‘Babylon, mid-June 323 BCE, the gateway of the gods; prostrated in the Summer Palace of Nebuchadrezzar II on the east bank of the Euphrates, wracked by fever and having barely survived another night, King Alexander III, the rule of Macedonia for 12 years and 7 months, had his senior officers congregate at his bedside. Abandoned by Fortune and the healing god Asclepius, he finally acknowledged he was dying. Some 2,340 years on, five barely intact accounts survive to tell a hardly coherent story. At times in close accord, though more often contradictory, they conclude with a melee of death-scene rehashes, all of them suspicious: the first portrayed Alexander dying silent and intestate; he was Homeric and vocal in the second; the third detailed his Last Will and Testament though it is attached to the stuff of romance. Which account do we trust?’
In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great is the result of a ‘decade of contemplations on Alexander’ presented as a rich thematic narrative Grant describes as the ‘backstory behind the history’ of the great Macedonian and his generals. Taking an uncompromising investigative perspective, Grant delves into the challenges faced by Alexander’s unique tale: the forgeries and biased historians, the influences of rhetoric, romance, philosophy and religion on what was written and how. Alexander’s own mercurial personality is vividly dissected and the careers and the wars of his successors are presented with a unique eye. But the book never loses sight of central aim: to unravel the mystery behind Alexander’s ‘unconvincingly reported’ intestate death. And out of Grant’s research emerges one unavoidable verdict: after 2,340 years, the Last Will and Testament of Alexander III of Macedonia needs to be extracted from ‘romance’ and reinstated to its rightful place in mainstream history: Babylon in June 323 BCE.
Although the result a decade of academic research, In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great is written in an entertaining and engaging style that opens the subject to both scholars and the casual reader of history looking to learn more about the Macedonian king and the men who ‘made’ his story. It concludes with a wholly new interpretation of the death of Alexander the Great and the mechanism behind the wars of succession that followed.
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The new examinations of bones from the tombs at Vergina in Greece (ancient Aegae, the ancient Macedonian spiritual capital), including Tomb II which may have housed Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, provide a backdrop to the book. Grant is fortunate to be in touch with Prof. Theodore Antikas on site and new permits for osteoarchaeological examinations and radiocarbon dating of cremains make this a particularly exciting time. Grant intends to add the latest discoveries to his book between now and its publication date.
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The book description states that this is book “entertaining and engaging style that opens the subject to both scholars and the casual reader of history looking to learn more about the Macedonian king.” Not so very much I’d say. While it is very well written, I would not say that this literate and erudite work is for the casual reader of history. It is pretty dense, not as bad as some I’ve read certainly, but also not easily accessible.
The research that went into this book is both exhausting and deep. The author examines the various theories, stories and legends that make up the “history” of Alexander the Great. While he died at only thirty-three years of age, his reputation and history generated hundreds of thousands of pages of “research.” (I put that in quotes because some of the research was not exactly scientific or accurate.) And the cover of the book is absolutely gorgeous.
I want to thank Netgalley and Troubador Publishing Limited/Matador for forwarding to me a copy of this fine work of scholarship to me to read.
by Joyce Fox (NetGalley reviewer)