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Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Persians

Lost Civilizations

Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Persians

Lost Civilizations

Now in paperback, this is a history of an incomparable culture whose influence can still be seen, millennia later, in modern-day Iran and the wider Middle East.

During the first and second millennia BCE a swathe of nomadic peoples migrated outward from Central Asia into the Eurasian periphery. One group of these people would find themselves encamped in an unpromising, arid region just south of the Caspian Sea. From these modest and uncertain beginnings, they would go on to form one of the most powerful empires in history: the Persian Empire. In this book, Geoffrey and Brenda Parker tell the captivating story of this ancient civilization and its enduring legacy to the world.   

The authors examine the unique features of Persian life and trace their influence throughout the centuries. They examine the environmental difficulties the early Persians encountered and how, in overcoming them, they were able to develop a unique culture that would culminate in the massive, first empire, the Achaemenid Empire. Extending their influence into the maritime west, they fought the Greeks for mastery of the eastern Mediterranean—one of the most significant geopolitical contests of the ancient world. And the authors paint vivid portraits of Persian cities and their spectacular achievements: intricate and far-reaching roadways, an astonishing irrigation system that created desert paradises, and, above all, an extraordinary reflection of the diverse peoples that inhabited them.

224 pages | 50 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2017

Lost Civilizations


History: Ancient and Classical History

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“Anyone looking for a concise overview of Iranian history from pre-Islamic times to the present could do worse than consult this elegantly written volume, part of a series on the rise and fall of civilizations. The authors devote fully half of the book to ancient Iran, which they see as both the world’s first superpower and a model for the modern, postimperial world in its federalist tendencies. The book’s focus is on Iran, but the Parkers occasionally branch out into the wider ‘Persianate’ universe, such as in a nice chapter on Central Asia, while offering illuminating digressions on poetry and gardens. . . . Recommended.”


"The second in the Lost Civilizations series, The Persians is also a compact, concise history of a whole civilization—from its nomadic origins in the first and second millennia BC to its new role as a tourist destination as modern-day Iran. . . . Tellingly, the book’s useful chronology ends in 2001 with the destruction of the Twin Towers. Today, Iran’s power and influence is far from waning."


Table of Contents

Preface: lost and found
Origins: the land and the people
The achaemenid dynasty
The achievements of the achaemenids
Cyrus the Great in history and legend
Persepolis: city, throne and power
Thus Spake Zarathustra: religion and empire
Paradise gained
Alexander of Macedon and the Hellenistic interlude
Empire revived: the Sasanids
Islamic Persia and Persian Islam
From Persepolis to Samarkand: the Persian legacy in central Asia
Paradise if Bliss: the Persian Legacy in India from the Timurids to the Mughals
Cyrus with Golden Caviar: the Last dynasty salutes the first
From Shahyad to Azadi: the Islamic Republic and the Ancient Legacy
Lost in Translation?
The first superpower?
Conclusion: power and paradise
Photo acknowledgements

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