History of War
PERSIANS THE AGE OF THE GREAT KINGS
EXPLORE THE HISTORY OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY ANCIENT EMPIRE
“AT TIMES IT MAKES FOR CHALLENGING AND AFFECTING READING”
Author: Lloyd Llewellyn-jones Publisher: Wildfire Price: £25 Released: April 2022
Meticulously researched, Persians: The Age
of the Great Kings tells the extraordinary story of this superpower of the ancient world. In a narrative that stretches back thousands of years and across vast stretches of land, Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-jones presents a skilful and engaging history of the Achaemenid dynasty.
In particular, this history of the Great Kings seeks to rebalance and reexamine the sources from which it is drawn. It moves away from the writings of the Ancient Greeks, such as Herodotus, and raises questions about how those writings might be best read, understood and placed into context. Llewellyn-jones endeavours to place Persian sources
– from administrative memos to art and archeological findings – at the centre of the story. Indeed, the urgent notes of bureaucrats from long ago echo with a particular vibrancy.
From the rules of etiquette when dining and hunting, to the structure and significance of the harem, this is a story of regal splendour, courtly intrigue and struggles for power. It is also a history of expansion, rebellion and oppression. The story of the Great Kings is placed alongside those who suffered, were exploited, forcibly relocated and enslaved, and it highlights how labouring men, women and children were allotted scarcely enough food to survive. It also tells us that Babylonia was required to provide 500 castrated boys as a tribute to the king each year. At times it makes for challenging and affecting reading.
The Achaemenid monarchs ruled over a territory that encompassed Egypt, Ethiopia and the Steppes of Asia. Structured in three parts, Persians adopts a clear framework for its exploration of this diverse, extensive empire. The first part is a narrative history, commencing with the rise of Cyrus the Great and the founding of the empire in 550 BCE. The second focuses more on questions of culture, society and identity. The third section returns to the earlier narrative, continuing to the conquests of Alexander the Great and the eventual fall of the largest empire of the ancient world. Each part brings to the fore engaging and compelling insights. There is, for instance, an interesting discussion of ancient language and enduring linguistic links. In addition, Llewellyn-jones also explores the postal system and coinage, the latter being the first example of this in history.
Among the final pages of the book there is a guide to key figures, and the main text is supported by a number of illustrations. The list of texts for further reading also includes a short comment against each, and Persians will no doubt inspire many of its readers to explore more books on the subject once they’ve finished this one.
Persians is a wide-ranging and detailed examination of the lives of the Great Kings and the world in which they lived. It will naturally appeal to those interested in this subject in particular and the ancient world more generally. However, it also offers a compelling introduction to the period and will likely find a broader readership.