Thursday, February 10, 2011

Philip Freeman's "Alexander the Great"

Philip Freeman is Qualley Professor of Classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and a former professor of classics at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned the first joint Ph.D. in classics and Celtic studies from Harvard University, and has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School, the American Academy in Rome, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. His books include St. Patrick of Ireland and Julius Caesar.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Alexander the Great, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Alexander the Great, Alexander has just led the Macedonian army through the snows of Asia Minor to a camp on the southern coast of modern Turkey. He had defeated the Persian army along the Aegean and was now doing the unthinkable by conducting a winter campaign in the mountains. This flouting of the rules of war was typical of Alexander and would be a hallmark of his march across Asia and Africa over the next twelve years. His audacity would lead him to defeat armies twice his size and take on challenges impossible for others.

This page also introduces one of the first political intrigues against the king. He receives a warning from his oldest general Parmenion saying that one of his officers, another man named Alexander from the province of Lyncestis, was going to betray the king. The problem was that Alexander the ruler didn’t really trust Parmenion since he represented the old guard of the Macedonian nobility who had never really liked him and because he was a likely candidate for the throne himself. Was Parmenion trying to stir up mistrust among the king’s men to his own advantage or was Alexander of Lyncestis a genuine threat? As bold as Alexander was in war, he was cautious in politics. Most kings would have executed a potential threat, but Alexander told Parmenion to do nothing except keep an eye on the man. He would deal with both of them later.

In my biography of Alexander, I try to present him in all his complexity as a brilliant military leader and flawed character with a relentless drive to rule the world. At the start of his reign in his early 20’s, he controlled most of the Balkans. By the end, he reigned all the way to the Indus River. The legacy he left behind is still with us today.
Learn more about the book and author at Philip Freeman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue