Alexander the Great, by Norman Cantor

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Pretty disappointing account of Alexander the Great — I was really interested in reading this book — it’s part of the Eminent Lives series, which also put out a book about Ulysses S Grant that I liked a fair bit. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s about an era of history that’s not super-well documented or just because the author didn’t do a good job, but I found this book disjointed and not very well-written. Alexander, of course, was an interesting guy. Just not interesting enough to carry a mediocre biography.

2 Replies to “Alexander the Great, by Norman Cantor”

  1. W. W. TARN: Alexander the Great and theUnity of Mankind. (From the Proceedingsof the British Academy, vol. XIX.) Pp. 46.London : Milford, 1933. Paper, 2s. 6d. IN this thoughttul and thought-compelling paper Dr. Tarn presents Alexander in a somewhat unfamiliar light as the first propounder of the gospel of universal goodwill among mankind. The main lines of his argument are that ( I ) Alexander visualized nothing less than this ; (2) among earlier Greek thinkers 6p6uoiawas usually meant to begin and end at home ;(3) the Stoic 6p6vora was in the first instance borrowed from Alexander, and then reduced from a vital force to an inert gas by equation with the pre-existent cosmic harmony. The crux of this theory may be sought in Eratosthenes’account of Alexander’s philosophy(quoted by Strabo, 1. 66). Here Alexander’s 6pbvora is confined to the select class of cd85~ipoi&v8per. But the context suggests that (unlikethe Stoics) Alexander reckoned the sheep as far more numerous than the goats. Dr. Tarn admits that the germs of Alexander’s idea might be found in earlier Greek thought. It may be worth recalling that Alcidamas reckoned all men as @v’ucr ihehBrpor, and that Isocrates sold the pass of Greek privilege when he defined Hellenism as a matter of culture,not of race. But, as Dr. Tarn aptly insists, Alexander’s o,u^voza connoted more than absence of racial privilege, and the king reckoned it his duty not merely to recognize fraternity which others had brought about, but himself to sow its seeds on every soil (except the stoniest). Dr. Tarn’s paper confirms the view which he has put forth elsewhere-a view also expressed in Wilcken’s great work on Alexander-that the Macedonian king was not only one of theancient world’s great practitioners, but one of its great visionaries. ,V.CARY.C’niversity of London.

  2. W. W. TARN: Alexander the Great and theUnity of Mankind. (From the Proceedingsof the British Academy, vol. XIX.) Pp. 46.London : Milford, 1933. Paper, 2s. 6d. IN this thoughttul and thought-compelling paper Dr. Tarn presents Alexander in a somewhat unfamiliar light as the first propounder of the gospel of universal goodwill among mankind. The main lines of his argument are that ( I ) Alexander visualized nothing less than this ; (2) among earlier Greek thinkers 6p6uoiawas usually meant to begin and end at home ;(3) the Stoic 6p6vora was in the first instance borrowed from Alexander, and then reduced from a vital force to an inert gas by equation with the pre-existent cosmic harmony. The crux of this theory may be sought in Eratosthenes’account of Alexander’s philosophy(quoted by Strabo, 1. 66). Here Alexander’s 6pbvora is confined to the select class of cd85~ipoi&v8per. But the context suggests that (unlikethe Stoics) Alexander reckoned the sheep as far more numerous than the goats. Dr. Tarn admits that the germs of Alexander’s idea might be found in earlier Greek thought. It may be worth recalling that Alcidamas reckoned all men as @v’ucr ihehBrpor, and that Isocrates sold the pass of Greek privilege when he defined Hellenism as a matter of culture,not of race. But, as Dr. Tarn aptly insists, Alexander’s o,u^voza connoted more than absence of racial privilege, and the king reckoned it his duty not merely to recognize fraternity which others had brought about, but himself to sow its seeds on every soil (except the stoniest). Dr. Tarn’s paper confirms the view which he has put forth elsewhere-a view also expressed in Wilcken’s great work on Alexander-that the Macedonian king was not only one of theancient world’s great practitioners, but one of its great visionaries. ,V.CARY.C’niversity of London.

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