Alexander the Great: Journey to the End of the Earth
Norman F. Cantor. HarperCollins Publishers, $21.95 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-06-057012-5
The last work of the late historian Cantor (In the Wake of the Plague) is a flat and uninspiring study of a leader of gigantic proportions and unparalleled courage. Drawing heavily on previous modern biographies, as well as on biographical sketches from Plutarch, Arrian and other ancient writers, Cantor recreates Alexander's world, his military campaigns and his family life. Cantor mechanically traces Alexander's military exploits through Persia, Jerusalem and India, where he often freed the people of one region from a tyrant and then enslaved them himself. In tantalizing brevity, Cantor provides a picture of the bloody civil wars, the superstition and fears, and the environment of honor and shame in which the young prince grew up. Alexander's reputation as a chivalrous leader developed much later, Cantor says, both in the Alexandrine romances of the first century and in Christian legend and lore of the Middle Ages. The author clearly demonstrates that Alexander's greatness derives primarily from his abilities as a field commander rather than from his abilities as a political leader. Regrettably, Cantor offers no startling information that would help distinguish his short biography from the more complete and detailed works of Robin Lane Fox, Peter Green or Michael Wood. Map.
Reviewed on: 11/28/2005