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Alexander the Great: A Life in Legendby Richard Stoneman
"There is nothing like an early death for creating legends, and Richard Stoneman gives a great many of them learned but lively treatment in his new book." Jasper Griffin, The New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
Synopses & Reviews
Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) precipitated immense historical change in the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. But the resonance his legend achieved over the next two millennia stretched even fartherand#8212;across foreign cultures, religious traditions, and distant nations.
This engaging and handsomely illustrated book for the first time gathers together hundreds of the colorful Alexander legends that have been told and retold around the globe. Richard Stoneman, a foremost expert on the Alexander myths, introduces us first to the historical Alexander and then to the Alexander of legend, an unparalleled mythic icon who came to represent the heroic ideal in cultures from Egypt to Iceland, from Britain to Malaya.
Alexander came to embody the concerns of Hellenistic man; he fueled Roman ideas on tyranny and kingship; he was a talisman for fourth-century pagans and a hero of chivalry in the early Middle Ages. He appears in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic writings, frequently as a prophet of God. Whether battling winged foxes or meeting with the Amazons, descending to the underworld or inventing the worldand#8217;s first diving bell, Alexander inspired as a hero, even a god. Stoneman traces Alexanderand#8217;s influence in ancient literature and folklore and in later literatures of east and west. His book provides the definitive account of the legends of Alexander the Greatand#8212;a powerful leader in life and an even more powerful figure in the history of literature and ideas.
This engaging book is the first to gather together the hundreds of colorful legends told in cultures across the globe about Alexander the Great, conqueror of the ancient world. Richard Stoneman shows how the mythical exploits of Alexander have resonated for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and in eastern and western cultures, for more than 2000 years.
The first full-scale account of a Persian king vilified by history
Xerxes, Great King of the Persian Empire from 486andndash;465 B.C., has gone down in history as an angry tyrant full of insane ambition. The stand of Leonidas and the 300 against his army at Thermopylae is a byword for courage, while the failure of Xerxesandrsquo; expedition has overshadowed all the other achievements of his twenty-two-year reign.
In this lively and comprehensive new biography, Richard Stoneman shows how Xerxes, despite sympathetic treatment by the contemporary Greek writers Aeschylus and Herodotus, had his reputation destroyed by later Greek writers and by the propaganda of Alexander the Great. Stoneman draws on the latest research in Achaemenid studies and archaeology to present the ruler from the Persian perspective. This illuminating volume does not whitewash Xerxesandrsquo; failings but sets against them such triumphs as the architectural splendor of Persepolis and a consideration of Xerxesandrsquo; religious commitments. What emerges is a nuanced portrait of a man who ruled a vast and multicultural empire which the Greek communities of the West saw as the antithesis of their own values.
About the Author
Richard Stoneman is Honorary Fellow of the University of Exeter and widely acknowledged as the foremost expert globally on the myths of Alexander.
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