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The Age of Alexander Hardcover – 1990
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Top Customer Reviews
Penguin, you have tarted up all your other books with new covers, and you have jacked up the prices accordingly, so when you get around to Alexander, who, after all, is the selling point of this eponymous tome, please include an index so that the book will become useful as well as entertaining.
The most interesting work included in this volume is the Life of Dion, a Syracusan disciple of the philosopher Plato. While Plutarch sympathizes with Dion, it's nevertheless obvious that Dion's regime in Syracuse was oligarchic and anti-democratic. To some extent, it was a military regime based on support from foreign mercenaries. Indeed, Dion even fought a civil war of sorts against the local democrats. Plato's friendship with Dion shows that Plato was no democrat (in case anybody doubted this). That Plato educated Dion and attempted to educate the future tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius the Younger, clearly shows the aristocratic and oligarchic leanings of this most famous of Western philosophers. Plato may have wrestled with real problems in his political dialogues, but he eventually solved them in all the wrong directions! I found it fascinating to read about Dion's exploits, precisely because this man was the only associate of Plato to take political power and hence the closest thing the Platonists ever came to a "philosopher-king" in real life. It's not a very pretty story.
The rest of the book is, of course, equally interesting.
This relentless fighting was a disaster for Greece and its population: `Alas, for Greece, how many brave men have you killed with your own hands.'
After all those suicidal wars, at the end of the book, Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, is confronted with a new and formidable imperial power, Rome.
This book contains some astonishing historical corrections. E.g., not all Spartans were killing machines: `those who had shown cowardice in the battle ... had become so numerous that it was feared they might stir up a revolution.' (!)
It shows us Plutarch as a severe critic of the few (`kings set an example of bad faith and treachery ... and believe that the man who shows the least regard for justice will always reap the greatest advantage'), on the side of the many (` (`it s wrong both in human and political terms to try to raise the standard in one section of society by demoralizing another') and as a `dove' (`expansion is superfluous to the well-being of a city').
All in all, it was a period of extreme barbarism. `Dynasties are full of men who murdered their sons, their mothers and their wives, while the murder of brothers had come to be regarded as a recognized precaution to be taken by all rulers to ensure their safety.'
The mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias, took revenge on another widow of his father by roasting her and her infant son.
This book is a must read for all those interested in the history of mankind.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great price just had a message inside which could have been removedPublished 11 months ago by Thomas White
This is a good standard reference for historical figures in the fourth c. BC. His references to Olympias are a bit subjective, I think.Published on 3 Jun. 2013 by Margarita Roussou