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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent popular history
Last summer I was carried away to the far distant Roman republic in Holland's 'Rubicon', and enthralling as that book was, the author has excelled himself with 'Persian Fire'. This is partly because, unlike 'Rubicon', where he compressed centuries of events in to one modest book, 'Persian Fire' is far more narrow in scope, and hence moves forward with much greater...
Published on 26 May 2006 by P. Pensom

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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A book about the Greeks not the Persians!!!
Having read 'Rubicon' by the same author (which I avidly recommend) I decided to brush up on my Persian history so bought this book. I thought from reading the reviews on the back cover and from the title the book would focus upon the Persians, their rise to power and detail their Empire etc but I was sorely disappointed.

This book for about the first couple...
Published on 2 Aug 2011 by Laura


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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some-what dissapointing and slanted in its views..., 30 Dec 2007
By 
A. Ayoob "Ash" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
I was very excited about this book and was quick to start reading it but to be honest I was pretty dissapointed.

I have previously read Hollands' book Rubicon in which Holland drew on historical parallels (sometimes quite brilliantly) to explain how the political world currently functions. Excuses for starting wars, unholy alliances, territorial ambitions, all rooted in the crazy world of Bush and Blair.

He attempts to do something along the same line in this book but a lot less successfully. Holland explains how the delineations between east and west were actually defined, how our currents notions of oriental barbarism, indulgence and excess are rooted in the propaganda of that era. The problem is he doesn't have much balanced material to go on because all our sources of reference are drawn from westerners like Herodotus, hence the anti-Asiatic slant in the first place.

The book is great for someone who maybe wants an insight into the era. I wouldn't personally reccomend it to someone looking to study the topic or someone who knows nothing at all as it will leave you instilled with a pretty biased view.

Overall the book is well written but biased in its nature therefore keep this in mind when reading it as the persians do not get a fair write up at all. You will learn much from it otherwise however as long as you keep this in mind.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why do they hate us so much?, 6 Jun 2007
By 
A. J. Rabet "Rabs" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
This is a fascinating account of the wars between the Persians and the nascent Greek City states and in particular those of Athens and Sparta.

The book shows how the Persian Empire rapidly grew from the plains of modern Iran and took pre-existing cultures such as the Babylonians and Egyptians and turned them into vassal states all driven by the vision of ultimately the "King of Kings" Although he did take advice the bottom line was that if you went against him you life expectancy dropped rapidly or you had to organize a coup on some far fetched pretext.

The book also shows how democracy grew in Athens and even though this did not happen in Sparta in the same way there was certainly more accountability by the Kings of Sparta to their free people and in particular the warrior elite. It shows how the growth of spin and politicians came about as a natural consequence of these systems.

The book also shows though not in detail how this clash of civilizations is analogous to that today where the secular democratic west is in conflict with the Islamic authoritarian East.

It is quite fascinating to not that the area involved as the Eastern/Persian Empire has not changed in the past 2,500 years but their religion has (albeit to one dominant one) and national boundaries have shifted.

This book is not written for an academic historian but for a person like me who is fascinated by this region and as one who reads plenty of dry tomes for his own profession the racy style is ideal and I cannot recommend this book too highly
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as enjoyable as Rubicon, 9 May 2007
This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
Having been very impressed with his book Rubicon I was expecting something similar with Persian Fire, although the basis is the same as his previous work providing a narrative of a forgotten time period it just lacks the quality of Rubicon. Instead I found it disjointed in places and lacking bite however, my opinion may have been distroted by reading Rubicon first which set a very high benchmark.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fair enough read, 30 Jun 2010
By 
E. Clarke "Cambusken" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
I bought this book because I had been impressed by Tom Holland's previous book Rubicon, and I have to say it is as easily read as that book. It is a tale well told, or at least well enough. I also have to say that it reads like just Herodatus translated and jazzed up. As a result of the latter process, the book probably contains a record number of clichés - ranging from tabloid headlines (shock and awe, terrorist states, etc ad nauseam) to (unacknowledged) quotes or reminiscences of Shakespeare, Milton, etc, not excepting the Bible and a few (unreferenced) classical authors. There is a surprising array of ordinary, everyday clichés too. This made the book a bit tedious at times, and made me suspect it was lazily put together. Some of the notes refer to authors, or books, not mentioned in the bibliography. I am not a scholar, but I sometimes like to follow up interesting leads. Still, this is perhaps being a mite too serious - the story courses along, and the narrative tries to balance the Greeks and the Persian perspectives. The battle narratives are brisk, which I think I like, as I find it hard to visualise complex manoeuvers sometimes. The background on Persians and Medes is new to me, and he integrates asides on Greek life very smoothly with the narrative. It is just so much poorer than the previous one. I have also bought his Millenium, but am now no longer in such a hurry to read it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War...War never changes, 31 July 2011
This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
In the long military history of mankind it has become quite a cliched yet true saying that war never changes. Of course we are not still using the formations of phalanxs or bowing to the king of kings, yet with Holland's narative I got the feeling that I was there, or at the very least an event which was either currently happening or had a happened a mere couple of decades ago as opposed to 2500 years ago. Yet it is not simply about the Greco-Persian wars, indeed that only comes into play half way into the book. In the first half of the book we learn about the many civilizations which enter and exit this great play. Some such as the Persians, Athenians and Spartans are key players, others going as far back to the Assyrians and Medes play only a side role. Holland explores the differing cultures of these civilizations, their different political systems(Athenian democracy, Spartan militaristic oligarchy, Persian despotism), their myths and tall tales, and their cultural norms which we today consider either to be vile or absurd (Greek pedastry, Persian god like rulers). To put it frankly this is a great and interesting book which tells of the very first struggle between East and West. Excellent.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Persian misfire, 29 Oct 2013
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This is a somewhat disjointed book, which starts well before wandering off to discuss Sparta and Athens in great detail without linking the chapters back to the main theme. A case of the author telling you everything he knows about a subject, rather than what the reader needs to know. That said Mr Holland draws the reader back with the later chapters, although some of his text is a bit verbose. On the whole a worthwhile read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balanced Review of Persian Fire, 28 Sep 2010
By 
Mr. U. A. Mir (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
Dear Readers,

This was the first Tom Holland novel that I read, and was impressed on multiple levels on the content of it. Persian Fire exemplifies the art of great narrative history. Indeed the manner in which Holland has painted the picture of the Greek-Persian wars is quite magnificent. The novel itself is not lengthy, but fascinatingly deep and insightful. To come to an abrupt but concise conclusion: the book is truly a work of art, but to appreciate this piece fully, one must already be:

1) well read
2) someone who enjoys reading history (to an extent at least)

thank you reading my review.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent narrative history, 8 Dec 2009
By 
Mr. Robert Kelly "robert_kelly" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
Tom Holland, who's other books include Rubicon and Millennium has established himself as the king of narrative history. To me this book brings alive the incredible story of the clash of civilizations that was the Persian wars in a way that a dray recitation of facts never could. All the major characters are here, Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Leonidas and Queen Gorgo are brought to life. There is an excellent peek at how life was lived in the various Greek city states, notably of course Sparta and Athen's as well as an excellent description of the rise of the Persian empire.

This is such fun to read, that it feels much more interesting than popular history has any right to be. My one regret is that there isn't a follow up book on Alexandar the great.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid account, 24 July 2008
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
This fine book tells the story of an earlier war between East and West. In the fifth century BC, a global superpower was determined to bring order to what it regarded as two terrorist states. The superpower was Persia, the terrorist states Athens and Sparta. As Holland points out, "even the mightiest empires can suffer from overstretch."

He mordantly notes, with a passing hit at the British state's `special relationship' with the declining USA, "There was no greater source of self-contentment for a subject-nation, after all, and no surer badge of its continued servitude, than to imagine that it might have been graced with a special relationship with the king."
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12 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In the (Persian) Bon(fire) is where its going...., 7 Sep 2010
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This review is from: Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West (Paperback)
I was quite excited to find this gadgee Holland writing books about interesting things, more so when I found that he'd written a book about the Persians and their occupation and hegemony over an empire stretching from the Aegean shore to the Indus valley, the first super-power as Mr Holland rightly states. Particularly so as I had just finished Vidal's 'Creation' and was hoping for some facts to go with Gore's epic spin and floss.

I find myself somewhat dismayed then, having just finished reading the book. Firstly Mr Holland states in the introduction that it is difficult to piece together what happened in and through the Persian Empire because extant sources are thin on the ground and you have to be an expert in cuneiform. This is followed up by stating that Herodotus and Xenophon as historical sources are pretty much unreliable, except they are reliable when you take them with Mr Holland's pinch of salt when they then become 'toadally' reliable. So what does the book consist of? Well, a lot of regurgitations of Herodotus and Xenophon which we've already been told are unreliable, some modern, hip-to-the-ancient-history-scene, daddio sweary words, and plenty of conjecture and gloss paint over a very complex architecture. There's very little on the Persian Empire to the East and the foundations and structure are skated over like Torvill and Dean - with good grace and excellent technique but still skating. I can't totallly knock it because the writing is good and it gives a decent picture of a short period of GREEK history when the conflict with Persia was to the forefront and it helps to explain the dichotomies of power that existed between city and nation states. Also it is an excellent, 'grabbable' (as in airport blockbuster bollix sorta thang)history book in a linear narrative stylee.

What it isn't is an explanation of the ancient Persians and how they came to control such a vast empire for so long a period and a discussion of them and their artefacts in more detail to give a picture of the ancient Persians, their beliefs, their art and culture etc etc.
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Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West
Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West by Tom Holland (Paperback - 3 Aug 2006)
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