Arthur Weigall’s book about Alexander the Great (ISBN 2228897531) is about the only book one can find at the bookstore of Brussels’ Museum of Art and History (MRAH-KMKG), so I was tempted to buy it in pocket format. A bargain, I thought.
Now I have second thoughts about my purchase, which for once I got in a French translation while I generally make a point of reading a book, and more so when it comes to a book about Alexander, in its original version. So it may be the translation that doesn’t carry the deeds and campaigns of Alexander as they should, but I’m more inclined to blame Weigall himself. It is, of course, slightly outdated since it was written in 1934 (reviewed in 1976), and lots of discoveries and updates have come to light since (for instance the location of ancient Aegae thought to be still under the waterfalls of Edessa).
What annoys me most of all is Weigall’s tone. I have the strong feeling he simply wants to ram his vision of Alexander down my throat and I find this entirely unacceptable. He is evidently entitled to his own opinion about Alexander’s personality and conquests, but so am I and with me, any other reader.
But then, numerous descriptions are simply grasped out of the blue. He states, for instance, that Alexander is a bad-tempered young man and that when he became a man, he needed wine to calm his nerves! He speaks of Alexander’s wish to free the Greeks trampled under the feet of the Persians in Asia Minor (very lyrical!) and that he acted upon the orders of the gods (why not?). When he visits King Darius’ mother in her tent after the Battle of Issus, he paints a lovely picture whereby the young princesses in a flow of tears kiss Alexander’s hand. But worst of all, he relates very strange anomalies, like stating that Alexander had himself proclaimed King of Babylon and King of Asia when he first arrived in that city; or how on his deathbed he leaves his throne “to the strongest” (kratisto), which is true enough, but adding that he might also have said “to Heracles”, his only son (by Barsine)! Where he gets this information from is anyone’s guess.
All in all here is a history of Alexander the Great, but I wouldn’t bet on it. There are better and much better books than this one.