Persians: The Age of The Great Kings

by Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones

Hardcover, 2022



Call number



Wildfire (2022), 448 pages


"The Achaemenid Persian kings ruled over the largest empire of antiquity, stretching from Libya to the steppes of Asia and from Ethiopia to Pakistan. From the palace-city of Persepolis, Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and their heirs reigned supreme for centuries until the conquests of Alexander of Macedon brought the empire to a swift and unexpected end in the late 330s BCE. In Persians, historian Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones tells the epic story of this dynasty and the world it ruled. Drawing on Iranian inscriptions, cuneiform tablets, art, and archaeology, he shows how the Achaemenid Persian Empire was the world's first superpower--one built, despite its imperial ambition, on cooperation and tolerance. This is the definitive history of the Achaemenid dynasty and its legacies in modern-day Iran, a book that completely reshapes our understanding of the ancient world."--Amazon.… (more)

Media reviews

From Cyrus to Xerxes and beyond, the rulers of premodern Iran have been distorted by mythologies that privileged their rivals.
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Llewellyn-Jones (ancient history, Cardiff Univ.) brings forth a view of ancient Persia that is rich in tradition and historical significance.
This volume by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is an intriguing and engaging book about the Achaemenid empire. The book begins around 1000 BC, explaining the roots and backgrounds of how the Achaemenids came to power, and ends with the fall of Darius III, who was conquered by Alexander the
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great. Llewellyn-Jones has successfully dealt with the scarcity of sources on the subject. Despite the abundance of information about the Achaemenids in Greek historians such as Xenophon and Herodotus, he has chosen to treat their accounts with a touch of skepticism, and rightfully so. Given the history of the Greco-Persian wars, the Greeks may not have been impartial narrators of the history of Persia. Llewellyn-Jones has therefore extensively used non-Greek sources to illustrate the origins of the Achaemenids and frequently countered Greek historians on their general representation of Achaemenid kings. For instance, the author’s portrayal of Cambyses, unlike the common portrayal of him as an inept king, depicts him as powerful and resilient, even if not as competent as Cyrus. The author has used archaeological findings and non-Greek textual sources such as Babylonian cuneiform tablets extensively in order to avoid a Hellenocentric approach and instead to reconstruct what possibly could be the “Persian version”.
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Llewellyn-Jones focuses on “genuine, indigenous” sources that have come to light in recent decades.

User reviews

LibraryThing member deusvitae
History is generally written by the victors; thus, attempting to come to a coherent understanding of a foe, especially one deemed "the other," can prove challenging. Such is especially true about the Achaemenid Persians.

The author has set out to write a history of the Persians which attempts to
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distance itself from the self-congratulating Greek narratives about who the Persians were and what they were about, instead attempting to let the Persians tell their own story based on inscriptional and archaeological evidence from the ancient Near East.

The author sets forth the story of the Persians from their arrival on the Iranian plains until Darius the Great; he then spends time talking about Persian religion, culture, court, harem, slavery, and other cultural aspects; he then tells the story from Xerxes until the end of the empire at the hands of Alexander the Great. The epilogue details modern Iran's relationship with the Achaemenid heritage.

The goal of de-centering Greek witness is commendable even if impractical: the author is still forced to grapple with the Greek sources at almost every opportunity because of the paucity of other source. Nevertheless, he does well to elevate our view and understanding of the Persians: they did create the first world empire worthy of the name, established greater stability than was seen before with the Assyrians/Babylonians or after under the Seleucids; developed a bureaucratic system which would become the model for all future world empires; and maintained their strength throughout, falling prey to a brilliant and powerful Alexander. The author notes, and it is worth the reminder, that the Persians are spoken of favorably in the Old Testament, even though there did seem to be a couple of rebellions in Judea that could have caused great distress.

While it is important to not allow the Greeks to define the way we understand the Persians, we must also remember that the Achaemenid Persians presented themselves the way they wanted to be seen. Yes, the Greek invasions were probably not as significant to the Persians as they were to the Greeks, but that does not mean they are insignificant; relative Persian silence may actually be rather deafening. Why the author feels the need to be apologetic about the slave system in Persia is historically baffling; of course there were slaves, as there were in the previous and future empires. Doesn't make it right or good, of course; but it comes with the territory.

Nevertheless, it is a recently updated history of the Persians, which is always good to have, and provides a good perspective. Recommended.

**--galley received as part of early review program
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Physical description

448 p.; 9.53 inches


1472277287 / 9781472277282

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