on August 10, 2007
Lindsay Allen's book offers an illustrated overview of the Persian Empire, in connection with a recent British Museum exhibit. While university-level students and professionals are sure to get a lot out of it, I'm not sure that it would be a first choice for the general reader. The author's writing style is rather academic, and she is very cautious in drawing conclusions from the available evidence. She would like to treat the numerous Greek accounts skeptically, and rely more on a Persian-centric view of events, but the ancient records are unavoidably skewed towards the Greek point of view, which kind of frustrates her program. This is all quite appropriate in a scholarly book, but seems less likely to inspire a wider audience.
There did not seem to be any explicit linkages from the book to the museum exhibit; no doubt many of the objects illustrated in the book were also exhibited, but there would be no way of knowing this just from reading the book.
Readers may also want to know that the book's focus is on the political history of the Achaemenid Dynasty, from Cyrus to Alexander. There are some references to Achaemenid art and religion, but culture is not a primary emphasis of the book. As one who is very interested in ancient Egypt, though, I did appreciate the book's inclusion of several examples that illustrate the incorporation of Egyptian themes into the art of the Persian empire following on Cambyses' conquest of Egypt in 526 BC. [erratum: on p.35, the Apis bull dedication to Cambyses is 524 BC, not 324 BC as in the text].
In summary, and despite the book's marketing, I think it will mostly appeal to students and specialists in the history of the Ancient Near East (four stars), rather than to general readers (three stars).
on December 1, 2006
For most Westerners, the Persian Empire was an Asiatic historical area conquered by the Macedonian Alexander the Great. But in this companion to a British Museum exhibition based on unprecedented loans from the National Museum of Iran and other major museum sources of Persian antiquities, Allen presents the Persian Empire in its own right, as the Roman Empire or the British Empire are in the history books. Besides working at the British Museum, the author has also worked at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The many objects of the exhibition that are pictured are supplemented by photographs of the remains of monuments and buildings, landscape photographs, maps, and works of art to evince the high level of political and artistic accomplishments. Allen presents the Empire by a history defined mostly by the succession of rulers until the conquest combined with a cultural appreciation of the art work, architecture, religious ideas, political order, and pattern of growth and decay.
on December 31, 2010
Allen offers a great introductory look at the heigh of Achaemenid power, presenting the classical historical content drawn from the ancient historians as well as some archaeological analysis. There is also a chapter or two devoted to an examination of Persian culture, which proved to be interesting, if cursory. The entire work is aided by the presence of many great maps and pictures. I would like to see Allen publish a more extensive history of the empire, as I believe her writing skills make her more than capable to produce the latest standard history in her field.
on May 21, 2011
This book is a very well written account of cultural and social history along with the historical narrative.
It puts the Achaemenid history into context, and uses up to date research.
As one of the other reviews mentioned, the book is "text bookish" but not in a negative way, Its specially useful for students with basic knowledge of world history, and also a very good start for those who are trying to study the Achaemenid empire.
As the author mentioned, the book not a single minded pursuit of Historical narrative, but an attempt to bring alive the cultural and social aspects of Achaemenid Persia to the reader.
on March 9, 2006
This is a well researched book, the reserach is focused on archaeology, which is used on academic field. The main intention of this book is bring to light Achaemenid, "Hakha maneshe an" dynasty. Saddly, this dynasty is ended by Alexandar invasion of Iran.