Historically Thinking

Historically Thinking

Episode 264: The Persian Version

May 16, 2022

Some 5,000 years ago nomadic peoples of central Asia settled on the Iranian plateau. Their descendants would be the nucleus of an extraordinary empire that reached north to the lands of their ancestors, eastwards to India and China, and west as far as the Libyan desert and the Aegean Sea. These were the Persians, who not only created the first of the world-empires, but also brought about the first period of significant and continuous contact between the east and the west. 

What is typically known about the Persians comes from Herodotus, who in his Histories told the story of how Persia came to invade Greece, and how the Greeks were able to repel the greatest empire yet known to mankind. But what is the Persian version of the story? What would the Persians have said about themselves?

With me to discuss the Persian Empire of the Achaemenid Kings is Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, chair of ancient history at Cardiff University, and director of the Ancient Iran Program for the British Institute of Persian Studies. His latest book is Persians: The Age of the Great Kings, and it is the subject of our conversation today.

For Further Investigation

Early in the conversation, when discussing the importance of the Persian's nomadic past, I made reference to a conversation with Pamela Crossley. This was Episode 185; her book on the importance of nomadic thought and culture for all of Eurasia is Hammer and Anvil: Nomad Rulers at the Forge of the Modern World.
Lloyd had some tough things to say about Herodotus; for a different perspective, see my conversation in Episode 116 on "The First Historian" with Jennifer Roberts, a Herodotus scholar.