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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fantastic
After I watched the TV series, I didn't feel that Michael Wood would be able to improve on the subject when putting it into book form. After having read the book, I have to say that he has indeed managed to improve upon the series with a sharp, pacy book with fascinating and breathtaking descriptions of places and people. This book is even better than the series and is...
Published on 8 July 2001

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lightweight introduction to Alexander.
Michael Wood's book on Alexander the Great came as something of a disappointment to me, having read and enjoyed his book "In Search of the Trojan War". In this book, Wood follows the route taken by Alexander and his army from their starting point at the Dardanelles to their conquest of Northern India and Pakistan, to Alexander's untimely death in Babylon.
It has to...
Published on 18 Aug. 2004


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lightweight introduction to Alexander., 18 Aug. 2004
By A Customer
Michael Wood's book on Alexander the Great came as something of a disappointment to me, having read and enjoyed his book "In Search of the Trojan War". In this book, Wood follows the route taken by Alexander and his army from their starting point at the Dardanelles to their conquest of Northern India and Pakistan, to Alexander's untimely death in Babylon.
It has to be said that this book is rather thin, and I was often left feeling that some of the details had been glossed over, perhaps in an effort to appeal to a wider audience.
It's very interesting to read about some of the facts that Wood uncovered on his journey, and some of the Alexander legends that have been preserved by local people brought the story to life very well, but perhaps Wood was too influenced by local people who regard Alexander as a murderous devil, as his description of Alexander focusses far too much on his atrocities, alcoholism and egotism to the detriment of his generalship. Clearly, Alexander was a despicable tyrant, but his military achievements were enormous, and didn't get the attention they deserved here.
On the whole, the book is enjoyable, and well worth reading for anyone with an interest in the subject, particularly if it's the first book on Alexander that you read. However, I was disappointed in how far short of the author's other work this book fell. Michael Wood is a gifted writer with an ability to bring his subject to life, and he is clearly a fine historian, but I wonder if this book was written to a tight deadline. I recommend "In Search of the Trojan War" far more than "In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great".
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fantastic, 8 July 2001
By A Customer
After I watched the TV series, I didn't feel that Michael Wood would be able to improve on the subject when putting it into book form. After having read the book, I have to say that he has indeed managed to improve upon the series with a sharp, pacy book with fascinating and breathtaking descriptions of places and people. This book is even better than the series and is an absolute must buy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Preferred the original hardback to the new paperback edition, 16 Dec. 2010
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Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (Paperback)
I came to this book via the TV series, being aware that Michael Wood's books often have more to say than is relayed on screen. But I was disappointed with the bland paperback edition that is now all that is available as new. Despite reproducing the picture credits of earlier editions, there are no pictures! I have read that since Random House purchased the BBC Books catalogue, there have been complaints of poor publications and this seems to be just such a bad example. And there is only one map! And the bibliography has not been updated. As a result, I managed to find a cheap but good original 1997 hardback edition that is fully illustrated with maps and photographs.

I read both editions side by side and compared the text but found only a small and relatively minor number of changes by the author in updating the first edition, so kept the first edition and gave away the paperback. For example, comments on "war crimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Bosnian War" are updated to "... Cambodia, and the Iraqi Wars." Another example is Wood's adding the fact that the gigantic Buddhas in Afghanistan were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. There is one instance of virtually a whole paragraph being rewritten (about his journey back to the Nile from Siwa), but it is not known why this is so. Having undertaken the same exercise for Wood's book `In Search of the Trojan War' (review available on Amazon), it is clear that there are not so many changes between editions on Alexander as there have been for the former, but this is no doubt due to there not having been any major new breakthroughs in Alexander studies as there have been at Troy.

The book consists of a prologue, a prelude, and six parts; it is rounded off with a short epilogue. In the prologue Wood writes how, "The Macedonian conquest of the world as far as India, which has always been seen through Greek sources exclusively, is now being illuminated for the first time by native sources, newly discovered oracles and prophecies on papyrus or clay tablet." Nevertheless, Wood admits that his account is largely based on the traditional Greek and Roman historians, whose works he carried with him in his rucksack along the way. There are some paragraphs devoted to his epic trek with its logistical problems and false expectations. He found being on the ground and attempting to see the land through ancient eyes invaluable in solving some mysteries.

Wood also links Alexander's tale with events of modern times, in particular "his purges and massacres, his reliance on intelligence spies, secret police, his control of information, use of torture, manipulation of images" etc. When passing through Helmand province of modern Afghanistan, Wood wrote in 1997, i.e. before the events of nine-eleven, of Alexander instigating "a terrifying purge, show-trials, torture and execution of some of the king's [Alexander's] most intimate companions." Whilst evincing much admiration for his subject, Wood is also clear of his failings too and does not hold back in acknowledging Alexander's tyranny. At the siege of Aornos, for instance, Wood writes, "Not for the first time on our journey I found myself strongly identifying with the hopeless defeated." Sometimes Wood's conclusions are a bit fanciful, such as his considering the oyster shells found at the supposed (and now long-abandoned) port used by Nearchus at the mouth of the Indus "very likely to be the remains of Nearchus's feast", on the grounds that "shellfish are not eaten by Muslims".

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that the book was purchased because Wood has more interesting things to say in this format than is available in the time of a TV series. Here in the book, for example, he tells us more about the battle of Granicus and the walking of the Sacred Way between Miletus and Didyma, "up into the hills covered with thorn and asphodel and drenched in a smell of sage." This is all good stuff, but I had expected more details of Wood's journal of his journey. There is certainly much more in the book than the TV series for the period between Alexander's return to Babylonia and his eventual death. This is probably due to Wood being persona non grata in Iraq when the series was made. But Wood also has much to say about Alexander's legacy, concluding "It is as if Alexander's era saw an explosion of energy, like a nebula, which left behind new universes reforming in its aftermath." I did not know, for instance, that as late as the eighth century of the Christian era Greek language and culture was so prevalent as far east as present-day Pakistan.

A chronology, a glossary of characters, a list of sources and an index brings the book to a satisfying end.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DIFFERENT, 24 Dec. 2001
A different approach from other Alexander books, and well worthwhile. It is remarkable how much remains to be seen on the ground and compliments to Michael Wood for an excellent travelogue in this respect.
As history, the book is weaker, the military side of the campaigns is very understated, although the attempted psychological profiles of Alexander and Hephaistion are surely not too wide of the mark.
I sometimes had the feeling that Wood considered his own voyage to be almost as remarkable achievement as Alexander's; and there was a general sense of disapproval of drinking and violence which in the columns of the Guardian or in a BBC book is surely not out of place, but considering the norms of the Hellenistic age should perhaps be judged less censoriously.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning documentary, 24 Jan. 2014
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Wood's intellectual and knowledgeable slant on this epic of history paints a glorious and tragic tale in the ancient world. Michael Wood follows in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, his glory and demise across the vast Asian continent from Europe and finally into Africa. Wood's gripping storytelling coupled with stunning locations weaves a colourful tale through ancient history giving a new and insightful look into the debauchery and genius that was Alexander the Great. A must-see for those interested in the ancient world, great lives and larger than life tales.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexander's Conquests Brought To Life, 13 May 2002
By A Customer
This is the book of the extraordinary T.V. series. Michael Wood has obviously followed the conquests of Alexander the Great in detail in the sources, and in this book he brings those conquests to life by following the 20,000 miles journey that the Macedonian army undertook. Although undoubtedly a fan Mr. Wood is fair and details the atrocities as well as the examples of wonderful leadership. Having read much of the source work I feel that this book brings the events to life in a manner few other works come near to.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story - both for Alexander and for the Michael Wood team, 26 Feb. 2014
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Patrick Carmody (South Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (Paperback)
This makes sense of the whole story.
The military reasons for events, the surprises, the hardships and the cruelty are all explained.
And by following the exact footsteps many of the puzzles of timing and personality are clarified.
If you want one book on ancient warfare (or on the spread of greek culture across egypt and almost all of asia) then this is a bargain, and a real page-turner.
Just one tiny niggle - the reprinted photos are smaller and much hazier than the original hardback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 25 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (Paperback)
I'm a big history fan, and this account by the popular TV historian and presenter does not disappoint.

It's incredible to follow Alexander's journey today, as so many of our lives are so comfortable and lived in a kind of protected bubble (at least in places like England).

Truly fascinating.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 28 Jun. 2013
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Judith (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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How can you go wrong with Michael Wood? The learning is evident but delivered with a light touch. The book is beautifully illustrated, too, and I learnt a huge amount both from the texts and the pictures. It arrived on time and in perfect condition.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected More., 20 Feb. 2002
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Hugh Jenkins (Perth, Australia (originally Wales)) - See all my reviews
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Surprisingly, this did not offer the interest of the documentary. Without a real knowledge in Ancient Greek history and mythology it was quite easy to lose interest in the book. The insights into Alexander's character were fascinating, but overall I was disappointed, possibly because my expectations were very high after watching the superb documentary.
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In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great by Michael Wood (Paperback - 7 Oct. 2004)
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