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A stunning portrait of the magnificent splendor and enduring legacy of ancient Persia    The Achaemenid Persian kings ruled over the largest empire of antiquity, stretching from Libya to the steppes of Asia and from Ethiopia to Pakistan. From the palace-city of Persepolis, Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and their heirs reigned supreme for centuries until the conquests of A A stunning portrait of the magnificent splendor and enduring legacy of ancient Persia    The Achaemenid Persian kings ruled over the largest empire of antiquity, stretching from Libya to the steppes of Asia and from Ethiopia to Pakistan. From the palace-city of Persepolis, Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and their heirs reigned supreme for centuries until the conquests of Alexander of Macedon brought the empire to a swift and unexpected end in the late 330s BCE.    In Persians, historian Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones tells the epic story of this dynasty and the world it ruled. Drawing on Iranian inscriptions, cuneiform tablets, art, and archaeology, he shows how the Achaemenid Persian Empire was the world’s first superpower—one built, despite its imperial ambition, on cooperation and tolerance. This is the definitive history of the Achaemenid dynasty and its legacies in modern-day Iran, a book that completely reshapes our understanding of the ancient world.  


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A stunning portrait of the magnificent splendor and enduring legacy of ancient Persia    The Achaemenid Persian kings ruled over the largest empire of antiquity, stretching from Libya to the steppes of Asia and from Ethiopia to Pakistan. From the palace-city of Persepolis, Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and their heirs reigned supreme for centuries until the conquests of A A stunning portrait of the magnificent splendor and enduring legacy of ancient Persia    The Achaemenid Persian kings ruled over the largest empire of antiquity, stretching from Libya to the steppes of Asia and from Ethiopia to Pakistan. From the palace-city of Persepolis, Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and their heirs reigned supreme for centuries until the conquests of Alexander of Macedon brought the empire to a swift and unexpected end in the late 330s BCE.    In Persians, historian Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones tells the epic story of this dynasty and the world it ruled. Drawing on Iranian inscriptions, cuneiform tablets, art, and archaeology, he shows how the Achaemenid Persian Empire was the world’s first superpower—one built, despite its imperial ambition, on cooperation and tolerance. This is the definitive history of the Achaemenid dynasty and its legacies in modern-day Iran, a book that completely reshapes our understanding of the ancient world.  

30 review for Persians: The Age of the Great Kings

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    2.5 stars. Of course, any history of the Persian Empire is particularly interesting. Although that empire was relatively short-lived, from about 559 to 330 BCE, it dates from a period from which we have quite a few written sources ànd archaeological finds. In the case of the Persian Empire, these sources are predominantly Greek and therefore suspect, because the Greeks usually saw Persia as the great enemy. The author of this book, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, puts this in the spotlight and claims to 2.5 stars. Of course, any history of the Persian Empire is particularly interesting. Although that empire was relatively short-lived, from about 559 to 330 BCE, it dates from a period from which we have quite a few written sources ànd archaeological finds. In the case of the Persian Empire, these sources are predominantly Greek and therefore suspect, because the Greeks usually saw Persia as the great enemy. The author of this book, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, puts this in the spotlight and claims to offer nothing less than a correction to that distorted Greek image. His intention is to rely mainly on other sources than Greek ones. Unfortunately, he only lives up to this to a limited extent. His account still seems to be based mainly on Greek sources, and the picture he paints of the Persian leaders (with Cyrus II and Darius the Great as epigones) is just as degrading as, for example, the one Herodotus made. Only the chapters on Persian culture give a bit more space to Persian voices themselves. Moreover, towards the end the book contains a remarkable number of narrative passages, full of fictional descriptions, and without citing source (obviously, they must be Greek ones). Strange. So, this definitely makes for an interesting read, but this book doesn't deliver what it promises, and has a few issues of its own. More on this in my History-account on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show.... Thanks to Netgalley for an Advanced Reading Copy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sense of History

    The author of this book definitely has a soft spot for the Persian Empire. You wouldn't expect less from someone who has made it his specialty. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones teaches ancient history at Cardiff University, Wales, and has published numerous works on the history of the relatively short-lived Persian Empire. One such book is King and Court in Ancient Persia 559 to 331 Bce, published in 2013. This text (excluding the selection of original documents) also forms the centerpiece of this new book The author of this book definitely has a soft spot for the Persian Empire. You wouldn't expect less from someone who has made it his specialty. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones teaches ancient history at Cardiff University, Wales, and has published numerous works on the history of the relatively short-lived Persian Empire. One such book is King and Court in Ancient Persia 559 to 331 Bce, published in 2013. This text (excluding the selection of original documents) also forms the centerpiece of this new book, and it is by far also the most interesting part. Llewellyn-Jones discusses various aspects of life at the Persian court. In doing so, he tries to adjust the Orientalist image of the so-called decadent life of the Persian kings and their entourage, an image that goes back to the one propagated by the ancient Greeks and which was also adopted in the West in the 18th century. Llewellyn-Jones certainly succeeds in presenting a fairly nuanced and positive picture of Persian history in this book. The Persian Empire mainly built on the Mesopotamian traditions of at least 2 millennia, managed to get and keep almost the entire Near East under control for almost 2 centuries and developped a magnificent material culture, of which the sumptuous palace ruins in Persepolis, Susa, and Ecbatana still witness. The special feature of this vast empire is what we would now call 'multiculturalism': the Persian rulers did not impose their own culture, but respected the local traditions as much as possible and made ample use of their subject peoples for administrative, military and cultural affairs. Llewellyn-Jones' account makes it clear that this does not mean that we are dealing with peaceful government: the Persian rulers, like their Mesopotamian predecessors, could be quite cruel and ruthless. This corrects the picture we have from Hebrew sources of the beneficent Persian kings who allowed the Jews to return from exile. All very interesting, absolutely, but this book has some serious issues to contend with. For example, the author claims that he mainly wants to let Persian voices do the talking, to compensate for the negative Greek comments. In this he succeeds only to a very limited extent, because very few Persian sources have been preserved. The fact that the author is constantly citing Greek writers speaks volumes. It is also remarkable that in addition to the dry, factual history it sketches, this book sometimes contains very narrative and even fictional-Romanesque passages, for example about the glorious advance of the Persians in Greece, or about the intricate conflicts at the Persian court. Especially towards the end of this book, the story gets bogged down in endless intrigues between royal relatives and court officials, the details of which probably only come from (suspicious) Greek sources. The author also ends his book with a warm tribute to the great Persian kings, which he strangely connects with an appeal to Iranian nationalists not to forget their great past. “Long may the Great Kings reign”, is his closing sentence, a lyrical exclamation that you would only expect in a 19th century historiographical work. In short, despite the very interesting subject matter, this is a book with some serious issues. My rating: 2.5 stars. ARC through Netgalley.

  3. 4 out of 5

    B.J. Richardson

    I have a question. If someone is writing about an entire dynasty and not just one individual, can it still be called hagiography? I wanted to like this book. I really did. When living in Istanbul, I had an Iranian Muslim coworker. In my current town, I now have an Iranian Christian coworker. I have also known many other Iranian ex-pats while here in Turkiye. They're everywhere. And one thing that unites all of them, be they Muslim, Christian, or atheist, is their love for Cyrus. For a long time m I have a question. If someone is writing about an entire dynasty and not just one individual, can it still be called hagiography? I wanted to like this book. I really did. When living in Istanbul, I had an Iranian Muslim coworker. In my current town, I now have an Iranian Christian coworker. I have also known many other Iranian ex-pats while here in Turkiye. They're everywhere. And one thing that unites all of them, be they Muslim, Christian, or atheist, is their love for Cyrus. For a long time my Muslim coworker was convinced that the Quran said Cyrus was a man without fault. It broke his heart to find out what he had been told as a child was not true. Without question, Cyrus was one of the greatest kings to ever walk this earth. If you don't believe me, just ask any of my Iranian friends. Or read this book. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones apparently believes the same thing about the entire Achaemenid dynasty that my friend did about Cyrus. Now, in my friend this is excusable. He is just passing along something he had been told and just assumed it was true. In an author, you would assume LLJ had done a little more homework. The first inkling I received that this was not to be so was when I realized that there were no footnotes or references. Perhaps it was because I received an advanced reader's copy, but there were no footnotes or references. I like to check an author I've never read before to see how accurately and faithfully they are using their sources (and what sources they are using). There was no way for me to even know if he was simply making things up out of thin air (and more than once, I was a little suspicious of this). Perhaps this is simply because I am reading the book three months before it hits the shelves. Hopefully, this and common editing mistakes (like "cettainly" on p216) will be fixed before April. What I have less hope for are the factual mistakes or blatant misrepresentations found throughout the book. I noted a half dozen in my read-through. There were probably many more I didn't catch simply because I am not as familiar with the subject at hand. But here are a few examples: "The Persians entered Macedon and Xerxes met with his ally, the client king Alexander I..." Over the course of a few chapters, LLJ mentions his "ally" Alexander I probably at least ten times. The purpose is to cast shade on the later Macedonian kings Philip and Alexander III for their disloyalty to their ally. But LLJ never mentions that Alex I was known as the Philhellene (friend of Greeks). Nor does he point out that even as Alexander I was fulfilling his obligations to Xerxes (who defeated him and forced him into subservience years before), he was also passing information, men, and supplies on to the Greeks, his true friends and allies. This is all well-attested historical fact, but it is deliberately ignored because it doesn't fit into LLJ's propaganda. In addition, LLJ claims that there were 700 Greeks at Thermopylae. Actually, once the rest retreated, Leonidas had his 300 Spartans and 1,100 Boetians. So, twice what the author claims. I would love to know where he got that number but... no footnotes. But the real error is what comes next. LLJ writes, "Notwithstanding the Western fixation with the story of the 300 Spartans, the Battle of Thermopylae can only be interpreted as a great Persian victory." I had to rub my eyes to make sure I had read that correctly. Then I rubbed them again. Once I realized I wasn't imagining things, I had to put the book down and laugh. The author was imagining things and inviting us to join in his lunacy. At best estimate, Xerxes force outnumbered the Greeks by 50 to 1. More likely it was closer to 100 to 1 or even beyond. I've read legitimate sources who put his army at 360,ooo. Xerxes sent waves of 10,000 men at a time, over and over again to crash against a force a tenth their size. By all accounts, within the first hour, or at best within a few, that small Greek force should have been steamrolled. But instead, they held out for three days. Even then, they were only defeated because Xerxes found a way around them and hit them from both sides. When it was all said and done, more than twenty thousand Persians lay dead on the battlefield. By both numbers and in morale, the Persians were crushed. But don't take my account for that. Just read pretty much every Greek and military historian who has ever written on the subject. LLJ later comments that Xerxes should not have tried to fight the Athenians at sea but instead should have continued his land crusade instead. Not a chance. The first sea battle was pretty much a draw. He had pretty good odds there. but poor Xerxes was probably still having nightmares of the hotgates. If only 1,400 soldiers could do that much damage, he didn't dare find out what a full force would do. Between Marathon and Thermopylae, he had learned his lesson. But our author is still in dreamland. I could go on to talk about how LLJ castigates Heroditus for accusing Xerxes for worshipping a tree and decorating it with jewelry, and then about ten pages later points out that Xerxes seal was of him with votive offerings under a tree adorned with jewelry. I could point out how he says that the Persian kings weren't all that decadent and immoral. After all, they are no worse than Ivan the Terrible, Wu Zetian, and Stalin (page 326). I'm sorry, but if that's your comparison... ouch. To be fair, the history of the last few reigns really did seem like something straight out of Game of Thrones, despite his protestations. I could talk about... But in closing, I will just quote LLJ. "In Iran prose histories and verse histories, written or orally transmitted, were often based on the same historical materials (best not call them 'facts') and were crafted into diverse versions or readings of 'the past'; one version did not have supremacy over another since all shared a place in the Iranians' transmission of their 'history'. What happened in the past, or what is said to have happened, or indeed, what might have happened in the past or never happened at all, was permitted a space in the Persian understanding of the pre-Islamic era." What I was hoping for was a great book on Persian history. What I got was a continuation of this fine tradition of blending fact with fiction. Take a pass on this one.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘This story is told by the Persians themselves.’ Half a century ago, when I studied Ancient Greek history, the Persians were the bad guys. The sources we were drawing from, the Greek narratives, focussed on Greek heroism. I may have forgotten much of the history I learned, but the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE has stayed in my memory. Those noble Spartans, those dastardly Persians! Herodotus may have exaggerated a bit, but surely the essential facts were correct, or so I hoped. I read a little ‘This story is told by the Persians themselves.’ Half a century ago, when I studied Ancient Greek history, the Persians were the bad guys. The sources we were drawing from, the Greek narratives, focussed on Greek heroism. I may have forgotten much of the history I learned, but the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE has stayed in my memory. Those noble Spartans, those dastardly Persians! Herodotus may have exaggerated a bit, but surely the essential facts were correct, or so I hoped. I read a little about Darius and Xerxes, but our studies moved onto the Peloponnesian War, and I left Thermopylae and Herodotus behind. So, I was intrigued by the title of this book and keen to read more about the great kings of Persia. As Professor Llewellyn-Jones writes: ‘We cannot believe much of what Herodotus said, and yet we cannot do without him.’ Professor Llewellyn-Jones draws on inscriptional and archaeological evidence from the ancient Near East to provide this detailed, readable account of the Achaemenid dynasty. This account begins with the arrival of the Persians on the Iranian plains. Professor Llewellyn-Jones writes about Persian religion and culture, including the bureaucratic systems developed to govern an empire at one stage which extended from Libya to the Steppes of Asia and from Ethiopia to Pakistan. While the great kings were nomadic travellers around their territory, the palace-city of Persepolis was the heart of the empire. ‘The story of the Achaemenids is an epic soap opera of naked ambition, betrayal, revenge and murder ...’ And through the kings: Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and their successors, we learn of fights between brothers for power, of fights between wives and concubines each seeking to promote their own son as successor to the reigning king, while eunuchs and courtiers competed for influence. The narrative takes us through the fall of the empire at the hands of Alexander and onto an epilogue which provides information about contemporary Iran’s relationship with the Achaemenid heritage. I finished this book with a greater appreciation of the Achaemenid dynasty, especially of the bureaucratic processes developed to deal with a diverse and widespread empire. Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Perseus Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I read this courtesy of NetGalley. I really, really wanted to love this book. (That, children, is called 'foreshadowing'. You can almost see the BUT looming behind those words.) A book that's basically the postcolonialist version of Persian history we've all been waiting for! A view on Persian history that's not just repeating the Greek and Roman commentaries that were absolutely written with a very particular perspective! YES PLEASE. And even more when the Llewellyn-Jones makes the acerbic comm I read this courtesy of NetGalley. I really, really wanted to love this book. (That, children, is called 'foreshadowing'. You can almost see the BUT looming behind those words.) A book that's basically the postcolonialist version of Persian history we've all been waiting for! A view on Persian history that's not just repeating the Greek and Roman commentaries that were absolutely written with a very particular perspective! YES PLEASE. And even more when the Llewellyn-Jones makes the acerbic comment in the introduction about how the concept of European superiority can be dated back to Herodotus etc and the way they presented the terrifying East. So yes, let's have a version of Persian history that is largely based on Persian sources, or uses the Greek sources very carefully - to find the Persian reality behind the Greek propaganda. And it starts so well. There's a discussion about Persia vs Iran as a name - and I'm not sure whether his explanation of the political nuances there are accurate, so I defer to others on that, but it seemed to make sense within what I do know. There's a discussion about the archaeological activities that give historians what they know from Persepolis etc, and a candid admission about the lack of sources. The Persian history proper starts with a discussion of the movement of different peoples into the area we know today as Iran, and some speculation about how they interacted etc. Then it moves into discussing the development of the Persian empire as empire, and interaction with the Medes. All of this section was intriguing and the use of inscriptions was well done. I did start to get a bit uncomfortable about the lack of reference to other sources - like other historians; I understand that getting the balance of what can seem to be most approachable, and what can seem too scholarly, may revolve around footnotes etc but... there's just no way the author didn't use other references. I also started to get a bit uncomfortable when the author claimed that Cyrus' mother "delighted in singing Median nursery rhymes to him" (p60 of the e-version), because that seems... weirdly specific? And then I got to the description of him as "lean and good-looking in that way that Persian men are uniquely handsome" (p63 of the e-version) and I had to stop and blink and decide whether to laugh or cry. What happened to treating the Persians as real people and not exoticising them, which I thought was part of the postcolonial agenda? I also have a problem with the statement that "A society that requires such codes of respectful behaviour" (obeisance before the monarch, etc) "is very likely to have autocratic political organisation, characterised by the coercive power of a king" (pp194-5). It just seems too blanket a statement. And then! We have Darius' half-sister and wife described as "a Lady Macbeth-like villainess, hellbent on power and ruthless in her bloody ambition" (p288) and I really started to wonder whether it was now a different author, or if he had been to sexy the book up. Next we have "years of adoration and unnaturally demonstrative mother love meant that [Darius] was self-centred, cruel, vindictive, and brutal" (p292); and that mothers experience "that particular twang of jealousy... when their sons give their hearts to other women" (p294). In case we worried that it was about misogyny, we then have a eunuch described as "a veritable creature of the court" (uh, eunuchs who are made eunuchs to BE at court are literally that??) who was "born to corruption, whose ambitions were for the very highest office of state" (p333) and I just can't even. The author then has the temerity to accuse the Greeks of employing the "topos of the wicked eunuch" and I need to ask some questions about self-awareness. So. I am ambivalent about this book. It's a super necessary idea, and the use of Persian inscriptions and the way some of the Greek sources are handled is a really good example of how to read through sources to get more than they think they're saying. On the other hand, some of the descriptions are clearly ridiculous (robes of "chiffon-like linen, gauzy cotton, and shimmering silk" (p293) - not to mention that nursery rhyme - really need some evidence!). And the bits quoted above are enough to make me despair. Did I learn something about the Persian empire and the kings who ruled, and the way it all worked? Absolutely. Is this the last word in Persian imperial history? I sure hope not. Would not recommend to someone who is completely new to the history of this area and time, or to someone who is naive in reading historical books. For those looking to deepen their knowledge, it's useful - with the caveats above.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Hodgkins

    In “Persians” Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones sets out to tell a fresh history, in his words “This history uses genuine, indigenous, ancient Persian sources to tell a very different story from the one we might be familiar with, the one moulded around ancient Greek accounts. This story is told by the Persians themselves. It is Persia’s inside story. It is the Persian Version of Persia’s history.” He achieves this magnificently, it is a beautifully written and a captivating read. The Persians were, as many o In “Persians” Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones sets out to tell a fresh history, in his words “This history uses genuine, indigenous, ancient Persian sources to tell a very different story from the one we might be familiar with, the one moulded around ancient Greek accounts. This story is told by the Persians themselves. It is Persia’s inside story. It is the Persian Version of Persia’s history.” He achieves this magnificently, it is a beautifully written and a captivating read. The Persians were, as many of the other ancient civilisations rather brutal in the way they dispensed justice and regime change but that is not the focus of the book, it centres on the thinking, the culture and the greatness of Persians. The second part of the book breaks from the chronology to discusses the overarching elements of life in this age and is my favourite unpacking the bureaucracy, the construction of monuments, the etiquette and so on. I really enjoyed understanding the way of life and appreciating the extend of their power and how they managed such an empire. I appreciated the way the author shares what is known versus what is thought to be, it feels an honest telling of an amazing people. The epilogue tells us where the Persians are today. If you enjoy well-told and insightful history, don’t miss this one! It’s a four out of five on the enJOYment scale. I received a complimentary copy of the book from Perseus Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shahin Keusch

    This is a great book about ancient Iran. The author tried to base his research on new archeological sources and only used the ancient Greek sources if he had too. I personally never really read much about ancient Persian history, and this book was a great introduction without the supposed Greek bias. He doesn't portray Achaemenids as good or bad, but gives a very balanced account. This book was about the Achaemenid dynasty of Kings that ruled most of the known world for 2 generations. From Cyrus This is a great book about ancient Iran. The author tried to base his research on new archeological sources and only used the ancient Greek sources if he had too. I personally never really read much about ancient Persian history, and this book was a great introduction without the supposed Greek bias. He doesn't portray Achaemenids as good or bad, but gives a very balanced account. This book was about the Achaemenid dynasty of Kings that ruled most of the known world for 2 generations. From Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, the various Artaxerxes' to Darius III who was eventually defeated by Iskandar (Alexander).  The book was split in 3 parts. The first and last was a history of the times, describing the rule and events surrounding each King, while the middle sections explained the life, culture, religion, etc of ancient iran. It then ends with Iran today and how the legacy of the Achaemenids is used in the modern times, from the last Shah to the Islamic government.  I highly recommend this book. 

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristjan

    Western understanding of Persian/Iranian history has been greatly influenced by what was reported by outsiders (namely the Greeks who largely sought to demonize the empire with whom they fought several wars). This text tries to balance the account … purportedly using Persian sources. It is not a textbook though … the history is told in a narrative style that brings together a number of differing sources to build a “presumed’ context in the absence of specific details … such as describing how an Western understanding of Persian/Iranian history has been greatly influenced by what was reported by outsiders (namely the Greeks who largely sought to demonize the empire with whom they fought several wars). This text tries to balance the account … purportedly using Persian sources. It is not a textbook though … the history is told in a narrative style that brings together a number of differing sources to build a “presumed’ context in the absence of specific details … such as describing how an individual might be dressed for the occasion … these rather intimate vignettes are fairly interesting, at least until the author’s bias hits you right between the eyes with pejorative descriptors (such as pedestrian, et al.) applied to the Greeks that serve no academic function and detracts from the expected rational exposition of “a history.” This obvious bias undermines the over all scholarship that actually does present significant details about how the Persian court/government operates that now come across more as an apology that a recounting of facts. The author even justified Darius fleeing for his life in several engagements against Alexander as motivated by his desire to “save” his legacy and not because he was a coward abandoning his armies. Frankly the brutality of the Persian court was appalling to western/modern sensibilities and I had to wonder about the author’s defense against the Greek perception of moral decadence with references imperial power and force of armies as if the two were mutually exclusive. Over all, it seems we get a history almost as equally flawed as what we get from Herodotus … who was the author’s favorite target. I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. #Persians #NetGalley.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    I was drawn to this title when I heard the author was "Drawing on Iranian inscriptions, cuneiform tablets, art, and archaeology..." Using such deep and recent sources, here is told the story from the tribal roots of the Persians in competition with the Medes, through the long-lived rivalry with Greece, a golden age of empire building, and final transformation into a Hellenized nation under the conquering Macedonians. There are plenty of illustrations and the writing is engaging and lively. Perso I was drawn to this title when I heard the author was "Drawing on Iranian inscriptions, cuneiform tablets, art, and archaeology..." Using such deep and recent sources, here is told the story from the tribal roots of the Persians in competition with the Medes, through the long-lived rivalry with Greece, a golden age of empire building, and final transformation into a Hellenized nation under the conquering Macedonians. There are plenty of illustrations and the writing is engaging and lively. Personally, I would have liked to hear more of the ancient voices in direct translation while being very pleased with this book. Supporting material includes a dramatis personae and detailed bibliography. A very interesting Epilogue looking back from modern Iran (where the author has very positive research experiences) and explains an adoration of Cyrus The Great and his age by a largely young and secular population enduring theocratic rule.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Hill

    Oh my goodness gracious. I am not even sure I am going to be adequately able to say what I would like to about this book! I want to go back and read a finished copy of this book, looking deeper into some of the areas that I felt were not quite there - almost, but not quit I enjoyed reading about some of the figures that developed and advanced the Persian empire, but felt that there was some reaching by the author on the subject. Now, admittedly, Persia is not my area of expertise. It is one area Oh my goodness gracious. I am not even sure I am going to be adequately able to say what I would like to about this book! I want to go back and read a finished copy of this book, looking deeper into some of the areas that I felt were not quite there - almost, but not quit I enjoyed reading about some of the figures that developed and advanced the Persian empire, but felt that there was some reaching by the author on the subject. Now, admittedly, Persia is not my area of expertise. It is one area that I have been needing to dive into further, but due to time constraints, I never did. This book is a great starting point for me. Now, I mentioned above that I want to read through it again, and some of ya'll might be asking WHY!? There are a few reasons. As I said, there are some areas that I want to dive into a bit further and do some of my own research on. I can't sit here and say "that is just wrong, or I am not sure that is how that happened." Until I can research and draw my own conclusions - I am leaving the author as the undisputed expert. Overall, I did enjoy reading through this book, and I can see a million different rabbit holes that I am wanting to dive into. Cyrus the Great is already on my hit list to dive into, and learn more on. Decent start, and I look forward to seeing more from this author in the future.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anne Morgan

    This was definitely a more detailed look into the history of the Persian Empire than I've ever read before. At first it was more scholarly than I was expecting, but it slowly got more readable and hit a good stride for a book that could reach both historians and amateurs alike. I think it is more written towards college level courses or above, but arm-chair historians like me can still manage this large book if we work at it. I definitely appreciated the emphasis on sources and Persian sources i This was definitely a more detailed look into the history of the Persian Empire than I've ever read before. At first it was more scholarly than I was expecting, but it slowly got more readable and hit a good stride for a book that could reach both historians and amateurs alike. I think it is more written towards college level courses or above, but arm-chair historians like me can still manage this large book if we work at it. I definitely appreciated the emphasis on sources and Persian sources in particular to make sure we were reading the history through the eyes of those who lived it instead of others (like Greeks) who wanted to make the Persians as "other" as possible. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  12. 5 out of 5

    Руслан

    There was a need for such a book to look at Persian history beyond the main commentaries coming from Rome and Greece. Some of the statements are a bit strangely specific as if the author was present in person during the events described, But in general, I liked it and recommend it. I like the author's style and so far Persian sources. There was a need for such a book to look at Persian history beyond the main commentaries coming from Rome and Greece. Some of the statements are a bit strangely specific as if the author was present in person during the events described, But in general, I liked it and recommend it. I like the author's style and so far Persian sources.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    History is generally written by the victors; thus, attempting to come to a coherent understanding of a foe, especially one deemed "the other," can prove challenging. Such is especially true about the Achaemenid Persians. The author has set out to write a history of the Persians which attempts to distance itself from the self-congratulating Greek narratives about who the Persians were and what they were about, instead attempting to let the Persians tell their own story based on inscriptional and a History is generally written by the victors; thus, attempting to come to a coherent understanding of a foe, especially one deemed "the other," can prove challenging. Such is especially true about the Achaemenid Persians. The author has set out to write a history of the Persians which attempts to distance itself from the self-congratulating Greek narratives about who the Persians were and what they were about, instead attempting to let the Persians tell their own story based on inscriptional and archaeological evidence from the ancient Near East. The author sets forth the story of the Persians from their arrival on the Iranian plains until Darius the Great; he then spends time talking about Persian religion, culture, court, harem, slavery, and other cultural aspects; he then tells the story from Xerxes until the end of the empire at the hands of Alexander the Great. The epilogue details modern Iran's relationship with the Achaemenid heritage. The goal of de-centering Greek witness is commendable even if impractical: the author is still forced to grapple with the Greek sources at almost every opportunity because of the paucity of other source. Nevertheless, he does well to elevate our view and understanding of the Persians: they did create the first world empire worthy of the name, established greater stability than was seen before with the Assyrians/Babylonians or after under the Seleucids; developed a bureaucratic system which would become the model for all future world empires; and maintained their strength throughout, falling prey to a brilliant and powerful Alexander. The author notes, and it is worth the reminder, that the Persians are spoken of favorably in the Old Testament, even though there did seem to be a couple of rebellions in Judea that could have caused great distress. While it is important to not allow the Greeks to define the way we understand the Persians, we must also remember that the Achaemenid Persians presented themselves the way they wanted to be seen. Yes, the Greek invasions were probably not as significant to the Persians as they were to the Greeks, but that does not mean they are insignificant; relative Persian silence may actually be rather deafening. Why the author feels the need to be apologetic about the slave system in Persia is historically baffling; of course there were slaves, as there were in the previous and future empires. Doesn't make it right or good, of course; but it comes with the territory. Nevertheless, it is a recently updated history of the Persians, which is always good to have, and provides a good perspective. Recommended. **--galley received as part of early review program

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hamid

    'Persians' promises to offer a new(ish) lens on a period of History that's fascinated Western authors. It focuses entirely on the times of the Achaemenid Kings, from the (is he-isn't he) Achaemenid founder, Cyrus, through to the man who lost the Empire, Darius III. Llewellyn-Jones' focus is on Persian sources, mostly in various forms of Ancient Persian (or Elam etc), mostly derived from Cuneiform tablets or inscriptions, interwoven with some non-written archaeological discoveries (eg the well-pr 'Persians' promises to offer a new(ish) lens on a period of History that's fascinated Western authors. It focuses entirely on the times of the Achaemenid Kings, from the (is he-isn't he) Achaemenid founder, Cyrus, through to the man who lost the Empire, Darius III. Llewellyn-Jones' focus is on Persian sources, mostly in various forms of Ancient Persian (or Elam etc), mostly derived from Cuneiform tablets or inscriptions, interwoven with some non-written archaeological discoveries (eg the well-preserved 'Saltmen'). The focus on *available* Persian written sources does give a much-more nuanced picture of Persians vs that derived entirely from the Greek record which has always reflected the propaganda/myths of the time. Llewellyn-Jones skilfully navigates the Persian narrative with rebuttals of the Greek record. He also brings Persian women to the forefront, painting a rounded picture of the Queens and princesses with some human speculation on what their motives may have been. Throughout, the author is aware of the paucity of the record and there's a bubbling excitement with what might be revealed with future discoveries. Where the book is weakest is in its structure. In three parts with a sequential narrative that follows the Kings up to Darius I and then an interlude examining culture in the Persian Empire followed by a continuing narrative up to Darius III. I found this approach somewhat jarring and the second part is probably the weakest in the book because it seeks to establish many cultural themes but picked from evidence spanning several hundred years: a difficult job at best and probably faulted by the relative patchiness of the historical record. This also leads to its second big weakness: the focus on great men. The record is a kingly one and while Llewellyn-Jones handles the evidence with the expertise you'd expect from a historian, the record naturally arises from those who could afford to keep the record. So a great many generalisations are made- 'Persians loved this', 'Persians did that' on the basis of what is recorded in Cuneiform tablets but which I doubt are truly reflective of a vast empire. I enjoyed this despite its problems (mostly rooted in source availability) and found it a refreshing contrast to most Western histories of the era. I have some reservations about the author's take on 'Iranism' vs 'Arabism' vs 'Islamism' but happily it's kept to asides or some final brief thoughts. I recommend it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe Tristram

    My starting point with this book (a present to me) was that I don't really want to know about the Achaemenid Persian Empire. What I've known about it up to now was from the Greek point of view, ie that these were cruel and brutal tyrants who just happened to be one of the empires of the middle East, cc and lumped them with the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Now, with the help of Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones I know better. I contest his several times repeated assertion at the beginning that they are wor My starting point with this book (a present to me) was that I don't really want to know about the Achaemenid Persian Empire. What I've known about it up to now was from the Greek point of view, ie that these were cruel and brutal tyrants who just happened to be one of the empires of the middle East, cc and lumped them with the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Now, with the help of Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones I know better. I contest his several times repeated assertion at the beginning that they are worth studying because they were the first great Empire (I think the Chinese significantly pre-dated them) but they were certainly the first that is a is part of European culture. This was a compelling story of that Empire and the Achaemenid family that made it and controlled it. And unlike everything I thought I knew about it, the sources are Persian. Well somewhat Persian. Actually I think that for most of the storyline the sources are still Greek, albeit often Greeks who were contemporary and who lived at the Persian court. What about the Persian sources? There are SO MANY cuneiform tablets with so much information on but it seems that most of them are records of transactions, not histories as the Greeks wrote, but even so, there's a lot of information, and LL-J presents it well. Numerous battles, many love affairs, much horrific torture and execution, and through it all he he brings out the characters of many of the protagonists. It would be impossible to like any of them, but I feel I understand them to some extent! And LL-J has two other points he wants to make: 1, history is often not the presentation of "facts" as the Western approach likes to think, a lot of culture and intent goes into what we're told, 2, that modern Iran finds its ancient Imperial past very important. No references, which I did find a bit frustrating (apart from the 3 letter references after each direct quote from a cuneiform tablet, telling us where it was found).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    My thanks to both NetGalley and Perseus Books for an advanced copy of this new historical study. History is not only written by the victors, but by generations after the victors, based on previous writings. A Biblical of Greek view of history takes precedent over other works, mainly because they parrot a view of history that people have come to accept, or even more want to accept. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, chair in Ancient History at Cardiff University has in his book Persians: The Age of the Great My thanks to both NetGalley and Perseus Books for an advanced copy of this new historical study. History is not only written by the victors, but by generations after the victors, based on previous writings. A Biblical of Greek view of history takes precedent over other works, mainly because they parrot a view of history that people have come to accept, or even more want to accept. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, chair in Ancient History at Cardiff University has in his book Persians: The Age of the Great Kings, written a history the Persians using their own sources, works and art and tries to tell more truthful history of these people than history has done. The book is written well with much sourcing from new finds and recent deciphering and translations from various archeological sites. The story can get a tad confusing, many names, many actions, but Professor Llewellyn-Jones is very good at keeping both the pace and the narrative together and moving. Starting from early migrations and moving to the present day, the story is full of interesting facts and figures, with most of the book focusing on the Achaemenid Dynasty, their power, coups and actions. Professor Llewellyn-Jones is not easy on his subject, quick to point out that the leaders were very aware and very good at propaganda, and used this quite well to cover up some of their messier actions, while acting as benevolent watchman of their subjects. A very well written history on a subject that I knew about from other works and writers, and have been shown that I knew less than I thought. Professor Llewellyn-Jones has written a comprehensive overview of a complicated subject, and made it interesting and easy to follow. Recommended for readers of history books, which much of this might be new, or to people that enjoy a good book on subjects that are new to them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    **Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this work. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ** In this book, Llewellyn-Jones does an amazing job of telling the history of Persia in an engaging way. He tells the history of this region and its kings, as much as is possible with available sources, from the perspective of the people themselves. This history does an good job of identifying where popul **Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this work. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ** In this book, Llewellyn-Jones does an amazing job of telling the history of Persia in an engaging way. He tells the history of this region and its kings, as much as is possible with available sources, from the perspective of the people themselves. This history does an good job of identifying where popular perceptions gained from outside sources and created through media both historic and contemporary affect the way we see Persian history, and at what points those ideas differ from the likely reality. This book covers a lot of ground, and makes clear in the epilogue how many more volumes it would take to cover the entirety. This is an area of history that gains little attention in comparison to other ancient civilizations, and it has been fascinating learning about the Achaemenids, the way their empire grew, functioned and stretched across the ancient world, its decline and its enduring legacy. There were moments when the author did seem to make some assumptive leaps regarding individuals' thoughts and motivations, though having not personally read the sources regarding those passages, I can't be certain about how the source material does or does not support those statements. Overall an interesting and engaging read about a rich and fascinating period of history.

  18. 5 out of 5

    E

    This book purports to be the first modern history of the Persians written from their own sources rather than Greek ones. The Greeks were obviously biased against the Persians, but this author seems to be just as biased against the Greeks, claiming that the latter's victories at Marathon and Salamis weren't necessarily a victory for a better world order. In any case, the book starts out well. LLJ does a fine job outlining the rise of the Achaemenid dynasty and its early years of the establishing t This book purports to be the first modern history of the Persians written from their own sources rather than Greek ones. The Greeks were obviously biased against the Persians, but this author seems to be just as biased against the Greeks, claiming that the latter's victories at Marathon and Salamis weren't necessarily a victory for a better world order. In any case, the book starts out well. LLJ does a fine job outlining the rise of the Achaemenid dynasty and its early years of the establishing the largest of empires. He also spends a fair bit of time describing life on the ground with devolving into some of the maddening tropes of "cultural history." The second half of the book bogs down terribly, however. He spends nearly the entire time on palace intrigue. Have fun keeping track of all the half-siblings, concubines, nieces and nephews, etc. It read like an entirely different book (a not especially intriguing soap opera). So I have quite a mixed review of the book. I learned a good bit about the Persian empire but wish I hadn't had to put up with the other stuff.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    More like 3.5-3.75. This history of the Persian empire is unique in that the author relied on as many Persian sources as possible, in an effort to balance the more familiar accounts told from Greek and other more Western perspectives. More than just a chronology of 300 years of emperors and their reigns, this book also looks at Persian culture, including art and architecture, warfare, punitive systems, women's roles, marriage practices, and religion. Llewellyn-Jones is clearly passionate about his More like 3.5-3.75. This history of the Persian empire is unique in that the author relied on as many Persian sources as possible, in an effort to balance the more familiar accounts told from Greek and other more Western perspectives. More than just a chronology of 300 years of emperors and their reigns, this book also looks at Persian culture, including art and architecture, warfare, punitive systems, women's roles, marriage practices, and religion. Llewellyn-Jones is clearly passionate about his subject and has a pro-Persian bias, but all-in-all this is an accessible and interesting history. The audiobook is read by the author, who seemed comfortable behind the mic. His delivery is expressive and his ability to effortlessly (so it seemed) to pronounce the many foreign words (in languages both modern and ancient) was impressive. For more on the audiobook, see my review for AudioFile magazine.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sashka Stojakov

    Let's talk about Persia! :) The reason why I gave this book 5 stars would be mainly because I haven't read much of nonfiction regarding history. I forgot everything I had learnt about Persia long time ago, and I found this as a nice opportunity to educate myself further on this topic. All the time while reading, I had the feeling like I was watching a documentary on History Channel, writing style is easy to follow, everything has a clear and chronological order (as it should have) and the detail Let's talk about Persia! :) The reason why I gave this book 5 stars would be mainly because I haven't read much of nonfiction regarding history. I forgot everything I had learnt about Persia long time ago, and I found this as a nice opportunity to educate myself further on this topic. All the time while reading, I had the feeling like I was watching a documentary on History Channel, writing style is easy to follow, everything has a clear and chronological order (as it should have) and the details given are just about right. I don't think I am the right person to evaluate if this would be interesting for those who are already knowledgeable, but I would give it a go. Thank you Netgalley, the publisher and author for the ARC.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wafflepirates

    *Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review* This book offers an interesting look at the Persians and their empire from an interesting POV-the Persians themselves. The author relies on sources directly from the Persians, giving readers who, like me, really only know them through brushes with classical Greece, an in-depth look a complex and dynamic part of the world that's gotten the short end of the stick for a long time. Most Western his *Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review* This book offers an interesting look at the Persians and their empire from an interesting POV-the Persians themselves. The author relies on sources directly from the Persians, giving readers who, like me, really only know them through brushes with classical Greece, an in-depth look a complex and dynamic part of the world that's gotten the short end of the stick for a long time. Most Western historical works, according to the author's intro, relied on contemporary Greek sources to study the Persians, and these sources-understandably-were very biased against the Persians. The writing is interesting and the story is engaging, definitely a book worth checking out.

  22. 5 out of 5

    CASPER HILEMAN

    Most of us of a certain age have an idea of how the ancient Greek world was. Xerxes was the villain and the brave Spartans were the heroes that we want to see ourselves as. Persians add to that knowledge and dispel some of those long-held myths. The Persian Empire was the most powerful state in its day. Far surpassing any of the small Greek city-states such as Athens, Sparta, or Thebes. This book tells a tale of an Empire that spanned three continents at its largest extent, made up of tens of mi Most of us of a certain age have an idea of how the ancient Greek world was. Xerxes was the villain and the brave Spartans were the heroes that we want to see ourselves as. Persians add to that knowledge and dispel some of those long-held myths. The Persian Empire was the most powerful state in its day. Far surpassing any of the small Greek city-states such as Athens, Sparta, or Thebes. This book tells a tale of an Empire that spanned three continents at its largest extent, made up of tens of millions of people and encompassing over five million square miles. The Achaemenid Empire is more than the character of Xerxes portrayed in the Movie 300. Learn about the rich history of the region.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    This is such an interesting book with the historical perspective switched. History is written by the victors so it was fascinating to learn about the Persian Empire from their point of view. There were some sweeping statements about historical events that favoured the Persians "characters." This made me question how objective the research is, but also wonder how objectively related was any historical event? Packed with information that was new to me, this was an enlightening and thought-provokin This is such an interesting book with the historical perspective switched. History is written by the victors so it was fascinating to learn about the Persian Empire from their point of view. There were some sweeping statements about historical events that favoured the Persians "characters." This made me question how objective the research is, but also wonder how objectively related was any historical event? Packed with information that was new to me, this was an enlightening and thought-provoking read. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Persians is a good first foray into Persian history. I didn't know anything about the Persian empire, but I finished the book feeling like I was no longer a total ignoramus. Llewellyn-Jones walked a fine line between detail and interest. I didn't feel bored because there was too much info, and I also didn't feel bored because the info was too shallow. I'd recommend this to someone interested in history that doesn't know much about the Persians. It seems written towards interested laypeople rathe Persians is a good first foray into Persian history. I didn't know anything about the Persian empire, but I finished the book feeling like I was no longer a total ignoramus. Llewellyn-Jones walked a fine line between detail and interest. I didn't feel bored because there was too much info, and I also didn't feel bored because the info was too shallow. I'd recommend this to someone interested in history that doesn't know much about the Persians. It seems written towards interested laypeople rather than hardcore academic scholars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dom Nuno

    A flowing narrative, logical and interesting, even if a too panegyric of the Persians “yes, they were brutal conspirators and , BUT they built great things and had such a nice model of empire and never declined”. The history seems to be very well done, author is careful to contrast different sources. Pity about the PC comments at the end “oh, if only everyone else had followed the Persian model of empire, what a lovely world this would be”…

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tim Briedis

    Cool things I learnt about the Persians from this book: 1. The Persian king never walked on the earth, instead using carpets and horses 2. The Persians had a nomadic court, going from city to city, with an entourage of 1000s 3. One king had 150 children - primogeniture was not in effect 4. Persia was the world’s first superpower, stretching from Egypt to India at its peak Moreover, the book does an excellent job at dismantling the Orientalist mythology surrounding the Persians, casting them as the a Cool things I learnt about the Persians from this book: 1. The Persian king never walked on the earth, instead using carpets and horses 2. The Persians had a nomadic court, going from city to city, with an entourage of 1000s 3. One king had 150 children - primogeniture was not in effect 4. Persia was the world’s first superpower, stretching from Egypt to India at its peak Moreover, the book does an excellent job at dismantling the Orientalist mythology surrounding the Persians, casting them as the antithesis of the free and rational Greeks. While committing acts of violence, they were enlightened despots - allowing a degree of self rule and not imposing their own architecture and language (unlike say the Romans or the British). It uses Persian sources to do this, rather than relying on the Greek histories. Overall a fascinating book which I would recommend!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    An interesting mix of (1) telling the story of the Persians from their own point-of-view, while (2) scrubbing clean the fiction and propaganda inherent in the long-accepted view written by Herotodus. It's surprising just how much epicness is packed into an era that, historically, goes by in the blink of an eye. One of those books released at just the right time: a new and fresh perspective. An interesting mix of (1) telling the story of the Persians from their own point-of-view, while (2) scrubbing clean the fiction and propaganda inherent in the long-accepted view written by Herotodus. It's surprising just how much epicness is packed into an era that, historically, goes by in the blink of an eye. One of those books released at just the right time: a new and fresh perspective.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    An informative and well researched book about the history of a civilization that is usually considered in relation to Greeks. I found this book well written and interesting. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Thompson

    Okay so some background: Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Kings of Kings is what got me back into history, particular classical antiquity. Since then, I have been looking for a book that explores the lives of the Achaemenid Persian kings (well). THIS IS THAT BOOK! REJOICE! 5 Stars Okay so some background: Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Kings of Kings is what got me back into history, particular classical antiquity. Since then, I have been looking for a book that explores the lives of the Achaemenid Persian kings (well). THIS IS THAT BOOK! REJOICE! 5 Stars

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Rose

    3.5 stars I lack the education to judge the historical accuracy and merit of this book, but I found it to be a fascinating view of the place and time, culture and people. And I was intrigued by the final chapter that linked past to present. Descriptions of punishments are not for the squeamish.

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