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The World of Achaemenid Persia

Monday, March 14, 2011

The World of Achaemenid Persia: The Diversity of Ancient Iran

Authors: John Curtis & St. John Simpson

Hardcover: 624 pages
Publisher: I. B. Tauris (May 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1848853467
ISBN-13: 978-1848853461

Interest and fascination in Achaemenid Persia has burgeoned in recent years. It is time for a major new appraisal of the glorious civilization founded by Cyrus the Great and continued by his successors, the Great Kings Darius I, Xerxes and Artaxerxes I.

This volume offers precisely that: a sustained and comprehensive overview of the field of Achaemenid studies by leading scholars and experts. It discusses all aspects of Achaemenid history and archaeology between 550 BCE and 330 BCE, and embraces the whole vast territory of the Persian Empire from North Africa to India and from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf. Topics covered include aspects of Achaemenid religion, administration, material culture, ethnicity, gender and the survival of Achaemenid traditions.

The publication of the book is an event: it represents a watershed not only in better appreciation and understanding of the rich and complex cultural heritage established by Cyrus, but also of the lasting significance of the Achaemenid kings and the impact that their remarkable civilization has had on wider Persian and Middle Eastern history.

The Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 B.C.E.), also known as the Persian Empire, was the successor state of the Median Empire, expanding to eventually rule over significant portions of the ancient world which at around 500 B.C.E. stretched from the Indus Valley in the east, to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border of Greece. The Achaemenid Empire would eventually control Egypt, encompassing some 1 million square miles unified by a complex network of roads, ruled by monarchs, to become the largest and greatest empire the world had yet seen.

Table of Contents
Achaemenid history and historiography * Centre and periphery – views on the Persian Empire * The Oxus Treaure and other Achaemenid suptuary arts * Babylonia in the Persian period * Iran and Arabia * Political contunuity and change * Dress, gender and appearance * Interpreting iconography * Achaemenid religion * Bibliography * Index

Review
"This timely book represents an outstanding contribution to the state of research on the first actual world empire in history. There can be no doubt that many of its thought-provoking articles will make a strong impact on our views of ancient Persia, and of its society and culture." -- Josef Wiesehöfer, Professor of Ancient History, Kiel University

"The Achaemenid era constitutes the most brilliant period of Persia’s long history: a period during which all of Western Asia and part of North Africa were brought together in a vast empire under the suzerainty of the Achaemenid kings. A great deal of research has gone into the elucidation of the various aspects of the dynasty and the empire. It is wonderful now to have such an up-to-date, competent, and comprehensive history and culture of Achaemenid Persia between two covers."--Ehsan Yarshater, Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies, Columbia University

"The Persian Empire has never been out of the news, but since the great British Museum exhibition, and a spate of publications on the subject, it is more in the eyes and minds of archaeologists and historians of the ancient world than hitherto. This welcome volume offers a major guide to and an explanation of the whole phenomenon, from the acknowledged experts. It will be used and referred to more than most such compendia, and for very good reason."--Sir John Boardman, FBA, Lincoln Professor Emeritus of Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford

"This attractive and authoritative volume provides an unusually complete assessment of the multiple accomplishments of the Achaemenid Persians. The range of topics that is covered is quite exceptional; and the long list of contributors includes most of the principal scholars who are active in Achaemenid and ancient Persian studies at the present moment."-- David Stronach, Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, University of California, Berkeley

"A valuable asset to those interested in Archaemenid and Persian studies...comprehensive and authoritative, addressing important historical and cultural concerns. Often, in works such as this, the bibliography and index are lacking or non-existent. This one is an exception...[the bibliography and index] make an already splendid volume much more enjoyable." -- Iran and the Caucasus

About the Author
John Curtis, OBE, FBA, is Keeper of the Middle East Collections at the British Museum. His publications include Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia (with N. Tallis, 2005), Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum (with J. E. Reade, 2005) and Ancient Persia (2000). St John Simpson is Assistant Keeper and Curator of Ancient Iran and Arabia, also at the British Museum. He has excavated extensively in the Middle East and Central Asia, including sites of all periods from prehistoric to recent times.

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