Alexander is the most completely and complexly drawn of Fire from Heaven’s characters. Not only is he the central figure but also he is seen from boyhood on; the others, except for brief glimpses of Hephaistion, are adults whose characters have been formed. With Alexander, Renault carefully builds detail upon detail, foreshadowing in the episodes of childhood the leader to come. Each of the other characters is shown in relation to Alexander; from each, a facet of his character is reflected and developed.
Established at the outset are Alexander’s fearlessness, resourcefulness, intellectual acuity, kinship with Achilles, and worship of Hercules. Most important, Alexander, while reverencing the gods and aware of his descent from heroes, possibly even from a god (Achilles was half god), nevertheless always has a practical interpretation of events and portents as well. His inquiring mind and his moderation save him from the excesses of his parents. As he grows older, he becomes more sympathetic to Philip, but the latter’s excesses stand in the way of their ever developing a genuinely close relationship. Olympias is uncontrolled in her religious passions; as a priestess of the cult of Dionysius, her excesses are physical as well. Alexander grows to distrust her, particularly her practice of black magic. Philip, while hostile to her barbarous superstitions, has his own barbarisms: his lust and his ill temper. Alexander’s moderation is in some...
(The entire section is 508 words.)