Mercurial, ruthless, brilliant, Alexander the Great united Greece and stormed on to crush the mighty Persian Empire. Those who opposed him were effete barbarians and traitorous Greeks. Or were they?
Memnon of Rhodes . . . The name has passed down through history as that of a traitor. One of the Greek mercenaries who fought on King Darius' side against Alexander the Great during his glorious bid to conquer Persia and later the whole known world. But was he really a traitor? After all, they say history is written by the victor. Scott Oden attempts to flesh out the character of this shadowy figure from classical history and give him some redress against the Hellenic propaganda that followed in Alexander's wake. Little is known about Memnon, other than that he was a formidable general and was related to one of the Persian noble families by marriage. So, Scott Oden has plenty of leeway to create a fine, fictional figure and he does so with aplomb. He is well versed in the period and pays his dues to academia in creating a believable image of the world in the 4th century BC. The book is pacey yet not one dimensional and, although he succumbs to the temptation to make his protagonist almost too heroic to be defeated, it is hard not to warm to the principled man from Rhodes and his cause. The battle scenes are vivid and well balanced, the dialogue crisp and modern without falling into the trap of the over-use of faux biblical declamation or inserted ancient Greek words which can alienate the reader. The story is action-packed, tense and exciting and features many of the towering figures from the ancient world - but from the viewpoint of those ultimate losers facing the might of the Macedonian war machine.
(Bantam Books, paperback, £6.99)