Before and After Alexander: The Legend and Legacy of Alexander the Great

Richard A. Billows. Overlook, $32.50 (272) ISBN 978-1-59020-740-6
Columbia University history professor Billows (Marathon: How One Battle Changed Western Civilization) provides a thorough analysis of the legacy of history’s most famous conqueror. According to Billows, Alexander the Great was more of an accident of history than a maker of it, and so he focuses on the transformative eras before and after Alexander’s 13-year reign—Alexander first appears at the book’s halfway point and is gone after a single chapter. Billows argues that Alexander was only able to conquer the lands between Greece and India on the strength of Macedonia’s established military might. It was under the 24-year rule of Alexander’s father, Philip II, that Macedonia became an economic and military power among the Greek city-states; in particular, he introduced and perfected the Macedonian phalanx military formation, which was used to its greatest effect in the wars of Alexander. After a period of civil wars, Alexander’s successors established the Antigonid, Seleucid, and Ptolemaic empires, all of which endured into the Middle Ages and spread Hellenistic culture, the Greek language, and libraries across Europe and Asia. The author meticulously defends his provocative thesis about Alexander’s role with in-depth historical analysis and an array of citations and quotes from primary sources, making this a clear, enlightening exploration of one of the most influential periods of human history. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2018
Release date: 06/12/2018
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