Alexander the Great is arguably the most prominent military figure in all of ancient history. In his foreword, Krensky notes that he had to deal with both factual sources and legends in reconstructing the life of Alexander: “Distinguishing the facts from the fiction was a difficult task. To do a more subtle sifting would take a finer sieve than I could find.” This is exactly the problem faced by every modern biographer of Alexander, and there have been many. One of them, C. Bradford Welles, once wrote, “There have been many Alexanders. No account of him is altogether wrong.” Krensky’s Alexander is not incorrect, as he steers a safe middle course among the modern commentators and avoids extreme interpretations. He rarely has his facts wrong, although there are a few inaccuracies: He seems to place Darius at the Battle of Granicus, for example, but the emperor was hundreds of miles away and took no part in it.
For Krensky, Alexander is an ambitious man hungry for power and fame who starts his career in a brilliant, calculating manner but is gradually led astray. He falls under the influence of the adulation of the people he conquered and the increasing tendency of his followers to tell him what they thought he wanted to hear, particularly after he had killed some who made him angry by their criticism. Krensky follows ancient writers in showing Alexander adopting Persian dress and enjoying Persians groveling before him, thus alienating Macedonians...
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Conqueror and Hero was commissioned by Little, Brown and Company as part of the literature for the exhibit “The Search for Alexander,” which traveled from Greece to several American cities in the early 1980’s. The exhibit included objects from the tomb at Vergina, Macedonia, that its excavator, Manolis Andronikos, suggested was that of Philip II. The book contains photographs of a number of artifacts that were in the exhibit.
Krensky is the writer of many popular books for young readers, including The Dragon Circle (1977), a book about the magical Wynd family’s involvement with dragons who need help to recover treasure lost in a lake; Maiden Voyage: The Story of the Statue of Liberty (1985); and Big Time Bears (1989), in which the activities of a bear family demonstrate the meaning of such units of time as a second, minute, and week. His selection as author of this book was not because he is a biographer or historian, but because he was qualified to write a book for young adult readers that would stand alongside such scholarly books for adults as Robin Lane Fox’s The Search for Alexander (1980). Teachers who have access to the exhibit catalog, which has the same title, will find its illustrations and commentary helpful as a supplement to Krensky’s book.