Its not often that one runs across a history book that you can't put down until you have finished. This new book about Alexander the Great is such a book. It is very readable, unlike many other books on ancient history, and explains the ancient battles and tactics in a much more understandable style than other books.
Alexander might have been better called Alexander the Bold, or Alexander the Lucky, or Alexander the Inheritor of Philip's Army. It was Philip who developed a style of soldering that could allow an army of herdsmen to challenge the Greek phalanx staffed by soldiers wearing expensive bronze armor. Philip also developed the battlefield tactic of advancing his army to strike a point to one side of the enemies line of infantry. By striking with a wedge instead of a direct frontal attack, the enemy's line would inevitably be pulled out of formation, allowing the rest of Philips line to attack them when the unity of the Greek phalanx had been weakened. Philip also drilled his army of herdsmen until they fought as a unit, could turn and defend from mulitple threats, and were hardened to forced marches and extremes of weather and terrain.
Philip developed the innovative sarissa spear and the tactics of using it, and the training in its use in battle. The sarissa was longer than the spear of the Greek phalanx, and made Macedonian lines a veritable porcupine of spears, and was specifically designed to defeat the Greek phalanx.
Photo by permission of Simon and Schuster
Alexander was smart enough to use all that Philip had developed, and had the political genius to gather allies, eliminate threats, cojol reluctant troops, and added his own genius to the tremendous assets he had been given by his father. Each of his three major battles with the Persian army, which always included a fair number of Greek mercanaries, involved an asymmetical battle line, which showed Alexander's confidence in the Macedonian battle tactic, and his father's wedge attacking style. In each of the three battles against an overwhelmingly superior Persian army, the impenetrability of the sarissa armed Macedonians and the ability of the Macedonian cavalry to exploit weaknesses in the enemy's battle lines carried the day.
These topics and all of Alexander's battles, politcal intrigues, and his far thinking plans for his empire are presented in a very enjoyable style. I'd highly recommend this book.