Thursday, May 22, 2008

Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia by John Prevas

Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia by John Prevas is a colorful popular history of the Greek conqueror. What becomes quickly apparent is that Prevas really doesn't care much for Alexander. He considers him to be a megalomaniac. Unfortunately the book contains many of the faults of popular history.

The narrative starts with the Greek seizure of the Persian capital. Prevas says that this was the beginning of the madness that took hold of Alexander. With the seizure the war of revenge against Persia had been successful and it would be possible to break up Alexander's army. He didn't do this because he wanted to take control of the rest of Persia and kill the king. That would give him the authority to rule. Even after this was accomplished Alexander wanted to expand his empire through modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. This led to a series of disastrous campaigns for the locals. Only after the mutiny of his army did he turn back.

Much is made of the relationship between Alexander and his Macedonian contemporaries. The tension between Alexander's desire to be treated like an Eastern potentate and God with the traditional ideas of Macedonian leadership and law. The various assassination attempts and reprisals are described in gory detail.

There are some quasi-fictional sections to the narrative that I don't think are supported in any existing source. There's description of palaces and cities which sound like they've been polled right out of a novel. The most colorful stories of Alexander's cruelty and other failings have been trotted out without many provisos about the sources they are drawn from. Not much here from a military history perspective if you are looking for that. Some of the references to current conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan were mildly interesting but were nothing new at least to me.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

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