When reading a book for the second time and finding new facts and view points, you know it is a good book. Robbert Bosschart’s All Alexander’s Women. The Facts (ISBN 978-1439272015) is such a book, giving you the impression of reading something new - more so because this is an updated 2nd edition.
This time I even read it in one single breath. Besides Bosschart’s vision of how Alexander approached the women around him and how powerful women like his mother Olympias and Queen Sisygambis influenced his life, I especially enjoyed the Persian background information. Ancient writers and modern scholars tend to focus solely on Greek heritage which defined our Western way of thinking and it is quite refreshing and highly interesting to dig into the core of Persian civilization. History is far less black and white than what is generally presented to us or from what is told in our schoolbooks (which unfortunately stays with us for the rest of our life).
And then, there is the role of women in old
Media, where they enjoyed great freedom and where women were treated as the men’s
equal. Why has this aspect never been brought forward? Looking at Persia
today it is even extremely hard to believe that in Alexander’s and Darius’
days just the opposite was happening! How do we manage to place Alexander in such an environment? His
own mother did not match the underdog position of Athenian women which we take
as raw model for Greek society. Iran
was an exception and so was Olympias
– and ultimately so was Cleopatra, Alexander’s sister. We may have a hard
time picturing Alexander accepting
advice from Queen Ada or Queen Sisygambis for we hardly can
picture him really listening to his own mother to start with! Macedonia
From this point of view alone, this book clearly sets the picture. But, of course, there is much and much more to dig for and to unravel.
The overall presentation is more pleasant than the first edition, where I felt that the sequences were not always too coherent. Right from the beginning we now get an overview of Alexander’s life, complemented by his family tree and that of the Persian Queen Sisygambis. After listing and commenting on the “women” which Alexander met, Robbert Bosschart shares lots of background information all the way up to Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt – a true successor of Alexander’s vision.
Whoever wants to enlarge his/her view of the man Alexander, don’t miss this opportunity!