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Summary

For the past 2,500 years, we've heard about the Persian Empire as a decadent civilization run by despots, the villains who lost the Battle of Marathon and supplied the fodder for bad guys in literature and film. But it turns out this image is inaccurate. As recent scholarship shows, the Persian Empire was arguably the world's first global power- a diverse, multicultural empire with flourishing businesses and people on the move. The key is to look at the Persian Empire from the Persian's perspective. Over the span of 24 fascinating lectures, you'll take on the role of a history detective to discover the truth about this grand civilization.

You'll discover the key to the empire's success lay in its greatest rulers, each of whom played a critical role in shaping and strengthening a civilization we still remember today. But while the great kings were administering justice or waging wars, everyday Persians were just as important to the success of the empire.

You'll also learn about the empire's efficient communications network; the Persian economy and the workers and entrepreneurs who supported it; the role of women in the empire, especially the influence of royal women; and the daily cultural exchanges between the diverse peoples of the empire.

Professor Lee shows you a whole new history of the ancient world - a perspective largely unknown even by students of history. These lectures capture the people, the strength, the rise and the downfall of this great empire, revealing the complexity behind centuries of a previously one-sided history. Take this opportunity to complete your understanding of the ancient world and discover the humanity of the ancient Persians.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

fascinating insight into the unknown (for me!)

What made the experience of listening to The Persian Empire the most enjoyable?

The material is fascinating; well put together and well read.I know something of Egyptian, Greek and Roman history but very little of the Persian empire- other than the view that comes from Greek sources.This was an eye opener- not just about the Persian Empire, but also it's relationship to other things I know more about such as Thermopylae, Alexander the Great;...

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed all of this audio book: content and narration.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Details of things like Artemisia- the woman Persian leader; the strengths and weaknesses of various leaders -especially the Achaemenid period with the likes of Cyrus the Great, Cambyses, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes...- people whom I'd heard of vaguely but knew very little about.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I kept making time to listen to this- a good sign for an audio book!

Any additional comments?

It's raised my interest to know more about the history of Asia- especially in a world of globalisation.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Love Persian history and this book is great. The great courses never let me down!

This is a great unbiased view of Persian history with lots of unknown facts from this learned lecturer. If you have a view on Greek history this audiobook offers a fair and fresh opposing view from the history writers from Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Enlightening!

It was quite informative. Very well presented. A good source for anyone wishing to know more about ancient history and how it has affected the world we live in today.

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An Exhaustive Account

Given that most of what we commonly know of Persia comes from a Greek perspective, through Herodotus and Arrian, detailing the battles of Marathon, Thermoplyae, Salamis and Platea and then Alexander's conquest, Lee sets out to provide a corrective to this, telling the story from the Persian point of view, and filling in the missing years.

Adding to the account using mainly Ctesias and Xenophon, rock inscriptions and the Persepolis Tablets, Lee largely succeeds in the attempt, teasing out significant levels of detail.

This is fairly exhaustive, by which I mean than almost every possible detail is utilised to its full extent, leaving one with the impression that there is not a lot more of general, rather than specialised academic, interest to be known.

Lee's presentation is good, the accompanying notes comprehensive, and all in all this one of the best Great Courses I have listened to.

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  • Mr
  • 16-08-16

excellent

One of the best great courses I have heard. Clear and informative with a good pace of narrative.

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    4 out of 5 stars

A wonderfully clear overview

This was a comprehensive survey of Persian history. It placed the development of the Persian empire into its cultural context. It was refreshing to look at the empire from the perspective of its inhabitants rather than simply through the eyes of the Greek historians.

I was struck by the ethical nature of early Persian religion; that Persian nobles and kings were expected to "ride well, shoot straight and tell the truth".

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Excellent book

I never imagined that the Persian Empire was that great. This book is not based on an opinion. It is based on the most recent evidence including archeology.

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  • mr
  • west sussex, United Kingdom
  • 02-06-14

Good

Good overview, interesting and engaging. It was refreshing to hear a different perspective and I learnt a lot.

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Great learning experience

Great to get updated on Persia.
However, the lecturer seems to miss the point that empires tends to base their rule on " do as we say or you will be killed"

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Knute
  • 08-09-15

Fantastic thematic historical exploration

As a student of history, I found this exploration to be filled with both crucial details that made me re-think ancient times and anecdotal cultural cues that wove a fascinating tale in my mind. Great balance of archaeological historical evidence, secondary sources and myth debunking!

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Trevor
  • 21-12-15

Completely worthwhile!

I never really gave the Persians too much thought, and certainly almost no credit in terms of their success. Professor Lee frames the entire course in a more balanced perspective of the Persian empire than is typical. Overall, this course really made me realize how integral the Persians are to classical history; their impact on past and present times is remarkable.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • John Wayne
  • 19-05-14

Ancient History Does Not Get Much Better Than This

Would you consider the audio edition of The Persian Empire to be better than the print version?

Not sure. I do not have the print version of any of the Great Courses. This category of Audible products is unique.

Have you listened to any of Professor John W. Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Not yet but if he has any others available I definitely will consider purchasing them.

Any additional comments?

John Lee really made the history of the Persian Empire come alive for me. This is a difficult subject to teach because so much of the evidence was destroyed by Alexander the Great--and then buried under so many later layers of history. However, John Lee did a fantastic job of putting all of the evidence in context (in a manner that did not require one to have a PHD in Archaeology to understand) which allowed listeners to form more complex conclusions about the ancient Persians than the remaining biased sources state.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Kamran Saeed
  • 11-04-16

Magnificent! Simply magnificent.

Professor Lee has put together as comprehensive, objective and complete a treatment of the Achaemenid Persian Empire as any I have come across, covering not just event history, but analyzing Achaemenid Persia in the context of of the larger forces of history, and covering such aspects as travel and communications in the Empire, and the lives and status of women. If you want to learn about the Achaemenid Empire, start here!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Maurine Starkey
  • 31-03-16

The Persian Empire.

Most of what we know about the Persian empire is what we read from the ancient Greeks. This course gives you a better perspective.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jon
  • 28-08-15

A 360 degree view of Ancient Persia

This is a great course for people new to studying ancient history or people that have studied it for years.
For periods I was familiar with, like Alexander's invasion of Persia, Prof. Lee does a great job of presenting the Persian viewpoint which is very thought provoking.
Topics like the role of women in Persia, the economy of the period, and the daily lives of everyday people were covered in penetrating detail with reference to the ancient sources.
The downside of the overall excellent presentation is that Professor Lee is too in love with the topic and appears to sometimes dismiss Greek sources completely while presenting Persian sources with little criticism.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Stef
  • 19-05-18

The other side of the coin

It is brilliant to have the story of the Persians from a non Greek view point, and how the image of Persia has been used differently by different people. A fascinating course.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rocky
  • 02-03-16

Amazing

great information presented by a world-class professor. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and highly recommend it. can't wait to listen to the next one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Pedram
  • 15-02-16

Well balanced

Rare to find someone to walk a fine line between the Persian exaggerations and the Greek exaggerations and actually find the realistic middle. Well researched. Very unbiased.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Samuel
  • 15-07-15

Great Story of a Mighty Empire!

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to how the mighty persian empire rose and fell. Professor Lee does an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of the dynamics of the ancient empire and keeping the journey interesting at the same time. He does a remarkable job making the Persians actually human in spite of the negative stereotypes they are labeled with.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful