Alexander the Great: The Invisible Enemy differs from other biographies of Alexander in its assessment of the role of alcohol in his life. John Maxwell O'Brien uses the figure of Dionysus as a symbol of the destructive effects of alcohol on Alexander's psyche. Alexander himself ascribed most of his severe setbacks to the god Dionysus. This deity serves as an agent through whom a cluster of ambivalent considerations is explored: the heroic and the Dionysiac, the rational and the irrational, male and female, sanity and madness. Alexander's story unfolds as a tragedy in the Aristotelian sense of the word.
Alexander is treated from birth to death as a total personality. His culture, his gods, his parents, his aspirations, his exploits, his fears, his insecurities, his sexuality, his drinking and the psychology of alcoholism are examined from an interdisciplinary perspective. The book utilizes recent discoveries in archaeology and incorporates new interpretations from anthropology, psychology, mythology, philosophy and literature. The historical context provides a structure for these diverse insights. Key passages in the narrative are illuminated by telling quotations from Homer and Euripides which draw the reader into the thought processes of Greek antiquity.
This study of the ancient world's most famous and successful conqueror takes into account the latest scholarship in the field and includes a comprehensive bibliography. The controversial approach and the book's focus are likely to cause wide comment and attract considerable attention among general readers as well as scholars.