Rating: 4 out of 5
This was a very good history of the Achaemenid realm. I feel, though, that the author always had to overdo himself in order to get “The Persian Version” in print.
I’m not a great fan of a continuous discussion of sources and their quality when trying to understand a specific topic, so that Mr Llewellyn-Jones had to spend so much time explaining why we might not trust the Greek about what happened in the center of their enemy’s realm became rather old a few chapters in.
At the same time, the author lamented that he could not go far enough about some things, like the names of the Persians. I really hope that this was not something the editors pushed upon him, because in the end the most immersive account can only be created if we abandon the Hellenized names that are so familiar to us. It will be a big step, but I’m willing to take it – unfortunately, it’s not done here, leaving this still a shadow of what the Persian Version should be like.
Another personal preference would have seen the political history and cultural topics considered separately, but this is more of a question of flow. Here, it was clear the author had planned it, to slow things down and go through some cultural misconceptions before carrying on. It worked, though it’s not my preference.
I’ll leave this by saying that the book is a huge positive. It’s not how I would have treated the subject, but it’s a very good introduction into the idea that the Persians were much more than what we see on the screen of ‘300’ or in some other Western work.