Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Alexander the Great by Jacob Abbott


In most history books, Alexander the Great is portrayed as the invincible conqueror who died when he was at his prime. Those same books however do not show readers the bigger picture. They don't tell us about Alexander's childhood, his motivations in his campaigns, and the kind of people he was surrounded with. The books only highlight his successful battles but the not the person behind one of the largest empires ever created. In Alexander the Great, Jacob Abbott not only tells the story of how a talented heir to the Macedonian throne became the hegemon of the Hellenic league and lord of Asia but of his character as a leader, a benefactor, and a merciless foe.

Abbott provides a background of Alexander's immediate family and the political climate in which he grew up.  Other books only highlight the fact that he was one of Aristotle's pupils but there were more people who influenced his ideas and motivations. His campaigns in Greece and against the Persian Empire and its environs are told in colorful, narrative detail. Abbott not only recounted Alexander's victories but also examined the conqueror's character, his behavior towards his allies and foes, and the changes in his attitude at every campaign.

I must caution the reader however with some inconsistencies. At the beginning of the book, Abbott mentioned the Romans when describing the Greeks. Also, a detailed narrative of the invasion of a part of India was not included. Keep in mind that there might be information here that was not verified or there might be gaps that were filled in by the author to make a coherent, flowing narration of events. The author also included his opinions on Alexander's character and therefore I don't recommend this book as a basis for facts about Alexander's life.

Despite the inconsistencies, the author tried to keep the story cohesive as much as possible and he did a good job narrating and describing the battles.

Rating: 7 out of 10