Alexander the Great

How good is Alexander the Great on a scale of 1-10?

  • Total voters


clap hands
The music is so incredible in this song. Almost every riff is different, exploring Phrygian and Eastern melodies and scales. Adrian's first solo is unique and spectacular. In fact, the entire instrumental section is flawless.

It's really too bad that the vocals suffer from To Tame a Land syndrome - I feel like I'm listening to a middle school book report by a hyperventilating kid who forgot to take his meds.




My first and standing impression is that is a failure in trying to make a dramatic epic. In the light of the sort of status this song has received I can see it as sort of "a bad song, but a Great bad song". Like a good B-movie!

Not 'Arry's best epic, but we're talking in relative terms here because it's still amazing. Yes, the lyrics sound like they're ripped straight from a history textbook, but Bruce's amazing vocal performance more than compensates for this. H rules this song, hands down.
What about Davey's solo?

Davey has one solo on it and I LOVE it, but it's really H who dominates this track IMO. Dave's solo is longer and more techinically impressive, but the solos from H, particularly the last one, is just chock full of beautiful melodies and emotion.

Not that I neglect Davey though by any means, his leads off of TXF and Powerslave are some of my favorite guitar solos, well, ever.
I have to admit, the epics on some of the later albums haven't been nearly as good. Hallowed Be Thy Name and Rime of the Ancient Mariner set the bar so high that songs like Alexander the Great just don't compare.

I'm not the biggest fan of the lyrics or bruce's vocals in this one, but the guitar work saves the song. The lyrics are an excellent history lesson though. 9/10


Epic song! Wonderful intro and great riffs and melodies. Great and powerful singing from Bruce and the historical lyrics doesn't bother me. One of the greatest solos from Maiden, just love it, it builds and builds until the final verse! A great way to close the album for sure!



10/10. One of my top 10 Iron Maiden songs since I first became a fan 9 years ago. Also one of my favorite vocal performances by Bruce. The instrumental section is very cool, really creates a picture in my head. Also very wicked guitar solos! I think some people just need to turn this one up a little louder TBH... ;)


Staff member
7/10. Having covered it early this year, I've now seen how the sausage is made. Except for the 7/8 section, it's really not that noteworthy in terms of songwriting. This one came out of the oven too early. It broke the sequence of awesome album-closing epics.


Ancient Mariner
Not quite a 10, but a load of brilliant stuff in here. I love the instrumental section and awesome solos. There are better epics, but this still rates very highly in my estimation.



Educated Fool
8. It's a fun song to listen to and the instrumental sections are a lot of fun. Vocals are very strong too.


Previous Albums:

Iron Maiden - 6.67

8 - Prowler
6 - Sanctuary
7 - Remember Tomorrow
6 - Running Free
9 - Phantom Of The Opera
7 - Transylvania
4 - Strange World
6 - Charlotte The Harlot
7 - Iron Maiden

Killers - 5.91

6 - The Ides Of March
6 - Wrathchild
6 - Murders In The Rue Morgue
5 - Another Life
5 - Genghis Khan
5 - Innocent Exile
8 - Killers
5 - Prodigal Son
8 - Purgatory
6 - Twilight Zone
5 - Drifter

The Number Of The Beast - 7.56

6 - Invaders
7 - Children Of The Damned
8 - The Prisoner
7 - 22 Acacia Avenue
9 - The Number Of The Beast
10 - Run To The Hills
6 - Gangland
5 - Total Eclipse
10 - Hallowed Be Thy Name

Piece Of Mind - 7.44

8 - Where Eagles Dare
9 - Revelations
9 - Flight Of Icarus
7 - Die With Your Boots On
8 - The Trooper
7 - Still Life
6 - Quest For Fire
6 - Sun And Steel
7 - To Tame A Land

Powerslave - 6.75

8 - Aces High
7 - 2 Minutes To Midnight
3 - Loss Fer Words
7 - Flash Of The Blade
5 - The Duellists
6 - Back In The Village
9 - Powerslave
9 - Rime Of The Ancient Mariner

Somewhere In Time - 8.00

8 - Caught Somewhere In Time
9 - Wasted Years
8 - Sea Of Madness
8 - Heaven Can Wait
8 - The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner
7 - Stranger In A Strange Land
8 - Deja Vu
8 - Alexander The Great


clap hands

It’s no Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but it’s equally as successful as To Tame a Land. The lyrics are pulled straight from history books with little emotional anchor and are far too wordy, but Dickinson manages to pull it off. Musically, Alexander is another shining example of Maiden at their proggy best: time changes aplenty, riffs for days, and a song structure that does whatever it wants. The instruments outshine the vocals here and carry this song into classic territory. The eastern-tinged riffs and leads are astounding, especially the unison sections before and after each verse. Each new riff adds a new layer to the whole and they all manage to be memorable, majestic, and unique. The way that Murray and Smith complement and accent one another is noteworthy, it’s honestly difficult to single out just one section of guitar work in the song because they are all incredible.


What became of the man that started?
I get chills down my spine when the 3rd chorus ends and the throwback to the main riff kicks in. It just sounds so epic as Bruce is hitting that long note.


Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
7/10. Having covered it early this year, I've now seen how the sausage is made. Except for the 7/8 section, it's really not that noteworthy in terms of songwriting. This one came out of the oven too early. It broke the sequence of awesome album-closing epics.
Having also covered it, I came out of the experience with a different take on the song. There are early interviews for this album (probably on the commentary somewhere) where they're talking about SIT (still in early stages) and they say there aren't any epics but there is an instrumental. Listening to this song makes me wonder if it was originally an instrumental and for some reason the band didn't feel confident in it as is and through in some vocal parts as filler. The whole intro is epic, the melodies in between are great, the instrumental section is immense, the vocal parts are just kind of there. And the lyrics have been lambasted enough around here, they do come off as rushed. I do like the idea of a futuristic vibe for the album until the last song where they take us "somewhere back in time". I wish they would've taken the vocals out and replaced those with more glorious melodies under that really nice steady beat.

The instrumental section is really something else though. Steve really ate his prog wheaties while writing this one. It never fails to excite me whenever I listen to it. And despite the many takes, that 7/8 melody never got boring. Another example of the instrumental section telling the story better than the lyrics. You can't tell me that you don't see Alexander and his army riding into battle in that bit before the first guitar solo.

I really want to give this song a 10, but I can't justify it with the non instrumental parts dragging it down a notch. I'd give it a 9.5 if the option was there, but since it isn't it'll have to be a 9.


Brilliant epic and the best song on the album.

It's an absolute masterpiece musically. I have to echo the comparisons to to Tame a Land. But this track has the edge because it has the great melodies and powerful chorus that tTaL was missing. The instrumental section is mindblowing.

I'm probably being slightly hypocritical as I've marked other songs down for daft lyrics. But I'm going to ignore them in this case. In fact, I actually think the lyrics have a cheesy charm. It still falls a bit short of Hallowed and Rime though so



Priest of the Holy Wristband
Reading a book by the best specialist of Alexander III, I had the surprise to find a passage about Maiden's song. As the title shows, the book is meant to explore all the clichés about the king and a short chapter is dedicated to Heavy Metal bands. Pierre Briant is an immense scholar, who teached in the most prestigious french institution. His comments are absolutely right, and Harry's lyrics are actually quite "dated". I think I know which book he used to write it, and the book in question (a classic in Ancient history) has been written in 1938. So, no wonder it bears traces of cultural and historic clichés. Here is and attempt of translation.

Pierre Briant, Alexander. Exegesis of clichés, Paris, 2016.

One of the chapters of the book is named “Heavy Metal bands and their lessons in history”

British band Iron Maiden was the first, in 1986, to dedicate a song to Alexander (“Alexander the Great”) on an album entitled “Somewhere in Time”. Essentially, Alexander as seen by Iron Maiden uses once-hegemonic themes that are still popular : born in an area close to Orient, Macedonia, Philip’s son became a legend as soon as he was born. Next come, enumerated in disorder, the successes upon Darius, the defeated king who flees from Persia, upon the Scythes of central Asia, the arrival in Egypt, Babylon, Susa and Persepolis, where Alexander seizes the treasures, until the moment when “tired of the combat, the pain and the glory”, his soldiers “wouldn’t follow him to India” ; then it’s the death, caused by the fevers in Babylon.

Since the album was published, many more bands have sung Alexander’s feats, in England, in the US and in Greece, using comparable words to those of Iron Maiden. [The author then discusses Marauder, Sacred Blood and Iron Mask].

For Iron Maiden Alexander the Great is a particularly brilliant example of those elite fighters, who can easily be turned into legendary hero of the past, while the present seems to have broken with the sense of honor, righteousness and courage.

Here and then, words brings back to the “civilizing mission” of Alexander (without this expression being used expressis verbis). Iron Maiden lyrics evoke the foundation of the town of Alexandria, and one is dedicated to what historiography traditionally names “hellenization of Asia”.

The reading of The Iron Maiden commentary site can only surprise. The authors wish to explain the inspiration of the songwriter in today’s cultural context, stating that “in a time when culture and history are largely deconsidered”, Iron Maiden songs contribute to the education of their public because “they give access to culture and history to those who tend to consider those disciplines annoying”. The French commentary, dated to thez 10th july 1999 (signed P.D.S.) develops the same idea on a more vigourous form.

Heavy Metal would then be the only access to history allowed to young people disgusted by school. Stamped by apparently ineradicable political and cultural stereotypes, the message spread is rather worrisome. What those different albums transmit is in fact the traditional image of a European conquest of the Persian empire, viewed as an immense desert upon which reigns an old dynasty, ready to be dethroned by a young and indomitable conqueror coming from Macedonia. Feelings of power and brutal force are highlighted. Iron Maiden and Iron Mask add the non less traditional image of Alexander the European bringing civilization to the barbarians, and allowing the birth of Christianism. This is a very aggressive image of Europe that is spread, contradicting the evolution of historiography during the last 50 years or so.
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Dominus et deus
Staff member
I have read a lot of Briant's books and articles and use his work a lot in my own, so it's nice to see his discussion of this. Especially that he actually read the Commentary!

I think I know which book he used to write it, and the book in question (a classic in Ancient history) has been written in 1938.

You mean the book by W.W. Tarn? It could be that, or it could be the one by Robin Lane Fox from 1973. Doesn't make much of a difference, as Fox' Alexander is basically the same as Tarn's.