; then this.
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on 26 May 2009
I have tried to read a few biographies of Alexander the Great. Unfortunately I was never able to get very far. Having read this book I now understand why that was... Alexander became so mythological in proportion, and the swirling, contrasting evidence makes serious understanding almost impossible. Or so it should be without the absolutely splendid scholarship of Robin Lane Fox.
He doesn't baulk at the challenges for a second. Instead he is quite open in saying "look, we just can't be sure of this!" and then goes on to expound his own point of view, firmly based on evidence, so that the ultimate picture is balanced, challenging and utterly thrilling!
Without doubt Alexander changed the face of the world. This book dares to question who the 'man behind the myth' actually was, and I fell in love with him over and over as I recognized what Robin Lane Fox repeatedly makes clear; his humanity. Highly recommended, if a bit difficult to get through at first.
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This is a big book in volume as well as content being over 500 pages long but Oxford historian Robin Lane Fox has contrived to make it interesting for the reader from beginning to end. Many facts have been written about Alexander over the years, some true, some doubtful and much that is pure speculation. This in turn has given Alexander a mythical quality, bordering on god like proportions.

The author's writing style is both concise and lucid with no pretensions to the fact that he is the master and the reader by his very nature is the pupil. In a nutshell the author writes for everyone not just the scholar. This book is for anyone with an interest in the life and times of Alexander. The author progresses through the life of Alexander putting a little more meat on the bones with every passing phase of Alexander's relatively short life.

This is a book for everyone. For those who have found it difficult, or even impossible in the past to read and I mean read a history book from start to finish, rather than just go cherry picking facts from the numerous pages, then this is a good book to get your teeth into. It can be read almost like a novel, but is far more interesting than any fictional book.
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on 2 October 2014
It a long book and the writing style (some sentences that are a paragraph long that you have to re-read to understand) doesn't make it an easy read. But you do get engrossed in the detail and feel like you are following AtG in his conquests. You marvel at what he achieved at such a young age and in such a short period of time. The author explains well the extent to which AtG's history has to be built from inferences and speculation rather than hard evidence. He portrays him as a ruthless but heroic; he could quite easily have shown him to be a blood thirsty thug rampaging through those ancient lands with his militarised band of pirates. I found the book hard-going but enjoyable.
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on 2 August 2014
Accessible and highly informative with plenty of detail throughout - an immense task undertaken superbly. A very suitable next step on from the novels by Manfredi and Renault, as this gives a closer and much more studied insight into Alexander.
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