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I did a readathon today and finally finished reading the third volume of the Alexander trilogy, ‘The Ends of the Earth‘.

The third part takes the story from the Egyptian adventure and continues with the story of Alexander’s and his army’s journey into Persia and the Middle East, Central Asia and India. There are lots of battles and wars and blood spilled. There are some beautiful, moving scenes in between. Some of those moving scenes look real. Others look like they have been inserted by the author to relieve the monotony of the war scenes.

This third part was interesting, but I felt at some point that the story was running on autopilot mode – one more new country, one more new war, one more new conquest, more killing. Out of the three parts, the first part was the best, the second part was good, and the third part was the weakest. But on the positive side, the third part has some of the most heartbreaking scenes in the story. The Alexander who comes in the first part is very likeable, the Alexander in the second part is half likeable, but the Alexander in the third part is far from likeable. This grownup Alexander is a ruthless person, who razes down cities which have surrendered and have opened their gates, killing thousands of innocent people. This Alexander is so ruthless that he kills a whole community of innocent people because they don’t bow to him. This Alexander is so insecure that he suspects his close friends and people who are loyal him and gets them executed and assassinated. This Alexander is a tyrant and is a barbarian himself. At some point the story changes from an adventure into a tragedy when Alexander tells his troops to loot and ransack a city which has surrendered and then he watches them raping and pillaging and burning down things. The story then descends into a farce when Alexander marries the Persian princess and tries to take revenge for the Persian king’s murder, the very king whom Alexander himself went to war against and tried to kill. Then it descends to worse than a farce with more and more illogical behaviour on Alexander’s part. It is hard to blame the author Manfredi for all this, of course, because he is just trying to keep the story close to historical events. And the historical Alexander was like this. Not the noble hero as we are led to believe but a spoilt brat and a ruthless tyrant. His close friends are mostly ‘Yes’ men who occasionally speak their mind, but mostly toe the line. The only person who comes out of the story with his honour intact was General Parmenion, who serves King Philip first and then continues serving Alexander after he becomes king. He is old, his hair is white, but he is brave and loyal, and he speaks his mind. Things don’t end well for him. He was my favourite character in the book.

After finishing the book, it is hard not to ask what is the point behind all these wars and conquests. What is the point of invading countries and killing people and razing down cities, especially when the people were minding their own business? How is that glorious? In the end how did all this benefit Alexander? He died young, in his thirties, leaving behind three wives and a kid. His wives were not Macedonian  – two of them were Persian and one of them was Central Asian. They were all probably killed by his generals who fought over his kingdom. So what was the point in the end? It was all just a waste of time. It makes for a good epic story, 2500 years later, but otherwise, it is just lots of time wasted on unpleasant activities which resulted in unnecessary loss of thousands of lives. This is the story of every war. There are no winners. One of the unfortunate consequences of Alexander’s invasions was that other kings and armies tried doing similar things across the centuries and millennia, trying to conquer the world or atleast their neighbouring countries. This has persisted deep into the 20th century and is continuing to this day.

The book has a note in the end in which the author describes the historical basis behind the story and it is fascinating to read.

I’m happy that I finally got to read the Alexander trilogy. It is my second chunkster this year, and at 1171 pages, it is the second longest book that I’ve ever read. Yay!

Have you read the Alexander trilogy by Manfredi? What do you think about it?

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