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The Persians (Peoples of the Ancient World) [Hardcover]

Maria Brosius
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1, 2006 0415320895 978-0415320894

The only book of its kind to cover both the Achaemenid period and the thousand years following Alexander's conquest, The Persians explores the period from the seventh century BC, to the seventh century AD, and presents a comprehensive introduction to ancient Persia.

Incorporating recent research, and translated sources from a wide range of corpus material, Maria Brosius explores the history of Persia, and brings a new understanding of Persian society and culture and the structures on which these empires were built: the king and his court; religion and culture; art and architecture.

From the lands of Egypt to the Indus River, from the Russian Steppes to the Indian Ocean, Brosius has provided an up-to-date account of the three empires of pre-Islamic Iran, and discussing key topics such as women, religion and art and architecture, she presents a clear survey of the history of these empires.

Providing additional reading references along with frequent source citations, students of ancient Persia will find this an invaluable addition to their course studies.

Editorial Reviews


'the work is an excellent introduction to these three ancient civilisations which combines a depth of research, and a wide focus with a lively literary style, which makes it an easy and highly enjoyable read... this work is an excellent introduction to the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian civilisations, and takes a refreshing, non-western based, approach to ancient history.' - Gareth C. Sampson, BMCR

Product Details

  • Series: Peoples of the Ancient World
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415320895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415320894
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,296,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Introduction July 8, 2006
This book is an introduction to "The Persians" by providing a balanced presentation of the three major periods/ dynasties of the ancient Persian Empire - the Achaemenids, the Parthians (Arsacids) and the Sassanians. Each of the periods is covered in 60-70 pages, where five aspects (Historical Survey, King and Court, Organisation and adminstration of the empire, Religion, Art and Architecture) of the periods are discussed.

There are no other books that I am aware of which cover the 1000+ years of pre-Islamic Persian history, except for a very similar study published by Josef Wiesehofer first in German and subsequently translated into English about 10-15 years ago. As this book is just published and does not burden the reader with convoluted discussions of issues with "Sources," I believe this is a better introduction on the topic.

The strengths of the book are its writing style (careful academic writing yet easy to read), the balanced proportions, nice printings with sufficient maps and illustrations (all placed very conveniently), and a nuanced perspective which highlights (but not in an annoying way) how classical accounts of the Persian Empire were burdened with ideologies of the Greeks and Romans who defined the Persians as the "Other" in developing their own sense of identities for political mobilization.

What comes out fairly clearly in the text is that there is significant continuity in the history, culture and organization of the three periods/ dynasties. This leads me to believe that the presentation of the Persian Empire would have been more complete if the discussion includes the Seleucids -- obviously, they are not Persians, but casting aside classical prejudice, the Seleucids were in fact a dynasty of the Persian Empire.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Concise Thousand-Year History of the Persians. October 23, 2006
In about 235 pages, Maria Brosius has done a remarkable feat in presenting in a condensed form, over a thousand-year history of the Persians, in her recent publication: The Persians - An Introduction, published by Routledge in 2006. The book is published in the series "Peoples of the Ancient World" which states: "This series stands as the first port of call for anyone who wants to know more about the historically important peoples of the ancient world and the early middle ages". Truly this book is the essential beginner's guide to Ancient Persia and ideal for students and general readers alike.

European history from the middle ages till the mid-twentieth century, essentially describes the major Persian empires mainly based on the history of the Greeks and the Romans, who regarded them as politically, culturally, and socially inferior. Yet these Persian civilizations were one of the most highly developed of the ancient world. Its society with its many different languages, cultures and religions, had a profound and continuing influence on the Western World. This study vividly introduces the reader to the history of Persia in its own right, as the authoress in her own words states: "With this volume I hope to open a door to the fascinating world of the empires of Ancient Persia to a wider audience ... who want to look beyond the artificial constuction of the East-West divide."

The book introduces the reader to the history of Persia from the heights of the Achaemenid Dynasty (559-330 BC), the first monarchy to create a world empire, to the heterogenous empire of the Parthians (247 BC-224 AD) and the susequent Sassanian Empire (224-651 AD), epitomized in the rule of Khosrow Anushirvan. It also has chapters on separate issues as society, economy, gender, power and defence.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book goes over three periods of Iranian dynasties before Islam. The Achameneids (550-330), The Parthians(Arscaids) (mid 200's B.C - 220's a.d) and the Sassanids (220's - 640's).
Each chapter starts with a full historical survey and moves on to inform of other aspects of society under the rule of those kings. The book examines aspects such as The King and his court, Religion, Nobility, Military, status of women and royal women and etc.
It's a good starting point for history enthusiasts, and those with no background on persian history. It's also useful and informative to those students who have never studied ancient Iran in detail.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relatively bare-bones, yet still quite informative February 11, 2010
By Listo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of those history books that tries most of all to relay a chronological telling of events rather than a breakdown of the society or societies in question. (I find that it's useful to have one of each type, as they are quite complementary.) While the author does touch on some of the academic debates, she does not get bogged down in them and is to be commended for sticking to topic while still informing the reader of the debates-- it is very tempting for writers to come down on one side of a debate when describing it, surely it would be difficult not to!

Ok, so why 4 stars? First off, while well written and admittedly an introduction to the topic, it is a very bare-bones treatment of it. Brosius only covers the Achaemenid Persian, Arcasid Parthian, and Sassanid Persian dynasties. Very, very little for the pre-Achaemenid, Seleucid, and early Muslim periods. It's not a big issue, but it is helpful to know some about at least the first two periods I mentioned, and interesting to know about the influence of Persian culture on the nascent Muslim world.

For a more academic (and less accessibly written) book on the subject, I strongly recommend Ancient Persia. It's a mixture of thematic and chronological writing, though the author is a bit more opinionated that Brosius. Also informative are Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity: Neighbours and Rivals, which covers the relationship between the Roman/Byzantine and the Sassanid Persian empires. For some background on the pre-Persian Ancient Near East, check out
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, with Serious Problems
This book has serious flaws: Sometimes the author repeats whole phrases several times in a few pages. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Sephora Markson Hartz
4.0 out of 5 stars CENTRAL ASIA
After reading the "Great Game" my interest in that region increased greatly. I have read numerous books relating to that region all the way back to 2000 BCE and "The... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ronald A. Homan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece on Persian history!
The best work on Persian history that I have read! This book covers the ancient dynasties of the Persians (Achaemenids, Parthians, Sassanids) and helps the reader elegantly and... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Sassan31
4.0 out of 5 stars brief, but excellent
It is difficult to find a history of pre-Islamic Persia. Olmstead's History of the Persian Empire is dated, and Axworthy, A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind while good, skims... Read more
Published 19 months ago by doc peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, informative and enlightening!
Well done! A very interesting and informative work. It includes everything that you wanted to know, and answers all of your questions about this mysterious people group of the... Read more
Published on February 29, 2012 by Tracie G.
4.0 out of 5 stars Missing a Chapter
This is a readable book and give a good introduction to the reader of the history of the different Persian Empires, but it would be nice if the Seleucid period and the effects of... Read more
Published on November 1, 2011 by J. Monforton
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Brosius' 'The Persians'
This is a great introduction to the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian Empires, and it includes information about their religious characteristics as well as some notes on economy... Read more
Published on December 24, 2010 by Ryan Mease
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