02. Monographs on Alexander, 2.02 Life, Alexander - Non Fiction Book, Alexander's Alexandria

English Book Review: “Alessandro Magno” by Pietro Citati

Recensione in italiano: QUI.

Good morning everyone, thanks for being here on the site Alessandro III di Macedonia- your resource on Alexander the Great!

Here I am with a new book review:

Alessandro Magno by Pietro Citati published by Adelphi

The most enigmatic image of Alexander the Great is that of a young man with his neck slightly tilted to the left, as if intent on reflecting “around himself or something”. Who is behind that image? What events and circumstances have diverted its vocation as a scholar and philosopher, passionate about mathematics and botany, turning it into the ruthless conqueror built as a model by Caesar and Nero, Trajan and Hadrian, Louis XIV and Napoleon? This portrait, built point by point on the classical sources, proposes that enigma in multiple forms, traversed with a story that is both exact and visionary. Citati thus reveals to us how “the model of models” was itself a synthesis of historical-mythical figures: a contradictory self that combines the furious anger and Achille’s disinterested friendship, the “extreme mobility” of Dionysus, the resistance to the pain of Heracles and the tolerance of Cyrus the Great. It reminds us how those two antithetical vocations remained intact, since Alexander’s immense army was constantly accompanied by philosophers, priests, geographers, actors and courtesans. And it shows us how Alexander’s intellectual anxiety and thirst for conquest actually flowed from the same drive: the stages of the expansionist crescendo are in fact physical places and at the same time moments of a cognitive itinerary destined to stop in front of the Indian Ocean, «sultry, boundless and faceless», as in a metaphysical failure.

4 stars

Read from 27th May to 15th June 2018.

Another book read about Alexander the Great, another little piece to add to my vision of him.

Short book but I still liked it. I found the first part of Citati beautiful: essential, critical and in any case interesting.

I had read reviews on the web in which the second part, by Francesco Sisti, was criticized and branded as a simple copy-paste of the pieces by Arrian and Plutarch, when instead I found it a useful and immediate tool to understand the differences between various historians. It’s a shame that it’s so short, precisely because it would have been nice to compare the pieces that scholars believe to be contaminated or false.

Here are some steps that I really enjoyed (not translated):

“Nessuno toccò tanti cuori e risvegliò tante fantasie ed entusiasmi, come questo macedone che scomparve a trentadue anni, senza lasciare eredi alle spalle.”

“Una sola cosa è certa. Quel giovane dallo sguardo umido, alzato verso gli spazi del cielo: quel figlio devoto, quel nemico pietoso – conosceva la terribile furia che si agita nel nostro animo, e ci spinge a lacerare e a distruggere le forme del mondo.”

“Chi potrà distinguere tra Alessandro, figlio di Filippo e di Olimpiade, i sogni che egli inseguì coscientemente o senza saperlo, i sogni che gli uomini dell’Antichità e del Medioevo intrecciarono intorno ai sogni di Alessandro, i sogni che noi stessi, così simili a lui e tanto lontani da lui, continuiamo a ricamare intorno a quei sogni?”

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