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The Alexander Trilogy: Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault - A Historical Fiction Masterpiece

Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault: A Historical Novel about Alexander the Great

Fire from Heaven is a historical novel by Mary Renault, first published in 1969. It is the first book in a trilogy that covers the life and times of Alexander the Great, one of the most famous and influential figures in history. The novel spans from Alexander's birth in 356 BC to his accession to the throne of Macedonia in 336 BC, following his father's assassination. It depicts Alexander's childhood, youth, and early achievements, as well as his relationships with his family, friends, enemies, and lovers.

fire from heaven mary renault epub 21


Who was Mary Renault?

Mary Renault was a British writer who was born in 1905 and died in 1983. She studied classics at Oxford University and worked as a nurse during World War II. She moved to South Africa in 1948 with her partner Julie Mullard, where she lived until her death. She wrote several novels set in ancient Greece, such as The King Must Die (1958), The Bull from the Sea (1962), and The Last of the Wine (1956). She also wrote a biography of Alexander the Great, The Nature of Alexander (1975). She was widely acclaimed for her historical accuracy, literary style, and psychological insight.

What is Fire from Heaven about?

Fire from Heaven is a fictionalized account of Alexander's early life, based on historical sources and Renault's own imagination. It portrays Alexander as a complex and charismatic character, who combines courage, intelligence, ambition, and compassion. It also explores his relationships with other important figures in his life, such as his parents Philip II and Olympias, his tutors Aristotle and Leonidas, his friends Hephaestion and Ptolemy, his rivals Attalus and Demosthenes, and his lovers Bagoas and Roxane. The novel also depicts the political and cultural context of ancient Macedonia and Greece, as well as the Persian Empire that Alexander would later conquer.

Why is Fire from Heaven important?

Fire from Heaven is one of the most popular and influential novels about Alexander the Great. It has been praised for its vivid and realistic portrayal of Alexander's personality and achievements, as well as its exploration of themes such as power, love, fate, and identity. It has also been criticized for its romanticization of Alexander's homosexuality and violence, as well as its omission of some historical details and events. The novel has inspired many other writers and artists who have depicted Alexander in their own works, such as Oliver Stone's film Alexander (2004), Valerio Massimo Manfredi's novel Alexander: Child of a Dream (1998), and Madeline Miller's novel The Song of Achilles (2011).

Main Body

The Childhood of Alexander

His relationship with his parents

Alexander was born in Pella, the capital of Macedonia, in 356 BC. He was the son of Philip II, the king of Macedonia, and Olympias, the princess of Epirus. His parents had a turbulent and unhappy marriage, marked by jealousy, violence, and infidelity. Philip was a powerful and ambitious ruler, who expanded his kingdom through war and diplomacy. He was also a womanizer, who had many wives and concubines. Olympias was a proud and passionate woman, who was devoted to her son and the cult of Dionysus. She was also a schemer, who used her influence and magic to protect Alexander from his enemies.

Alexander had a complicated and conflicting relationship with his parents. He admired and respected his father, but also resented and feared him. He loved and trusted his mother, but also rebelled and defied her. He inherited their qualities and flaws, as well as their ambitions and rivalries. He learned from them how to be a leader, a warrior, and a lover.

His education and mentors

Alexander received a comprehensive and rigorous education from various tutors and mentors. His first tutor was Leonidas, a relative of his mother, who taught him discipline, endurance, and austerity. He made Alexander sleep on the ground, wear simple clothes, and eat sparingly. He also trained him in physical exercises, such as hunting, riding, and archery. His second tutor was Lysimachus, a courtier and poet, who taught him literature, music, and art. He introduced him to the works of Homer, Hesiod, and Pindar. He also encouraged him to emulate the heroes of the past, such as Achilles, Heracles, and Perseus.

His most famous tutor was Aristotle, the philosopher and scientist, who taught him logic, ethics, politics, and natural sciences. He instructed him in the principles of reason, virtue, and moderation. He also exposed him to the cultures and religions of other peoples, such as the Persians, Egyptians, and Indians. He gave him a copy of the Iliad, which became Alexander's favorite book.

His early achievements and ambitions

Alexander showed signs of greatness from an early age. He was intelligent, curious, brave, and generous. He also had a strong sense of destiny and a desire to surpass his predecessors. He demonstrated his skills and talents in various occasions, such as when he tamed the wild horse Bucephalus at the age of twelve; when he solved the riddle of the Gordian knot at the age of eighteen; when he led the cavalry charge at the battle of Chaeronea at the age of nineteen; and when he founded the city of Alexandria at the age of twenty.

Alexander also had a vision of uniting Greece and conquering Persia under his rule. He was inspired by his father's plans and achievements, as well as by his own dreams and prophecies. He believed that he was the son of Zeus-Ammon, the god of thunder and king of gods. He also believed that he was destined to fulfill the oracle of Delphi, which said that he would be "lord of Asia".

The Youth of Alexander

His friendship and rivalry with Hephaestion

Alexander's closest friend and companion was Hephaestion, a nobleman from Macedonia who shared his age, interests, and ambitions. They met when they were both students of Aristotle in Mieza. They became inseparable friends who shared everything: their thoughts, feelings, secrets, and adventures. They also became lovers who expressed their affection physically: they kissed, hugged, and slept together.

Alexander's relationship with Hephaestion was based on mutual respect, admiration, and loyalty. They supported each other in times of difficulty, celebrated each other in times of success, and defended each other from criticism. They also competed with each other in terms of skills, achievements, and honors. They challenged each other to improve themselves, to surpass their limits, and to achieve their goals.

His involvement in the politics of Macedonia and Greece

Alexander's youth was marked by political turmoil and intrigue in Macedonia and Greece. He witnessed and participated in several events that shaped his destiny and tested his abilities. Some of these events were:

  • The assassination attempt on his father by Pausanias in 337 BC, which Alexander helped to foil and which raised suspicions about his mother's involvement.

  • The revolt of Thebes in 335 BC, which Alexander crushed with ruthless efficiency and which established his authority over Greece.

The assassination of his father by Cassander in 71b2f0854b


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