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The Persians (Peoples of the Ancient World)

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415320894
ISBN-10: 0415320895
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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: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,635,221 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 By Derek Law on July 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
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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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Noshir M. Khambatta on October 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
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 By DJ Perso on February 8, 2010
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 By Listo on February 11, 2010
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.
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The Persians (Peoples of the Ancient World)
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