While in grad school studying history (not ancient history, by the way) I got this and watched it with one of my fellow historians and his wife. We started off thinking: "Hm, this is quite a good documentary." We ended up thinking: "Dang! This is the best documentary ever!" Three things tip the scales on this one. First, the subject is inherently interesting. Whether you lean to the right or left, whether you are a tradtionalist or a revisionist at heart, you will find Alexander a fascinating character, and his bid to conquer the world harrowing, gripping, terrible, and awe-inspiring at same time. Second, the film is a good one, good pacing, wonderful footage, and all kinds of interesting people telling their stories. But what really makes this one special is Wood's incredible, insanely idiotic mania to reconstruct Alexander's journey. My God! Surveying battle sites from AWACS flying combat missions over Iraq? Fleeing Kabul ahead of the Taliban? Schmoozing with random warlords in Afganistan? Bandit raids in the Hindu Kush? It just keeps getting more and more bizarre! You will be swept along with this one... and the current troubles in this part of the world make it particularly interesting.
Around 300 BC, Alexander The Great had conquered the known world. He was only 32. It is said that he got a fever and died when he realized there were no worlds left to conquer.
At this writing, Oliver Stone's soon to open epic "Alexander" is getting a lot of attention, so it's inevitable that similar themed digital editions will ride the publicity wave.
The four hour armchair adventure IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ALEXANDER (Paramount) is among the very best of all TV documentaries.
Enthusiastic, knowledgable and affable Oxford scholar Michael Wood retraces -- for the first time -- the 16 country war path of Alexander from Macedonia to India. Citing excerpts from ancient Greek and Roman historians, Woods literally treks, rides, swims and sails in Alexander's footsteps. Passing through at least four war zones, Wood observes that these regions remain "on the fault lines of history." No kidding. Along the way, Wood encounters local story tellers who perform ancient recitations that keep Alexander's story alive and current. For instance, in Iran there's still resentment of Alexander as conqueror of the Persian empire.
This exciting, engrossing documentary is loaded with numerous incidents rich in irony that puts in clearer perspective not only the world of Alexander (300 BC) but our modern, fractured world. Highest recommendation.
on February 8, 2005
I ordered this DVD, along with two books, because I wished to learn more about Alexander the Great as a historical figure. This was after having endured the recently released film disaster of the same name by Oliver Stone. Having earlier watched another of Michael Wood's documentaries, the delightful "The Conquistadores", I was willing to gamble on Mr. Wood's skills as a storyteller a second time. My gamble paid off.
As a trained historian and history teacher, I was again impressed by Mr. Wood's attention to detail and accuracy. Not once in four hours of viewing, could I jump out of my seat, play the pedant, and shout "Ah Ha!, he is wrong on this point!"
And the cinematography! I was as riveted by the beauty of the landscapes as I was the engaging and often humorous commentary of the host. "In the Footsteps.." deserves kudos for presenting the often desolate parts of the world its subject experienced as haunting and beautiful in their own right.
Wood's supreme gift, however, is his ability to tell a riveting story. And to tell it in such a warm and affable way as to convey the impression he was sharing it with me personally. It was together we traveled the Hindu Kush, tramped through the snow capped mountains of Macedonia, and sat huddled with tea drinking Iranians, listening to the tales of "Sikandur", the horned one. Mr. Wood's intention is not to persuade, but instead to educate and stimulate debate. My only regret is that the series was not longer. Whatever happened to the fruits of Alexander's labors and the labors of his men? Sadly, Mr. Wood leaves this tale for another to tell.
While in grad school studying history (not ancient history, by the way) I got this and watched it with one of my fellow historians and his wife. We started off thinking: "Hm, this is quite a good documentary." We ended up thinking: "Dang! This is the best documentary ever!" Three things tip the scales on this one. First, the subject is inherently interesting. Whether you lean to the right or left, whether you are a tradtionalist or a revisionist at heart, you will find Alexander a fascinating character, and his bid to conquer the world harrowing, gripping, terrible, and awe-inspiring at same time. Second, the film is a good one, good pacing, wonderful footage, and all kinds of interesting people telling their stories. But what really makes this one special is Wood's incredible, insanely idiotic mania to reconstruct Alexander's journey. My God! Surveying battle sites from AWACS flying combat missions over Iraq? Fleeing Kabul ahead of the Taliban? Schmoozing with random warlords in Afganistan? Bandit raids in the Hindu Kush? It just keeps getting more and more bizarre! You will be swept along with this one... and the current troubles in this part of the world make it particularly interesting. Hope to see it on DVD!
In 334 B.C.E., Alexander of Macedon left his home, never to return. In these videos, Michael Wood unfolds the journey that Alexander took nearly 2,500 years ago. This effort, alongside his IN SEARCH OF THE TROJAN WAR has distinguished Wood as the Carl Sagan of classical history.
In this documentary we're able to view the sundry places that the Macedonian visited, conquered and cherished in his journey into history. The number of countries that he travelled thru are innumerable, including what is modern day Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Isreal, Afghanistan, Syria, India + many, many more. Some of the topography has scarcely changed in the intermittant years, while in other places the scenery has changed quite a bit. The former examples are of more interest, for it engages the viewer to imagine himself marching alongside the legendary General!
Along the way, Wood carries with him his trusty CAMPAIGNS OF ALEXANDER by the Greek historian Arrian. Wood also consults the local folklore of the denizens who have descended from the very people who fought for and against Alexander. Looking at the mythology of the man from several cultural viewpoints enhances our understanding of his significance in & around Asia Minor.
Although there is a great deal of information that is offered about the travels of Alexander, precious little detail is given on his tactics and strategies of battle. Also, almost nothing is said of his father, Phillip II, or the historical background of Alexander's rise to glory. For a documentary that covers the former topic, I would recommend ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND THE BATTLE OF ISSUS. For studies of the historical backdrop of Alexander's life, consider MACEDONIA: THE LAND OF A GOD (parts I & II) as well as the writings of Isocrates. All 3 of these may be found @ Amazon.com.
As a sidenote, Wood's trek thru Afghanistan may be of particular interest in regards to recent developments. Wood went thru in 1996, just as the Taliban was asserting control over the country. One can see just how chaotic & dangerous life in that country was and is.
According to legend, when Julius Caesar was around 30, he wept at the feet of a statue of Alexander. Caesar was overwhelmed by the fact that Alexander had conquered almost all the known world by the time he was 30, while Caesar had done so relatively little in comparison. Caesar spent the rest of his life symbolically attempting to re-trace the steps of Alexander's conquests. Here we have an opportunity to literally retrace the steps of the man the Romans posthumously annointed as Alexander "the Great." Don't pass up this chance!
on April 11, 2000
Alexander the Great is known as one of the greatest conquerors of all time. His lifetime achievements are even more extraordinary when one considers that he conquered the greater part of southern Europe, northern Africa,the Middle East and Central Asia all by the time of his premature death at 33. To recreate this amazing feat, historian Michael Wood retraces the steps of Alexander, along the way meeting with locals who keep the legacy of Alexander alive through generations-old folk tales. The importance of the documentary is two-fold: retracing the conquests of Alexander and a contemporary glimpse at modern life in these areas. Besides the wealth of knowledge provided by Wood, his sheer exuberance throughout the rough journey adds interest to the film. Watching him describe Alexander's exploits, I wanted to be right along side of Woods. As a high school history teacher, as much as i enjoyed the documentary, I wouldn't reccommend showing it in the classroom. I think students (especially freshmen) might be a bit bored with Woods' wealth of knowledge and the lack of "action" scenes. In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great is definitely for the seasoned history buff, or for the person who enjoys a little history lesson to go along with travelling to exotic locations.
on August 6, 2000
In The Footsteps Of Alexander The Great is a superbly presented travelogue adventure exploring the life and conquests of Alexander of Macedonia and his troops. Michael Wood hosts this extraordinary series that perfectly captures the drama and trauma of those ancient times as he takes a modern-day, 20,000 mile odyssey retracing Alexander's route from Macedonia, through Persia, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan, India and Iran. In doing so Wood and his crew traveled through sixteen countries and four war zones. No matter how well you think you know Alexander's story and legacy, In The Footsteps Of Alexander The Great will provide new and startling information, and give you the feeling of "being there" and a new appreciation for the accomplishments of his troops against all manner of hostile forces, elements, terrains, and internal frictions. The photography is spectacular, the interviews diverse and informative, Wood's narration perfectly attuned to the subject. In The Footsteps Of Alexander The Great is a "must" for personal, school, and community library antiquarian history video collections.
on May 26, 2005
This program is extremely well done but it is not a documentary in the traditional understanding. Instead, it is more of a travelogue. Along the way of the travels, we get a good deal of information about the conquerer of the known world as well.
The program starts out in Macedonia. It then follows the career of Alexander through Asia Minor, Egypt, Iraq (Babylon), Iran (Persia), Afganistan, India and then the final march back to Iran again. Wherever possible, the actual route of Alexander's army is followed. This involved crossing national boundaries, battle lines in civil wars and some really intimidating mountains, goat paths and deserts. It does a good job of bringing out just how remarkable his achievements were.
This presentation is not chock full of historical facts and hypothesis but both of those are present in respectable quantity. They are present as adjuncts to the wonderful scenery. This progam should appeal to anyone who is interested in either Alexander or in travel to exotic places.
on October 14, 2005
This is a superb presentation which has, nevertheless, some flaws. Segment one, which tells the story of Alexander's youth and the launch of the great expedition, gives due credit to Alexander's father, Philip II, as strategist and politician, but fails to mention that Philip planned the expedition to conquer Persia, raised an army and its supply lines and had a route mapped out. He was murdered just before he was due to leave Macedonia. Alexander was able to move so quickly because the work had been already prepared by Philip. Wood gives the impression that Persia was Alexander's idea. Wood also fails to emphasise enough Alexander's rivalry with Philip. A brilliant and commanding personality, Alexander spent his youth being eclipsed by his father's achievements, and it made him furious to excel Philip. This rivalry was cultivated by his mother Olympias, who had been set aside by Philip and would not accept it. The murder of Philip was most likely organised by Olympias, with Alexander's connivance.
Segment two, which deals with the conquest of Darius, fails to mention that Darius was an usurper who did not command the allegiance of his nobles and their forces. To be exact, an ambitious eunuch removed the legitimate heir and used Darius, who was of the royal house and of an impressive appearance, as a pawn through whom he could rule the empire. This was not accepted by the nobles, and if Alexander had not come it is likely the empire would have broken up in civil wars unless another Darius the Great had emerged. This explains why the Persian army was so ineffective, with whole divisions not engaging or deserting during combat. Alexander was fighting an already beaten enemy. These two instances lessen Alexander's achievement but make it much more understandable.
Segments three and four, on the circuit of the empire and arrival at India, return and death, are more of a travelogue, recounting surviving folklore in a leisurely way while reflecting on the possible collapse of Alexander's character through excess. It gave me the feeling that Wood was running out of steam, filling up his allotted time with lesser material.
On the positive side Wood illuminates Alexander's deeds and character by experiencing the same terrain as Alexander did, and in some instances sheds light on Alexander's actions. Wood is, as always, scholarly, and engaging, prompting audience involvement.
As a whole the documentary reinforces the myth, while highlighting aspects of it unknown to western audiences. It's a populist, and amazing, travelogue. For some reason Wood refers to Hercules (the Roman god) throughout, not Herakles (the Greek god). Alexander? A spoiled boy with a megalomania fostered by his unscrupulous mother, he was able to steal the achievements of Philip, a military and political genius of the calibre of Julius Caesar, by murdering him. Then, fortuitously, he was able to take the Persian Empire away from an usurper who could not have held it. He is famous because he was a prime example for Christian moralists of the futility of human ambition by having conquered the world and then dying at 32.
on March 4, 2000
Michael Wood follows the footsteps of Alexander from his home country to his death in the Indian sub-continent. The journey examines not only the military achievements but gives insights into the man himself, as Mr Wood points out, retracing the actual journey reveals much of Alexander's character and what went towards making him such a fearful enemy and friend. Still revered in the West and hated in the East, Alexander's achievements are still staggering by twenty-first century standards.The series is well presented and is still as captivating after several viewings. I simply cannot recommend this title too highly, not only for history buffs but for travellers and lovers of a good story alike.