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Alexander the Great, a Battle for Truth and Fiction (ePub)

The Ancient Sources And Why They Can't Be Trusted

Ancient History Alexander the Great Military

By David Grant
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 641.9 KB (.epub)
Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781399094726
eBook Released: 3rd May 2022

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Most of what we ‘know’ about Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) comes from the pages of much later historians, writing 300 years or more after these events. But these Roman-era writers drew on the accounts of earlier authors who were contemporary with Alexander, some of whom took part in the momentous events they described. David Grant examines the fragments of these earlier eyewitness testimonies which are preserved as undercurrents in the later works. He traces their influence and monopoly of the ‘truth’ and spotlights their manipulation of events to reveal how the Wars of the Successors shaped the agendas of these writers. It becomes clear that Alexander’s courtiers were no-less ambitious than than their king and wanted to showcase their role in the epic conquest of the Persian Empire to enhance their credibility and legitimacy in their own quests for power. In particular, Grant reveals why reports of the dying king’s last wishes conflict, and he explains why testimony relegated to ‘romance’ may house credible grains of truth. The author also skillfully explains how manuscripts became further corrupted in their journey from the ancient world to the modern day. In summary, this work by a recognised expert on the period highlights why legacy of Alexander is built on very shaky foundations.

This work analyzes the sources of information for the life and deeds of Alexander the Great. Grant looks at the bias of the writers as well as the agenda of the writers. The problems with the sources go back to the very beginning starting with the historian Alexander appointed to his Generals that wrote about him and their own great deeds years later. False news and propaganda are nothing new.

The work is extensively researched and written in a straightforward way that pretty much anyone can follow.

NetGalley, Juliane Silver

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Alexander the Great, a Battle for Truth and Fiction is a layman accessible and interesting monograph on the analysis and evaluation of historical sources, specifically sources detailing the history surrounding Alexander the Great written by David Grant. Due out 30th April 2022 from Pen & Sword, it's 336 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

Alexander the Great and his generals and ancient Macedonian history are perennially popular subjects and always fascinating to revisit. Recent political and media "truthfulness" should have left every one of us more jaded and cynical about their objectivity. How much more so are accounts of ancient history, sometimes written centuries after the fact by people who had a distinct desire to present a biased view (unconsciously or with conscious inclination)?

The author, who is a specialist in the subject, takes on the task of evaluating sources and attempts to tease the actual facts out of the historical hyperbole. The book is arranged thematically and the chapters include a pretty good general resource evaluation which will be of use to any students of history, as well as specific instances of historical sources on Alexander the Great and using sources to evaluate and interpret their objectivity by comparison and contrast.

It could have been an impenetrable dry-as-dust bore-fest but the reality was that it's anything but. I honestly began reading without unusually high hopes (I'm a keen reader of ancient Greek & Roman history, but by no means an expert). I was genuinely surprised at the accessibility and readability here. The book is extensively and meticulously annotated, but it was never boring. As a relative neophyte with the period, it was an information rich deep-dive into the histories of the surrounding characters. The chapters which contained glimpses of his familial and conjugal alliances were particularly illuminating, showing how polarized many of the sources were.

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for readers of history as well as for public or school library acquisition. The chapter notes and bibliography alone are worth the price of admission although it's not lavishly illustrated at all, and most readers will want to keep a period atlas at hand to look up places and events.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

About David Grant

David Grant has a masters degree in ancient history. He is responsible for a number of international patents stemming from ideas that set out to challenge the status quo in one way or another, life experience which gave him his academic tenets: always challenge accepted norms, the past is never dead, and believe what you read at your peril. His research sets out to question and contest the 'standard model' of the history of the great Macedonian king. He is the author of Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great and The Last Will and Testament of Alexander the Great. 

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