Conqueror and Hero Critical Essays

Stephen Krensky


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

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...

(The entire section is 511 words.)