• Alexander the Great

  • The Hunt for a New Past
  • By: Paul Cartledge
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 9 hrs and 28 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (402 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Paul Cartledge, one of the world's foremost scholars of ancient Greece, illuminates the brief but iconic life of Alexander (356-323 B.C.), king of Macedon, conqueror of the Persian Empire, and founder of a new world order. Alexander's legacy has had a major impact on military tacticians, scholars, statesmen, adventurers, authors, and filmmakers.

Cartledge brilliantly evokes Alexander's remarkable political and military accomplishments, cutting through the myths to show why he was such a great leader. He explores our endless fascination with Alexander and gives us insight into his charismatic leadership, his capacity for brutality, and his sophisticated grasp of international politics.

Alexander the Great is an engaging portrait of a fascinating man and a welcome balance to the myths, legends, and skewed history that have obscured the real Alexander.

©2004 Paul Cartledge (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"May be the most accessible introduction in print....An amazingly solid, balanced, and evocative view of the man." ( Washington Post Book World)
"Readable and engrossing....Immediate, discursive, insightful, and highly engaging." ( Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
"With his usual riveting storytelling, Cartledge...narrates Alexander's life and rise to power. Cartledge's knack for bringing history to life makes for an absorbing new biography of the legendary Greek leader." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Alexander the Great

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
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    2 out of 5 stars

NOT a Chronology of Alexander’s Life

For those looking for a chronological retelling of Alexander’s deeds - look elsewhere. This book, while interesting, reads like a collection of scholarly essays on Alexander’s life and spends most of its pages analyzing the meaning or veracity of Alexander’s supposed deeds. The author assumes that the reader already has a detailed knowledge of Alexander’s story. The order of the topics covered in the book does not follow any clear pattern. The author jumps back and forth to different points in time to illustrate his arguments but does a poor job of tying the themes together. This makes the information feel repetitive at times and also random. Overall, it was difficult to keep up with the Author’s themes.

If you have read a number of other books on Alexander, you may find this book interesting and nuanced but I strongly recommend that those new to Alexander consult other books before turning to this one.

8 people found this helpful

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A disappointment overall...

The writing is very good and the performance is good listening. But the premise of this biography is that the author will argue a new way of reading the story of Alexander. This premise founders due to the lack of new sources —an obvious prerequisite for such a grandiose endeavor—and ultimately fails due to author’s lack of intellectual nuance. The decisions to agree or disagree with the extant sources is subjectively capricious; the author is pontificating without a convincing grasp of the material. It’s frustrating because this is one of the great histories of all time and the author simply muddies it with himself. As if his unschooled opinions and prejudices ought to be part of the Alexander story. I also find his use of “oriental” offensive in light of his obliviousness about that racist trope; he’s a Greek partisan and that is a big part of the problem.
This book is full of interesting information and it suffers from an author’s grandiosely outsized image of his own powers. It’s so tedious I wish I could upbraid him to his face.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting World History.

What did you love best about Alexander the Great?

It helped connect world events to specific cities an areas that I hadn't realized before.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Alexander himself.

Have you listened to any of John Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Ruthlessly powerful.

3 people found this helpful

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Who was the real Alexander?

Throughout history, people have written of Alexander and his achievements. The accuracy of these accounts is what is in question. Even the accounts written by contemporaries of the man are laced with the writer's own agenda. Paul Cartledge does his best to weave through history to bring us a true description of Alexander as a man, a general, a politician, and much more. Cartledge takes a balanced approach, using his best logic and reasoning skills to give us this portrait. This book is not a chronological study of events, but rather a study of the man behind the myth. It will jump around in time a bit. There has been talk about whether to read/listen this first or not. You may want to familiarize yourself with the basics, as Cartledge will go over specific incidents that you may not have a clue about. That was me, and I admit, the first half of the book was a struggle. By the second half I had caught on to what the author was trying to do, and was able to settle into it. The appendix is actually one of my favorite parts, because Cartledge gives us more insight as to why he came up with some of his opinions. In all, I am not sorry that I didn't know more about Alexander before getting into this book. I learned a lot and was happy to listen a second time, to pick up on the things in the first half that were a bit over my head. This is a very good study of Alexander, and whether you read it first or not, you should read it. The added plus with the audiobook is John Lee. I've listened to his narration many times before, and few are better.

2 people found this helpful

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Not a biography.

Writing seemed very dis-organized and repetitious. Very hard to follow as it seemed to be a collection of stories rather than an organized biography. Should have stopped within the first hour.

1 person found this helpful

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Very informative

A very interesting amount of information about Alexander the Great, that covers the most essential known parts of his life.

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Not well edited

The author continuously repeats the same topic or story, almost verbatim. It is very annoying.

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A great story!

If you have never listened to the narrator John Lee then you should listen to the books of Susan Wise Bauer. Put it this way you have Sir David Attenborough as the voice of biology and zoology and then there is the the voice of history Mr. or to me Sir John Lee.

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it's an interesting take. non chronological.

this book investigates the different aspects of Alexander's life, from his Legends, to his motivations, to his influences both home and abroad. as well as what the political state of Macedon Greece and Persia were before and during his life time.

funny note:
I was taking a back for a moment when the author compared some of the mythos of Alexander to Mel Gibson's "recent" Blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ". Only then did I realize that this title is nearly 20 years old. still holds up and is a delightful audiobook.

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Wonderful, but not what I was expecting

I was hoping for a general biography/ summary of Alexander’s campaigns. The book turned out to be an in depth look into the conflicts within Greece, Macedonia, and Persia, a look at Alexander the Great as a king, general and person (worts and all), and a exhaustive look at the historical scholarship. It is fascinating and should be read by everyone who is interested in the subject and has already read a lot. However it is not a good introductory book.