Persian Fire: Tom Holland : The first global empire and the battle for the west
Hardback edition published 2005 Little Brown Books.
16 Pages of Colour photos average of 2-3 pictures per page, all good quality and interesting that accompanies the text nicely.
Appearance and Handling: The discover shows the Chigi Vase painting, which shows opposing Archaic Hoplite phalanxes advancing into battle, underneath a Persian Faravahar Fravshi. The background is a rich aged turquoise field with flaked gold edging. A very attractive looking book, that is quite tough and able to take some abuse. Prone to usual atmospheric problems, overly cold and or warm rooms with affect the paper and make it wavy or bleached, especially true if left near a window on a cold day, so position your bookcases strategically! It took me about a week or just over that to cover this one volume, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
The epic battle between East and West goes back to its roots in Tom Holland’s brilliant narrative history of the Greek and Persian Wars. This book works on roughly three levels. One it tells the story of The Persian Empire, something that many will not have been very beefed up on, the Greek City States, and the course of the war, the more famous battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis and Platea are all there. Level two works by outlining the differences between the two cultures and how they related to one another it attempts to reveal (rather than fully answer) the origins of the question Herodotus asked in his Histories, that essentially “Why can’t we get along?”. And on its third level it’s just whackingly good. Its humorous, refreshingly honest in some parts, and good read about lost civilisations that did so much to shape the world we know today. You’ve got allot of nice stylish writing, smashingly evocative imagery to conjure up the richness of the subject, a pace and timing I would suggest should be put into epic movie form about the whole thing, and exactly what you should be looking for if you want a book that tells you what you want to know without delving through a whole lot of things you don’t, read it as a precursor to attacking Herodotus if you like, as inevitably everything leads back to him. Without a doubt Holland knows his subject from the bottom up and back down again. With a broad and complex subject the best way to write is as simply as possible, and the author has succeeded here, don’t worry, it’s not so novelistic that you don’t trust a word he says but it’s not stiff with academic dissertations either, and he makes everything quite plain and understandable, he doesn’t muddy the waters without explaining why their getting that way, all in all he has hit upon a good mix.
The author is a natural with an epic story like this and handles it with the dexterity of a Persian Cavalryman, or an Athenian helmsman, his points are well constructed and I’m sure would have pleased many Dorian Greek public speakers, yet straight forwards enough to pease the Spartans, meanwhile grandiosely describing the wonders of the Persian Empire with a prose to please the Great King, on most counts if he and his book where to be transported back in time he would surely keep his head (what Roman politicians and dictators would have decided based on his other Ancient history, Rubicon, we won’t go in to) this book is highly recommended and will delight all enthusiasts of Ancient History.