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Showing 1-10 of 98 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 165 reviews
on March 31, 2016
Like all of Holland's books, this is a great read and stuffed with fascinating facts, but the focus on Persia gets lost when Darius and then Xerxes turn to Greece and from then on it's all about Greece.
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on February 27, 2016
Good accessible history of the rise of the Persian Empire and its wars with Greece. Holland tells the story from both the Greek and the Persian perspective - which makes for an interesting read. The prose was a little stiff at times - I found myself having to reread a few paragraphs after getting lost. Overall though, a worthwhile read for anyone interested in a popular history of very interesting events. We meet all the main characters and major battles in a concise narrative.
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on May 11, 2017
More of Holland's engaging, gripping writing that puts you in the mind of the participants in history, insofar as that's possible. A triumph of empathy, research, & prose.
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on December 14, 2016
I didn't know what to expect when I bought this, but having studied the Greeks and wanting to know more about the Persians, I took a flier. Skip the introduction. It feels dated. But as for the book... he handles the material well and really keeps the story moving in an entertaining way. Even though I read much of the source material (at least the ancient Greek texts), Holland gives you a view from the forest - a birds eye view of antiquity and events. He does a great job in telling the story of the world's first democracy.
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on March 27, 2013
A great history of the differences and people's of the East (Persia) and the West (Greece). It covers the period leading up to and including the Trojan War (1250BCE) through Alexander's conquest of Greece and the Persian Empire (325BCE). My favorite quote in the book could have been made by any well read individual within the last 100 years: "Why do the people's of the East and West find it so difficult to live in peace?" That it was made by Herodotus 2500 years ago gives you a measure of the scope of this book. Well written and researched, carefully annotated, it is a treasure of information and insight to that ancient world. And it may very well cause you to reconsider perceptions concerning that area of the world today, and where it could be headed tomorrow.
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on October 2, 2012
Tom Holland manages the unlikely feat of making Darius and Xerxes sympathetic and understandable. Too often portrayed as sadistic megalomaniacs in this book they get a fairer deal, Holland explains the motives and beliefs of the Persian kings and their reasons for wishing to tame those pesky Greeks.

As for the Greeks, well, they fairly jump off the page. None more so than the devious and brilliant Themistoceles. Founder of the Athenian navy he may have been and also the man that probably saved Greece but he was also an unprincipled and self-interested rogue. In painting these vivid portraits Holland uses frequent footnotes and what I loved about the Kindle was the ability to check the footnote and reference with a tap on the screen and then return quickly to the narrative.

The most entertaining and informative book on the Persian Wars since Herodotus.
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on February 25, 2013
It is none too common to find a history that reads as a novel, but this is one of those rare histories that does so. It is sad but true that most histories written about exciting events end up reading as a dry recitation of facts, with references to long-dead heroes who suffer a second death at the hands of the author. Holland's book gives background on Persia and the Greek city-states, covering not only their respective pasts but also colorful accounts of their societies and the important players in them, making the time, place and people seemingly come alive. I honestly can't even say with certainty how long it was, since I basically didn't put it down.

The only area that left me wanting was the descriptions of the battles; the author doesn't skip over them and gives them their due but Shelby Foote he is not.

Highest possible recommendation.
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on June 22, 2016
This is one of the most enjoyable history books that I've read in a long time. Holland mixes indepth research, scholarship, and interpretative insights in equal measure to create a very readable narrative of Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC. Sometimes his interpretation of people's motivations is (necessarily) speculative but it rang true for me and I didn't feel Holland was unduly cynical in many of these interpretations as some other reviewers have suggested
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on March 13, 2014
Exciting book about a subject most of us know about, but know with just a glimpse of facts-the Persian Conquest of Greece. This was the first in-depth book I have read on the big three rulers of ancient Persia: Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes. It is also the first I have read in years of all the city-states of lower Greece, along with the leaders. A fair amount of research went into the the strategies, the communication and the biographies of all the various leaders. While Persia conquered Athens, they did not shored up and consolidate they base, losing Greece a few years after conquest. Civil discord amount the League lead to a new paradigm that conquered both Greece and Persia: King Phillip II and Alexander swept in soon after. Good book.
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on March 24, 2017
A good overall look at this period. I learned a lot.
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