Makers of History: Alexander the Great
by Jacob Abbott
Published in 1849
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Alexander the Great is a history textbook from the 19th century about the life of the great conquerer. Although the book was originally written for children ages 8 - 12, it reads like a modern book for adult, re-enforcing my suspicions that human intelligence has decreased due to the advent of sanitation.
This is a great book because it is short, easy to read, and covers many details of Alexander’s life. It is very systematic, and does a great job at explaining the history of Alexander’s conquests.
The story that I found the most interesting was the tale of Alexander’s treasonous doctor. At some point in his journeys, he came down with a serious fever and the chills. While Alexander’s doctor was preparing to brew a medicine, a messenger came to visit Alexander. The messenger presented him with a letter declaring that the doctor had been bribed by the Persians and was planning to poison Alexander. Alexander hid the letter under his pillow and told no-one. When the doctor came, and handed Alexander his medicine, he handed the doctor the letter and told him to read it. He then observed the doctor’s face, and after seeing the doctors reaction, drank the medicine. Sure enough, Alexander had been misinformed.
The fact that surprised me the most was how merciful Alexander the Great was. He wouldn’t massacre civilians, pillage cities, or rape enemy women. Upon capturing the wife and children of his arch-nemesis, Darius, King of the Persians, he allowed them to live a life of relative comfort. This explains why Alexander was able to achieve so much. This book has made me much more sympathetic to Alexander the Great.
I also found it very interesting that power had a highly corruptive effect on Alexander - as he gained more territory and grew his empire, his
My main concern about the book is that it was written a very long time ago, and long before the advent of modern archeology and historiography. I am concerned about its historical accuracy, and also didn’t like the fact that no sources are cited. For this reason, I cannot recommend this book as a primary learning material for modern readers.
I know that several details mentioned in the book have since been challenged by modern forensic historians.
I recommend this book for skeptical readers who want to learn more about the narrative of Alexander the Great’s conquests, but would like to warn readers to fact check the details for historical accuracy.
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