cover image Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors

Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors

Adrian Goldsworthy. Basic, $35 (624p) ISBN 978-1-5416-4669-8

Historian Goldsworthy (Cannae: Hannibal’s Greatest Victory) examines the lives of Philip II of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great, in this impressive dual biography. Stressing that “without Philip there could have been no Alexander,” Goldsworthy details how Philip transformed the military by instituting the infantry formation known as the “Macedonian phalanx” and how he consolidated power against Greece’s more established city-states. When Alexander took the throne after Philip’s assassination in 336 BCE, the 20-year-old military prodigy embarked on a decadelong campaign that took the Macedonian army and empire as far east as present-day Pakistan. Along the way, Alexander sacked Thebes, became the Pharaoh in Egypt, conquered the Persian Empire, and crossed the Gedrosian desert in a dangerous trek that nearly broke his army. He turned back toward Greece at the height of his successes, but succumbed to disease—or poison—weeks before turning 33. Without an heir, his vast empire splintered in wars waged by his would-be successors. Goldsworthy expertly mines ancient sources to parse fact from legend, but admits that both Philip and Alexander remain elusive figures, better known for their battlefield accomplishments than for their personalities, about which less is known. Still, this is a fascinating and richly detailed look at two men who “changed the course of history.”(Oct.)