History of the Persian Empire by A. T. OlmsteadHistory of the Persian Empire by A. T. Olmstead

History of the Persian Empire

byA. T. Olmstead

Paperback | February 15, 1959

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Out of a lifetime of study of the ancient Near East, Professor Olmstead has gathered previously unknown material into the story of the life, times, and thought of the Persians, told for the first time from the Persian rather than the traditional Greek point of view.

"The fullest and most reliable presentation of the history of the Persian Empire in existence."—M. Rostovtzeff
Title:History of the Persian EmpireFormat:PaperbackDimensions:600 pages, 7.92 × 5.42 × 1.6 inPublished:February 15, 1959Publisher:University Of Chicago Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226627772

ISBN - 13:9780226627779

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Superb work of historical research This is one of the best works on the ancient Persian empire that I have seen, if not on ancient history in general. Olmstead, true to his calling as a leading pre-WW2 historian, stays profoundly loyal to the historical sources and evidence--never straying toward historical fiction to add color, although he does offer his opinions on occasion. The result is at times fascinating and at times a bewildering and overwhelming catalog of obscure names and places. He is at his best describing ancient artifacts, inscriptions, tablets and various ruins, offering us probably the closest sense of the archeological basis of history that we will ever get. It can be absolutely fascinating. You won’t get this from any modern author! The book is written with an academic bent, rather than entertainment, so again, the author focuses on details and facts rather than major themes. He is agnostic regarding to the importance or broader meaning of events, describing the etching on a single tablet or mural with more detail than epochal events like the passing of Cyrus or Darius, the greatest leaders of the empire, which are dealt with fleetingly and matter-of-factly. As an academic work, the book has its footnotes at the bottom of each page rather than collected at the back, which I’ve always thought should be done for all books, as it is impractical to flip back and forth versus simply glancing down at the bottom of each page for interesting notes. Lots of good information in there. Bottom line, this book gives an unparalleled and very tangible sense of the formation, administration and decline of the Persian empire, all of which occured over a relatively short period of time—the empire was at its zenith essentially under two leaders, Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, and fairly quickly splintered and disintegrated after them. One has to gain more appreciation of the ability of the Romans to assemble and maintain such a vast geographical empire, and administer it in such a way as to gain the long-term loyalty of their subjects. The Romans were unrivalled in their ability to acquire, absorb and integrate new territories and make them think of themselves as Romans. No one including the Persians has ever come close in this regard. After Darius the Great, it is pretty starkly evident that what really sustained the Persian empire for the next decades, and couple of centuries, was the general greed, short-sighted incompetence and wasteful duplicity that pervaded, plagued and stalemated the atomistic Greek/Spartan world of the era. More knives were pulled out of backs in this era than any other, which says alot. The world was actually fairly easy pickings for the Macedonians, Philip and Alexander--like squishing ants as they rolled eastward. Overall, a superb and edifying book, although there are several spots that you will just flip through and avoid. Thanks to “Xerxes the Great” for recommending this book! Cheers.
Date published: 2009-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best Persian history books This is a very accurate and detailed work about the Persian empire, Persians ancient religions, their conquests, wars with Greeks, their dominance of Middle East, and a lot of details about daily lives of the people during those times. It covers from the beginning of Persian empire until Alexander's invasion though, and doesn't cover the next two dynasties (before Arab invasions). The great thing about the book is the amazing resourcefulness of it. Olmstead has relied on quite a few different sources for each event, as opposed to only Greek sources (like most other books). The Greek sources, while valuable, are biased in recording history as they were enemies for centuries. These multiple sourcing has resulted in a more accurate picture and a lot of information. He has used even biblical text to get a better sense of the time. The only thing is that it's a little hard to read and doesn't flow that easy. He uses a lot of quotes and a lot of references... so it's not a bed-time history book with glorified stories, just a rich resource as to the events of the time. Highly recommended... although old but still the gold-standard book for knowing about that history of Persians, their ancient culture, and their empires.
Date published: 2005-11-12

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
I. Ancient History
II. Iranian Origins
III. Founder Cyrus
IV. Camp of the Persians
V. Life among the Subject Peoples
VI. Cambyses and the Conquest of Egypt
VII. Prophet Zoroaster
VIII. Usurper Darius
IX. A New Lawgiver
X. From India to Europe
XI. Problems of the Greek Frontier
XII. The Three Capitals: Ecbatana, Babylon, and Susa
XIII. Persepolis
XIV. A Royal Huckster
XV. Paths of the Gods
XVI. Xerxes as Crown Prince
XVII. The Great King and His Armies
XVIII. Failure in Europe
XIX. Delian League against Persia
XX. New Year's Day at Persepolis
XXI. Overtaxation and Its Results
XXII. Triumphs through Diplomacy
XXIII. Oriental Tales and Romances
XXIV. Science without Theology
XXXV. Divide and Conquer
XXVI. Decision for Sparta
XXVII. Dictator to Greece
XXVIII. The Last Egyptian Empire
XXIX. Brief Recovery
XXX. The Nile Regained
XXXI. Science True and False
XXXII. Religions Dying and Living
XXXIII. Fresh Breezes from the West
XXXIV. Philip and the Start of the Crusade
XXXV. Alexander, Heir to the Crusade
XXXVI. The Oriental God-King
XXXVII. Persepolis—The Crusade Ends
Topographical Index
Name Index
Subject Index

From Our Editors

At the foot of the Mount of Mercy in southeastern Persia, Darius the Great built his capital, Persepolis-symbol of Persian glory for two centuries. At its height the Achaemenid Empire, with its power centered in this city, reached from the Nile and Greece eastward to India. Dominating the major travel routes between East and West, it was the meeting ground of the great cultures of the ancient world.