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Persian Fire : The First World Empire and the Battle for the West by Tom Holland (2005)

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This book is well-written and interesting, but as a non-specialist I found the chronology a bit confusing. To complete his project, the author has to jump back and forth in time to cover events that are happening simultaneously in different places, and without much background on the period I found it sometimes hard to keep up. If you decide to tackle this as a non-specialist, I would suggest reading through a couple chapters on the period from a standard textbook first. But the time period is so important it's definitely worth the work. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Tom Holland's Persian Fire is a very readable overview of the rise of the Persian empire as well as the rise of both Sparta and Athens. By starting with the rise of Persia, Holland helps you view the Persian wars from the Persian point of view and not just the Greek point of view you see in most textbooks. The book is also full of facts about the Greeks that I did not see in my high school text books. ( )
  M_Clark | Feb 28, 2016 |
Fascinating! Holland writes his history dramatically, almost like fiction. I caught myself forgetting whether is was a true story. ( )
  TrgLlyLibrarian | Feb 1, 2015 |
A fan of history, but never really into the ancient world, this was my first serious book about the Persian and Greek empires of the 5th century BC. Tom Holland writes with passion, authority and immediacy. This reads more like reportage than history. He clearly states the chronological narrative, but also brings alive the key figures involved, thus painting a rich picture of life and politics in this ancient world.

Clearly, if the Persian Empire had overrun Greece the history of what we call the Western world would have been very different, although from 2,500 years way, exactly how different is hard to judge. The Persian Empire could have stretched into mainland Europe, Italy and further, with consequences for the Roman Empire as well as the impact on thought and societal development in Greece.

I think this is a great example of good writing as well as good history. ( )
  pierthinker | Jan 19, 2015 |
A Christmas gift from my eldest who really knows what I love. I was started by the time period and his general project, to scrape away all the hadniths, etc. that have attached themselves to Islam over the centuries and get us back to the original bones of a very controversial religious, his historical context and value. A brilliant and courageous piece of research, written with occasional irreverence, as is Holland's style.

I will be fascinated to see what he tackles next. Bravo! ( )
  milocross | Jan 6, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0349117179, Paperback)

In 480 BC, Xerxes, the King of Persia, led an invasion of mainland Greece. Its success should have been a formality. For seventy years, victory - rapid, spectacular victory - had seemed the birthright of the Persian Empire. In the space of a single generation, they had swept across the Near East, shattering ancient kingdoms, storming famous cities, putting together an empire which stretched from India to the shores of the Aegean. As a result of those conquests, Xerxes ruled as the most powerful man on the planet. Yet somehow, astonishingly, against the largest expeditionary force ever assembled, the Greeks of the mainland managed to hold out. The Persians were turned back. Greece remained free. Had the Greeks been defeated at Salamis, not only would the West have lost its first struggle for independence and survival, but it is unlikely that there would ever have been such and entity as the West at all. Tom Holland's brilliant new book describes the very first 'clash of Empires' between East and West. Once again he has found extraordinary parallels between the ancient world and our own. There is no competing popular book describing these events.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:24 -0400)

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This is a brilliant account of the world's very first clash of civilisations between the Persians and the Greeks. Tom Holland has written several books including 'The Vampyre' and 'Deliver Us From Evil', and won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History in 2004.… (more)

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