I was in at Barnes and Noble earlier in the week, and came away with a few choice books to go through. One that caught my eye is Persian Fire, by Tom Holland. A single volume history of the Persian invasion of Greece, starting with the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus through the failure of his grandson Xeres to conquer Greece. Remembering way back to when I was in middle school, Greek history was more about the Pelopennesian wars, leading into Alexander’s conquests, with almost nothing discussed about Persia.
Holland’s argument is that if Greece had been conquered by Xeres army of 250,000, there would be no such thing as western culture. While acknowledging the first east/west war to be the Trojan War, the Persian Invasion is the first documented one. Beginning with the conquering of Greek city state of Lydia in Asia Minor (after a provoked invasion by Lydia’s king Croesus), the Persians slowly expanded along the coast, and observed and encouraged in fighting between the Greeks. The single major PR point of the war is the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, guarding the entrance into Attica against Xeres entire army. They fell of course, but not with out dealing a major blow the Persian’s pride, and providing inspiration for Greece, and many others even 2000 years later.
So I finished the book in two days. Lots of time reading it yesterday, as Ed was able to do most of the driving (more on that another post). It’s an easily accessible book, taking events that most of us had briefly covered long ago, that does not get much popular press these days.
And, if nothing else, it provides a fun back drop for those of us who like to play as the Persians in the Civilization series of games.