Philip Freeman (Alexander the Great, New York 2011, Simon & Schuster, pp. 391) follows Alexander from Macedonia to the unification of all Greek territories, the conquest of the anti-hellenic Persian Empire and the establishment of Greek civilization as far east as the mountains of the present-day Pakistan and the plains of India, and as far south as the deserts of Egypt.

Freeman’s book does not offer an interpretation of Alexander’s life – it is not a philosophy of history, rather (it wishes to be) a work of literature, a story, that would transfer us to the times of Alexander. However, this can not be an excuse for superficial remarks, e.g. that “the macedonian tongue … may as well have been a different language entirely [than the Greek of Athens or Sparta]” (p. 5).

As everyone interested knows, and as Freeman ought to know even better, the very name of Macedonia is Greek (see Homer’s Odyssey η 106: οἷά τε φύλλα μακεδνῆς αἰγείροιο), and none of our sources speaks about translators when Macedonians came in contact with other Greeks, e.g. when Aristotle became the teacher of Alexander, or when Euripides wrote in Greek and presented in Macedonia his Bacchae.

The name of their country was Greek, their personal names were Greek, their traditions were Greek (Alexander’s family recognized its roots as going back to Hercules, Freeman himself writes), they spread Greek language and culture to the East…, any serious scholar can not speak about Macedonians but only as a particular type of Greeks.

The general impression this book gave me is that of an “easy reading”, sometimes pleasant, often tending to become annoying, when the author speaks about all of this history as from an elevated-to-the-clouds position, strong above all in an atmosphere of being smart, enjoying cynicism / ‘realism’ and making a joke of everything…

However, you don’t need to trust my remarks, you will be able to infer by yourself safely what you can expect from that book, by reading the end. The author understands in Alexander just “the absolute embodiment of pure human ambition” (p. 330)…

Empedocles was saying that “whoever wants to find a wise man, needs first to be himself wise”.

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