... a gripping history that combined deep scholarship with readability ... enjoyable and accessible ... an epic history. Very much in the vein of the Tom Holland histories of empire, enjoyable and informative but also gripping.
Writing here about Greek affairs for the first time, [Goldsworthy] steps cautiously around the fault lines in his sources, often weighing competing versions without choosing between them. His Philip and Alexander is thus a compelling but temperate book, giving readers an in-depth but dispassionate account of its subjects ... The word 'perhaps' can’t be avoided in narrating ancient history, but its overuse can be debilitating. Mr. Goldsworthy is a consummate professional in his handling of evidence, but one sometimes longs for firmer convictions or a deeper sense of engagement. In the final chapter of Philip and Alexander, he disclaims the right to frame moral judgments, 'for that is best left to individual readers,' and describes the personalities of his two principal subjects as 'unreachable.' He didn’t stand so aloof in his previous books, which offer intimate portraits of Julius and Augustus Caesar, among others ... With its episodic series of military clashes, the Alexander story is not an easy one to tell and even harder when preceded by that of Philip. Mr. Goldsworthy has a rare gift for imagining and describing ancient warfare, but even so the endless sequence of march-fight-repeat may tire some readers, especially when the Macedonians always win. Alexander’s army reached such a peak of skill as to defeat foes that outnumbered it or that held vastly stronger positions. A long string of such odds-on victories can become tedious or even morally disquieting ... None of this is meant to detract from what Mr. Goldsworthy has accomplished, in this book and in his career generally. Here, as elsewhere, he combines the talents of scholar and storyteller, bringing to life the full drama of ancient history while assessing the evidence with a critical eye. The Macedonians put both talents to a more severe test than his previous Roman subjects, but most readers will agree that he emerges from the fray, like Alexander himself, 'invincible.'
... effectively deals with the gaps in sources of knowledge about both men as people, with Goldsworthy avoiding conjecture when possible and presenting famous rumors and legendary incidents as valuable examples of the myth-building around both men but not always verifiable historical facts ... The thorough and riveting narrative of both Philip and Alexander’s lives and accomplishments makes this an ideal choice for the general reader, with some fresh insights to offer to those familiar with the subjects as well.