Since her first novel of Greece, The Last of the Wine, appeared in
1956, Mary Renault has held a special place among readers of books on the
ancient world and historical fiction in general. Here she not only rounds
out her series of books on Alexander the Great but crowns her career with
a stunning performance.
In the sweltering midsummer heat of the palace at Babylon, Alexander the
Great, master of half the known world, lies dying. His only heirs are his
unborn child and his simpleton half-brother. His beloved friend
Hephaistion, to whom he could have bequeathed his authority, has died a
few months before him. Weakened by grief and wounds, but defying death to
the last, he sinks into coma without having named his successor.
When Homer's heroes fell, their fellow warriors held funeral games,
racing and wresting for rich prizes to honor the dead. Now Alexander's
generals, no longer united by his magnetic presence, begin their struggle
for the glittering prize of his vast dominions. Perdikkas, his first
officer, power-hungry and inflexible
Antipatros, the aged Regent of
Macedon, loyal but grown dangerously oppressive
His son Kassandros,
eaten with envy of Alexander's glory
Generous Ptolemy, the dead man's
Antigonos One-Eye and his flamboyant son.
Women too compete: Roxane, mother of the unborn Alexander IV, ready to
take any life that threatens his accession
his mother, the formidable Olympias
and a girl
unknown to all of them, but of the royal line, and resolved to be victor
at any cost.
Asia, Egypt, and Greece are the arena. New contestants enter the games. A
silent onlooker is Bagoas, the Persian boy, who wants no prize, except
the chance to serve his dead lover's memory.