As an undergraduate student studying Ancient History, I always find the usefulness of books varies greatly. On the subject of Alexander the Great books, I thought I would share those that I have on my personal bookshelf and those that I have found useful.
Please post a comment if you can recommend any others!
#1 Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C. : A Historical Biography
by Peter Green
A biography that portrays Alexander as both a complex personality and a single-minded general, a man capable of such diverse expediencies as patricide or the massacre of civilians.
Written by Peter Green, this book is quite lengthy but told in the usual colourful language of Peter’s other books. The language makes it quite easy to read and entertaining at the same time (as if you were reading a fictional novel).
There is a comprehensive appendix that will point you to the underlying sources for the narrative and some detailed maps.
It ranks in position #1 for Alexander the Great books as the best entry point for a comprehensive narrative that remains accessible to those new to the subject.
#2 Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great
by A. B. Bosworth
An exploration of the process and consequences of the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon.
Written by A .B. Bosworth, it covers Alexander’s life in entirety, contains extensive on-page referencing and has a number of thematic chapters.
In particular, the thematic chapters cover the following areas:
- Mainland Greece in Alexander’s reign
- Alexander and the Corinthian League
- Agis III of Sparta and the war for Megalopolis
- Athens under the administration of Lycurgus
- Athens and the advent of Harpalus
- The Exiles’ Decree and its effects
- Alexander and his empire
- Satrapal government
- Financial administration
- The new foundations
- The Greeks of Asia Minor
- Alexander and the army
- The invasion of army of 334 B.C.
- Evolution and reorganisation: 333 B.C. – 323 B.C.
- The use of oriental troops
- The structure of command
- The divinity of Alexander
#3 The Campaigns of Alexander
Discusses Alexander’s violent suppression of the Theban rebellion, his defeat of Persia and campaigns through Egypt and Babylon – establishing new cities and destroying others in his path. This title presents an objective portrait of a man of boundless ambition, who was exposed to the temptations of power.
A major extant source for Alexander written by Flavius Arrianus Xenophon, a Roman aristocrat writing in the early second century AD (some 400 years after the death of Alexander).
It is generally understood to be the best overall surviving narrative and is therefore a worthy addition to this list of books on Alexander the Great.
It ranks in position #3 for Alexander the Great books as the best major extant source we have.
#4 The Age of Alexander: Nine Greek Lives
Includes textual and historical notes that supplement a segment of Plutarch’s “Lives” which covers the rise of Macedonia.
Written by the 1st century A.D. biographer Plutarch, this book encapsulates nine lives from the Alexander timeline.
It is the major source for the small amount of information we have on Alexander, the centrepiece of the book being a biography on Alexander himself.
It ranks in position #4 for Alexander the Great books for the biography it contains.
#5 The History of Alexander
by Quintus Curtius Rufus
Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), who led the Macedonian army to victory in Egypt, Syria, Persia and India, was perhaps the most successful conqueror the world has ever seen. Yet although no other individual has attracted so much speculation across the centuries, Alexander himself remains an enigma.
Written by Quintus Curtius Rufus in the mid first century A.D., this book comes down to us incomplete (it begins at book 3, is missing book 10 and parts of books 5-6). Despite these flaws, it is a major source for piecing together a view on the life of Alexander from the limited sources we have.
It ranks in position #5 for Alexander the Great books as it contains a major source of ancient material on the life of Alexander.
#6 The Army of Alexander the Great
by Stephen English
Stephen English investigates every aspect of the Macedonian forces, analysing the recruitment, equipment, organisation, tactics, command and control of the fighting arms (including the famous pike phalanxes, elite Hypaspists and incomparable Companion cavalry). Some of Alexander’s most famous battles and sieges are described in detail to show the army in action.
#7 The Sieges of Alexander the Great
by Stephen English
Stephen English narrates the sustained drama of each of Alexander’s sieges, analyzing tactics and technical aspects, such as the innovative and astoundingly ambitious siege engines used.
#8 The Field Campaigns of Alexander the Great
by Stephen English
This book will combine a narrative of the course of each of Alexander’s campaigns, with clear analysis of strategy, tactics, logistics etc. This will combine with Stephen English’s The Army of Alexander the Great and The Sieges of Alexander the Great, to form a very strong three-volume examination of one of the most successful armies and greatest conquerors ever known.