Happy publication day to Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, whose brilliant new history of the largest Empire of antiquity is published today.
Persians: The Age of the Great Kings tells the story of the Achaemenid monarchs, who held court in unparalleled grandeur from their fabled palace-city of Persepolis. Here, Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, and their heirs passed laws, raised armies, and governed their multicultural Empire of enormous diversity, stretching from Libya to the Steppes of Asia, and from Ethiopia to Pakistan. Of course, it was not quite that simple; the Achaemenids were also one of the great dysfunctional families of history. Brothers fought brothers for power, wives and concubines plotted to promote their sons to the throne, and eunuchs and courtiers vied for influence and prestige.
Sounds like a great story, worthy of a Netflix blockbusting series. Which begs the question: if this Empire was so significant, why don’t we know more about it? The answer, according to Llewellyn-Jones, is a simple matter of cultural agendas and propaganda. What we know about the Great Kings has come down to us not from the original sources, but from Greek writers like Herodotus – hardly objective observers.
And that’s the story Llewellyn-Jones wants to set straight. Using original Achaemenid sources, including inscriptions, art, and recent archaeological discoveries in Iran, he has created an authentic ‘Persian Version’ of this remarkable first great empire of antiquity.