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Alexander the Great the sick king (J.-C. Aubert)

The story ofAlexander The Great still fascinates today. The stupendous saga of the undefeated young Macedonian king on the battlefield continues to intrigue men. The death of Alexander also calls out: what is the cause of the fall of one of the greatest conquerors? The book Alexander the Great the Sick King by Jean-Claude Aubert offers us to retrace the history of Alexander the Great from a medical angle. It is a book which brilliantly shows that historians do not have a monopoly on the writing of history and that other specialties can have an opinion on this or that historical fact.

Some preliminary remarks

Jean-Claude Aubert, the author of this book is a Doctor of Medicine and specialist in General Medicine and it is as a doctor that he questions the sources. It is difficult for Story for All to judge the relevance of the author's conclusions in the medical field. On the other hand, we can judge the quality of the historical research and the methods used. The author is clearly not familiar with classic academic historical methods and analyzes. This leads the author to a few errors which remain minor for his purpose. We can also regret the absence of footnotes. THE. sometimes uses old (or even very old) translations of ancient texts which may interfere with the analysis. In this regard, it would have been interesting to give the precise references of the texts cited and not just the author as is often the case. It can also be noted that very few recent critical works on the life of Alexander the Great have been used. Despite these reservations, the work is of good quality. For a novice in the medical field, the text is clear and precise and the argument precise and relevant, in particular on medical questions. This book is accessible to all. The author has used numerous specialist books or articles (including in foreign languages) in medical matters to conduct his investigation. The desire to always quote the texts to which they refer is commendable as is the use of various sources (texts, statues, coins and medallions ...) to carry out his investigation. The summary tables that dot the book are particularly judicious and interesting. We can also note the author's erudition with regard to medical history: he does not hesitate, in fact, to go beyond the sole life of Alexander the Great to shed more light on his subject. Finally, biographical notes, at the end of the book, of the people cited are welcome. Thus, despite the reservations stated at the beginning, it is a rigorous work in the vein of new historical medical studies highly prized in the Anglo-Saxon world that Histoire pour Tous is pleased to share with you today.

A fascinating medical analysis

The book is divided into three parts. The first part analyzes Alexander's family environment. The role of "murderous violence" at the court of the Argéades in the education of Alexander is mentioned. The psychological portraits of Olympias and Philip II followed by a study on the education of Alexander aptly show that the environment in which Alexander lived was not so deleterious for the future conqueror. Finally comes the question of the psychological balance of Alexander the Great and his personality. Among other things, the author shows that, according to him, Alexander the Great was not a megalomaniac. In the second part, the author analyzes and tries to understand why Alexander held his head in such a special way. He seeks to know, using a variety of sources, whether a pathology or disease is not at the origin of this particular head carriage. He arrives at a diagnosis while showing the complexity of the issue. Finally comes the question of the death of Alexander the Great. After doing a check-up on Alexander the Great on the eve of his death, A. explores all the possibilities mentioned to explain the death of the king. This part is the most substantial of the book and, for good reason, the subject has been debated a lot since Antiquity (although the rumors of poisoning are after the death of Alexander). It first explores all possible poisons: it is a real panorama that allows each poison to discover where it is taken from, what the effects are and what traces they can leave. Then the A. explores the issue of disease and in particular malaria. Jean-Claude Aubert lays down a final verdict on the cause of death that the reader will be pleased to discover at the end of this fascinating investigation.

Much more than a medical analysis

I sketched it out earlier, but this book is more than just a medical diagnosis. The author endeavors to immerse us in the medical world of the Greeks. The author talks about the doctors who surrounded the king and the possible treatments that Alexander was able to receive. He is also working to redefine what it meant to have fever for the Greeks or the theory of moods. When the A. evokes the contributions of numismatics in the study of the health of ancient sovereigns, he introduces us to other sovereigns. The methods Mithridates used to develop his defense against poisons are also described by the author. This book in a way sketches the world of health and poisons in ancient times brilliantly.

Notice of History for All

This book offers a gateway into history little used until now. As a doctor, Jean-Claude Aubert offers a fresh look at the epic of Alexander. While we may regret certain aspects which show that the author is not a seasoned historian, the quality of his medical analyzes sweeps away these reservations with a wave of the hand. If you like questions of health, medicine, or want to learn more about Alexander the Great, this book is for you.

- J.-C. Aubert, Alexandre le Grand le Roi Sick, Paris, Persée, 232 p.

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