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Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones

Author of Persians: The Age of the Great Kings

15+ Works 329 Members 3 Reviews

About the Author

Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is Professor of Ancient History at Cardiff University.

Works by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones

Associated Works

A Companion to Greek Religion (2007) — Contributor — 67 copies
The Great Empires of the Ancient World (2009) — Contributor — 59 copies
A Companion to Ancient History (2009) — Contributor — 34 copies
Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond (2002) — Contributor — 14 copies
The Hellenistic World: New Perspectives (2002) — Contributor — 9 copies
Body Language in the Greek and Roman Worlds (2005) — Contributor — 6 copies
Persianism in Antiquity (2017) — Contributor — 4 copies
Athena in the Classical World (2001) — Contributor — 3 copies
Ancient Greek Women in Film (2013) — Contributor — 3 copies


Common Knowledge



A fast-paced and informative account of the Achaemenid rulers of ancient Persia, culminating with Alexander's defeat of Darius III in 330 BC. The story is ne replete with ruthless ambitions, unforgiving retributions, and epic failures and achievements. For a reader from the subcontinent, what may be of greatest interest is the widely divergent paths taken by two descendants of what was probably a shared Indo-Iranian, or Aryan, cultural world: the close parallels between old Persian and Vedic Sanskrit make them seem almost as dialects of a common ancestor language, with parallels in liturgy, rituals, and so on. The Indian branch developed highest realms of speculative and spiritual thinking that emphasized the unity of all things, whereas the Iranian branch developed (or descended?) into a starkly dualistic and retributive view that surely must have influenced the further development of western thought in the Semitic-Christian versions with its prediction of a fight to death between the forces of Good and Evil, the redemption in the final destruction of the world, Armageddon, Apocalypse, and other such implacable world scenarios. To the average reader, the unreasonable levels of violence in the Persian world, and by extension in the modern world shaped mainly by Western Judeo-Christian values, would probably be ascribable to this unrelentingly dualistic view first broadcast by the Persians.… (more)
Dilip-Kumar | 2 other reviews | Apr 16, 2024 |
Of course, any history of the Persian Empire is particularly interesting. Although it was relatively short-lived (from about 559 to 330 BCE), it dates from a period when we first have quite a few written sources. In the case of the Persian Empire, these are predominantly Greek, and therefore suspect, because for the Greeks Persia usually was the great enemy. The author of this book, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, puts this in the spotlight and claims to offer nothing less than a correction to that distorted Greek image. His intention is to rely mainly on other sources than Greek ones. Unfortunately, he only lives up to this to a limited extent. His account still seems to be based mainly on Greek sources, and the picture he paints of the Persian leaders (with Cyrus II and Darius the Great as epigones, of course) is just as degrading as, for example, the one Herodotus made. Only the chapters on Persian culture give a bit more space to Persian voices themselves. Moreover, towards the end the book contains a remarkable number of narrative passages, full of fictional descriptions, and without citing source (obviously, they must be Greek ones). Strange. So, this definitely makes for an interesting read, but this book doesn't deliver what it promises. More on this in my History account on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4266316617. Thanks to Netgalley for an Advanced Reading Copy.… (more)
1 vote
bookomaniac | 2 other reviews | Feb 18, 2022 |
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 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
… (more)
deusvitae | 2 other reviews | Jan 17, 2022 |


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