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Persian Fire


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About the Author

Tom Holland is a historian of the ancient world and a translator. His books include Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, Persian Fire, In the Shadow of the Sword and The Forge of Christendom. He has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for the BBC. In 2007, he was the winner of the Classical Association prize, awarded to "the individual who has done most to promote the study of the language, literature and civilization of Ancient Greece and Rome." He lives in London with his family.
Visit the author's website at www.tom-holland.org.


After chronicling the fall of the Roman Republic in Rubicon, historian Holland turns his attention further back in time to 480 B.C., when the Greeks defended their city-states against the invading Persian empire, led by Xerxes. Classicists will recall such battles as Marathon, Thermopylae and Salamis, which raises the question: why do we need another account of this war, when we already have Herodotus? But just as Victor David Hanson and Donald Kagan have reframed our understanding of the Peloponnesian War by finding contemporary parallels, Holland recasts the Greek-Persian conflict as the first clash in a long-standing tension between East and West, echoing now in Osama bin Laden's pretensions to a Muslim caliphate. Holland doesn't impose a modern sensibility on the ancient civilizations he describes, and he delves into the background histories of both sides with equally fascinating detail. Though matters of Greek history like the brutal social structure of the Spartans are well known, the story of the Persian empire-like the usurper Darius's claim that every royal personage he assassinated was actually an imposter-should be fresh and surprising to many readers, while Holland's graceful, modern voice will captivate those intimidated by Herodotus. (May 2) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Portrayed mainly as a clash of civilizations, the invasion of ancient Greece by the Persians in 480 B.C.E. is given a fresh look in this account by Holland (Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic). Much of the book focuses on the history of both cultures before the wars, including the founding of major players Sparta, Athens, and Persia. Although the subject is an old one, Holland makes the story of Greece's repulsion of the immense forces of Xerxes seem relevant to the current clash between East and West. Holland draws many parallels with present-day conflicts, referring, for instance, to the Persian belief that the Greeks were in violation of the path of righteousness as dictated by the Persian gods and therefore deserved the destruction that was planned for them. Most readers will not have any difficulties in seeing the implicit comparisons that Holland makes between the Persians and present-day religious extremists. Holland tells a story in an efficient and engaging manner, with clear and concise prose enhanced by a time line and endnotes. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Sean Fleming, Lebanon Pub. Libs., NH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Ambitious....a sweeping popular account that seems destined to become a classic." -The Seattle Times"Excellent. . . . There is an even-handedness in Holland's treatment of both Greek and Persian cultural riches that is rare in popular accounts of these wars." -Sunday Times"Holland has a rare eye for detail, drama, and the telling anecdote. . . . A book as spirited and engaging as Persian Fire deserves to last." -The Telegraph

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