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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old But Still Kicking
While I'm sure that the information in "The History of the Persian Empire" must have been superceded to a degree in the 50 years since it has been published, and it is likely that Olmstead may have been overly sure of facts, this book is a pleasure to read and a mine of cultural food for thought. I fear the reviewer above who managed to finish the book knowing...
Published on July 29, 2002 by Timothy Dougal

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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Old Fashion Racial Profiling
One of Olmstead's favorite tools - and what makes this book difficult for me to read - is his near constant use of racial profiling to fill in information about peoples migrating into and inhabiting the Iranian plateau. Olmstead, in my opinion, has a strong bias in favor of northern European "races" over the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian "races." For example, the "early...
Published on December 26, 2009 by Chess Buddhist


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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old But Still Kicking, July 29, 2002
By 
Timothy Dougal (Madison, Wi United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
While I'm sure that the information in "The History of the Persian Empire" must have been superceded to a degree in the 50 years since it has been published, and it is likely that Olmstead may have been overly sure of facts, this book is a pleasure to read and a mine of cultural food for thought. I fear the reviewer above who managed to finish the book knowing next to nothing about ancient Persia is saying more about herself than this book. I was chiefly interested in the religious and cultural aspects of the Persian period, rather than the military and political ones, and I have come away from this book considerably more enlightened than I was by Edwin Yamauchi's treatment of Persia. Olmstead is both a vivid and readable writer, witty, detailed and fair-minded. His treatment of the Zoroastrian religion was eye-opening for me, and the way he deals with Palestine and Egypt was also illuminating. I especially got a kick out of his paraphrase renditions of some ancient documents and inscriptions at a purely aesthetic, and somewhat humorous, level. I'm sure there's still more to know, but this is a terrific overview.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable Adjunct to Ancient Greek History, June 12, 2001
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This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
It is, of course, impossible to cram this much history into a single small volume and still keep it perfectly accessible to the beginning history reader, but this author makes a very creditable effort in that direction. The book is dense, chronologically, and must be supplemented with other sources for a comprehensive view of its subject material.
That said, the value for this reviewer was in the fresh viewpoint on events usually told from the Greek perspective, and provides a welcome supplement to ancient sources (Thucydides, Xenophon) and modern ones (Donald Kagan's astonishing four-book series) concerning the Peloponnesian War and the years surrounding it. One is sometimes left wondering, with all that Greek victory, how the Persians ended up in control of Ionia, and how the Greek colonies there ended up paying tribute to the Great King after all. This volume fills in much of the missing information - notably, that the Greeks were all too often venal, treacherous, and easily bought off by Persian gold and outmaneuvered by Persian diplomacy. How that was done is a little-told story, and is admirably related here.
The author's prose in this section is some of the best in the book - dry, witty, and unapologetic. Students of 5th- and 4th-century Mediterranean history will be well-served by tucking this little volume into their collections.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent scholarly book on Persian Empire, September 22, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
First things frist. The author's first name is Albert not Arthur. This is a great book if you are serious history reader or interested in Iran. It treats the origins of the Persian (Iranian) Empire founded by Cyrus the Great. Although published some five decades ago, it has much to offer.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare History, March 10, 2007
This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
Most have heard and studied the Greek and the Romans, but before Europe ruled the wrold, there were the Persians. The Medes and Persians survived the Empires of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, before granted their time in history. One of the most structured and orgainized empires of the ancient world, it had an impact on world history, Juduaism, and later Christdom. Alexander the Greek went to Hellenize the world and ended up being influenced by the Persian culture he conquered. Tremendous book of an interesting time of history.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive. Worth the Time to Read., March 8, 2007
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This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
This book is utterly remarkable. Well written and incredibly comprehensive iteration of the scope, flow and detail of the empire that was Persia, from early pre-Empire times to the Alexandrian conquest (and a bit beyond). It discusses legal, social, military, architectural, religious and business practices, inter-familial rivalries, conquests,etc., in remarkable detail, and it even puts Biblical history of the Jews in exile in context. It captures aspects of the ruling style and methods of the Mede and Persian rulers. It is simply a great and literally huge book, by a Professor whose depth of knowledge and love of his subject is inspiring, even several decades after his death.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Old Fashion Racial Profiling, December 26, 2009
By 
Chess Buddhist (Long Beach, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
One of Olmstead's favorite tools - and what makes this book difficult for me to read - is his near constant use of racial profiling to fill in information about peoples migrating into and inhabiting the Iranian plateau. Olmstead, in my opinion, has a strong bias in favor of northern European "races" over the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian "races." For example, the "early and inferior Eurafrican" (Olmstead, 3) lived in the Mediterranean region. This isn't a statement of political correctness, but more a critique of a lazy kind of thinking. Explanations of behavior and culture based on race really fall short of reality, in my mind.

Olmstead also did not seem to feel it was needed to included the dates of much of anything he wrote about. I constantly have to look at other sources or jump onto Wikipedia to find the date of something. This is a nuisance, because Olmstead jumps around quite a bit, so one cannot presume to be reading things in a chronological order. A good example in particular, his summary of ancient history in the books opening chapter jumprs around within 10 or so millenia, making it hard to understand what is happening at what time. While my history is better than your average person on the street, I don't know all dates of all events. That's why I'm reading the book!

Olmstead has a lively style, but wrote more than 70 years ago. It's hard to know if this work is reliable, especially because science has changed so much in 70 years and because shenanigans in Iran and around that region prevent new knowledge from emerging. I wouldn't recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic account of Persian History, May 29, 2007
By 
David V. Ready (Watertown, New York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
The encyclical accounting of the Persian Empire. Olmstead was the first author to give an account of the Persians from their perspective. He begins well before Cyrus the Great and runs through the entire Achaemenid period recounting the conquest and administration of the empire until its demise by Alexander's onslaught. Olmstead goes into exceptional detail in giving accounts of the inscriptions and palace mural carvings at the ruins of Persepolis and other locales. His account of Zoroaster is also noteworthy from a liturgical perspective, though the dating of Zoroaster's life has changed since Olmstead passed away in 1945. Overall, a fantastic exposure to the Persian Empire. Best read in conjunction with one or two later works to optimally digest newer discoveries and conclusions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, August 30, 2012
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This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
I read this book in 1979 just before traveling to Iran. Once there, my Iranian friend and I traveled from the Shomal (the northern border of Iran on the Caspian Sea) nearly to the southern border, stopping at many of the sites I'd learned about while reading this book. My traveling companion learned more about his own country's history from me than he'd learned while getting a PhD, and I have this book to thank for that. It is very detailed and comprehensive, but it isn't a boring read for anyone with a real interest in the subject. Highly recommended! The book's only real shortcoming is the paucity of photos; the few it contains are small, not terribly clear and black & white.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, August 10, 2014
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This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
An impressive work of scholarship. The author is at great pains to show that the Persians were every bit as civilized as the Greeks, yet even he acknowledges that most of what we know about them comes from Greek historians. Yet even so, the Greeks come off rather worse by comparison in this historian's analysis. Olmstead sees the Persians as noble, honorable, and generous; the Greeks as brutal, dishonest, perfidious, and rapacious. He has some choice words to say about Alexander's behavior at Persepolis, and while he acknowledges that the Persians could not achieve victory over the Greeks on the battlefield, he points out that they could easily buy it with gold. If the Persians had written more about themselves, the western tradition might not be so biased in favor of the Greeks, but fortunately for themselves and for western civilization, the Greeks were prolific writers, while the Persians seemed to have used writing chiefly for business transactions. Hence a noble race is silent.
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3.0 out of 5 stars good source, December 8, 2011
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This review is from: History of the Persian Empire (Paperback)
when the subject is a history, the ocidental culture should learn with this book of how much we own to the oriental culture. it is odd to know that the Persian comes from the same indo-european origins of Greeks and Romans. it is odd to know that all we know about geometry, astronomy, mathematics and finances were developed by Persians. the only flaw, if I can say, is that the author writes too much details about the buildings and too few to writes about events and persons who rise and fall the persian empire.
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History of the Persian Empire
History of the Persian Empire by A.T. Olmstead (Paperback - February 15, 1959)
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