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Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War (General Military) Paperback – March 24, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“In addition to the images and excellent maps, there are discussions of the way warfare was waged as well as the contributions of the societies in terms of arts and literature. We all owe a great deal to these ancient cultures as they have passed along much to succeeding generations. It is a book that once you start reading, will be drawn into it. It was one that I thoroughly enjoyed and I know that you will as well.” ―Scott Van Aken, www.modelingmadness.com (April 2009)

About the Author

Dr Kaveh Farrokh was born in Athens, Greece, in 1962 and immigrated to Canada in 1983. Kaveh has collected data and primary sources on Sassanian cavalry for 18 years resulting in travels to locations such as Naghshe-Rustam (Iran). He has given lectures and seminars in the University of British Columbia and the Knowledge Network Television Program of British Columbia and has written articles for various journals. Kaveh obtained his PhD in 2001 from the University of British Columbia where he specialized on the acquisition of Persian languages. He is currently a learning and career specialist in Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He acted as a historical advisor on a film project titled Cyrus the Great, and has appeared on the History Channel documentary as an expert on the Persian Empire. The author lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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Product Details

  • Series: General Military
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846034736
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846034732
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,189,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Julian Schofield on July 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Outstanding book. Satisfying and informative read. Very well researched. Long overdue. Beautiful artifact pictures and nice maps. Fills a major gap in our knowledge of classical Iranian military and cultural history. This book will captivate anyone interested in strategic studies (as I am). Read it over two days (couldn't put it down). I look forward to the author's next book.

Not to detract from what is an outstanding study by a conscientious scholar, here are some general and specific issues:

1). The book is occasionally written dramatically rather than clinically, which can confuse some of the narrative (what is the difference between "completely" and "totally" crushed)?
2). There is an obsession with addressing the most ignorant of Western scholarship, when the average self-selected reader will have already accepted the author's (true) assertion that ancient Iran was VERY culturally and militarily influential.
3). The author is not without some bias: he over-associates the Iranians of Persia with the Iranians of Central Asia, and is constantly reporting the contributions of these pastoralists to the rest of the world. While they were important intermediaries (transmitting knowledge of the chariot from China to Greece), they are not Persian, even if they share common ancestry/culture (155). He also spends a whole paragraph seemingly to justify the legitimacy of the incorporation of Iranian Azerbaijan (122).
4). The allusions to 19th and 20th Century events don't often work. The Maginot line, like the Wall of Babylon was for deterrence, not defence (42). Mazdak is more like an Epicurean than a Marxist (with his monistic atheist eschatological historiography - 221).
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Format: Hardcover
This was a long overdue book on a subject of the preIslamic Persia (or should we say Greater Persia for today's Persia or Iran are just sad remnants of the great culture and great peoples) told in the context of her military history, military achievements .. and downfalls.
Although published by Osprey Military Press, thus implying military orientation of the text, this book is much more than an overview of the martial cultures (battles, campaigns, warriors, weapons, tactics) that sprung from the Persian/Iranian soil. It is a story of the Iranian peoples who came to dominate the Western and Central Asia for over 1000 years while influencing the cultures of Europe (Greece and Rome), Africa (Egypt, Ethiopia) and and distant China - influences in religion while giving us the most romantic notion of a martial personage - a fully armoured knight with a long lance in this hand, long sword and mace at this side while astride his fiery and faithful stallion - as personified by the Persian kings and lords from Darius (Achaemenid Persia), Surrenas(Parthians) to Chosroes and Rostam Farrokhzad (Sassanian Iran) or immortalized by the legendary Persian warrior of Shahnameh - Rostam on his Raksh.
Author who already has successfully given the readers the story of the Sassanian(the last preIslamic culture of Persia) cavalry elite aka as asavaran (also published by Osprey), here undertook the Herculean task of condensing the millennia of Persian history into 300 pages. In result he quite skillfully weaves the narrative of the more than a thousand years long story of the Persian empires without tiring the reader with his descriptions or concussions.
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Format: Hardcover
This proves to be a very good summary of the history of the pre-Islamic Persia. The subject of the book basically covered between the rise of the Persian Empire of Cyrus to the fall of the Sassanian Empire to the Islamic Arabs, over 1,000 years of imperial Persian history, interrupted only by Alexander the Great and his successors for couple hundred years.

I thought the author did an excellent job in summarizing these 1,000 plus years into a very readable and easy to access book that should give anyone who wishes to know anything about the ancient Persian civilizations, a good and clear understanding.

The book comes well illustrated, nice maps and good photographs including reenactor photographs that was done under the late Shah of Iran during the early 1970s. Interesting photos of men dressed up like Persian warriors of Darius the Great.

Perhaps the book fell short on the military history part since the author appears to give summarized coverage to all aspects of the four Persian civilizations in question (four being the ancient Persian Empire, Greek Persian era, Parthian Empire and Sassanian Empire). He goes bit off tangent when tracing racial roots of the Persian homeland and love to use that word "aryan" to describe his Persian/Iranian subject. He could be bit tick at the way Euro-centric thinkers stole that word from its rightful place in history.

Overall, this is a good book to recommend since it will give any reader a clear understanding of the history of the ancient Persia prior to the Islamic conquest. Other reviewers have nitpicks the book so you have to read them if you want the specifics. But overall, its informative, interesting and easy to absorbed.
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