Friday, August 13, 2004

Steven Pressfield Tackles Alexander the Great

As someone who practically fell in love with Alexander the Great after reading Mary Renault's trilogy and her biography of him, I was excited to see that Steven Pressfield's new book will be about Alexander. His viewpoint of Alexander is, perhaps, a bit more realistic but at least not the severly brutal image put forward by Paul Cartledge in his recent treatise.

Steven Pressfield - Official Website: "Within the era that Alexander lived, undying glory meant military conquest. For Alexander, that meant the demonstrating of innate preeminence, like a lion or an eagle, by challenging and overcoming every other champion on the field. But it wasn't enough for him, in my view, just to conquer, just to roll over his enemies by superior might or generalship. His conception of virtue was heroic. Alexander sought great and glorious struggles against great and glorious foes. That's how I see Alexander's intention.

Now, beyond that, beyond Alexander's aims or ambitions, real-world reality enters. Now it gets interesting. Because a conquering warrior, however heroic his aspirations, must confront the grimy reality of success, of conquest, of rule; the reality of motivating an army; of keeping an enterprise going once you've started it; of altering it as necessity causes it to evolve; of maintaining a vision for it; of containing the jealousies and hatreds of enemies and friends. A dream achieved is never what it was when it was only a dream.

And a conqueror on the scale of Alexander must confront even more primal questions: What is the point of victory? Of endless expansion? What status can the conquered peoples claim? What is my obligation to them? What are the ends of war? When does heroic virtue become plain slaughter and madness? "
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