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.
From the back cover!
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.