The Bottom Line
The ancient Greeks retrospectively cited inauspicious signs to help explain the death of Alexander the Great. In place of oracles, Doherty finds a perfect symmetry (and just rewards after decades of grudges) in parallel deaths of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II of Macedon.
- Well-researched and documented
- Shows tangled relationships and alliances
- Breathes life into the Companions of Alexander
- Wandering focus
- Lack of section titles makes comparing sources awkward
- Conclusion seems a bit too neat
- Provides excellent motives to assassinate Alexander the Great.
- Relies on there being a strong woman behind every great man -- Thais and Olympias, in particular.
- Accepts Ptolemy as Alexander's half-brother and murderer.
- Parallels Philip's and Alexander's deaths.
- Hephaestion's death as political poison.
- Doherty summarizes what the sources have to say before drawing his own conclusions.
- Skims over the major battles.
- Deals with the relationships among the men in Alexander's army.
- Portrays Alexander negatively.
Guide Review - The Death of Alexander the Great, by Paul Doherty
The opening chapter of "The Death of Alexander the Great" does a wonderful job of showing how the young Alexander the Great developed those traits that eventually led to his career as a ruthless, conquering tyrant. After the assassination of his father -- to serve his own and his mother Olympias' ambitions, Alexander set out to destroy the Persians, leaving his mother at home to tend to Macedonia. As Alexander became more autocratic, feigning, rather than feeling, remorse at the death of such men as Black Cleitus, his Companions grew wary and started lasting, conspiratorial alliances. Balancing Alexander's role in the assassination of his father came Alexander's own murder at the hands of his official taster, his half-brother Ptolemy. From the welter of conflicting evidence that Doherty presents, he concludes that Alexander was a major factor in his father's murder. He also believes circularly that Ptolemy was Alexander's brother because it is one of many items that make Ptolemy the most likely candidate for Alexander's assassin. His hardest piece of data on the cause of Alexander's death is that Alexander's body did not decompose as it should have if Alexander had died from illness, but would not have done had the cause of death been ingestion of arsenic.