Between 334 and 324 B.C. the Macedonian army, led by Alexander the Great, marched relentlessly across Asia. An event of bravery and cruelty, endurance and greed, Alexander's expedition was a turning point in human history. His conquest opened up contacts between Europe and Asia, unleashing astonishing historical energies that continue to affect the world today. This extraordinary book recreates Alexander's 22,000 mile, ten-year expedition from Greece to India, following as much as possible the actual route of his journey.
Historian Michael Wood traversed seventeen countries, trekking through the Zagros Mountains to find the lost site of Alexander's battle at the "Persian Gates," drinking black tea in the Hindu Kush, listening to ancient stories of Sikander e Aazem, and crossing the Makran Desert with twenty-three camels. He traveled with Lebanese traders, Iranian pilgrims, Afghan guerrillas, and other local people on a journey that took him through many of the twentieth century's major trouble spots, including Beirut and Kurdistan.
Wood bases his account of Alexander's conquest on the texts of Greek and Roman historians, but he also reconsiders the Greek adventure in terms of modern ideas on colonialism, orientalism, and racism. The Macedonian conquest, which has mainly been seen through Greek sources, is illuminated for the first time by medieval travelers' narratives, newly discovered oracles, and prophecies on papyrus or clay tablet.
At the heart of Wood's powerful story is the towering, enigmatic character of Alexander the Great. He ascended the throne at twenty, conquered much of the known world before he was thirty, and was dead by the age of thirty-two. A ruthless politician, brilliant military tactician, devoted son, family man, lover of both women and men, Alexander was known for his extreme generosity as well as his ferocious cruelty. Following in the conqueror's footsteps centuries later, Michael Wood overhears the words of the fabled Greek mermaid who calls to passing sailors: "Great Alexander still lives!"
Relying on Greek and Roman sources, Wood tells a glorious story with some very dark shadows . . . The harrowing tale of his own trek over the same ground makes clear how heroic Alexander s army was. And in a dozen countries, in cities and villages, in desert camps and on mountains of the Hindu Kush, he found that Alexander is fiercely alive in poetry, songs, and folk tales, in the imaginations of millions.