Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War

Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War

4.5 4
by Kaveh Farrokh, Richard Nelson Frye

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The ruins of Persepolis evoke the best-known events of ancient Persia's history: Alexander the Great's defeat of Darius III, his conquest of the Achaemenid empire, and the burning of the great palace complex at Persepolis. However, most of the history of ancient Persia remains as mysterious today as it was to contemporary Western scholars. Compared to the world


The ruins of Persepolis evoke the best-known events of ancient Persia's history: Alexander the Great's defeat of Darius III, his conquest of the Achaemenid empire, and the burning of the great palace complex at Persepolis. However, most of the history of ancient Persia remains as mysterious today as it was to contemporary Western scholars. Compared to the world-famous Alexander, the many wars won by the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanian empires, and their revolutionary military technology, have been almost forgotten in the sands of the East.

In its day, Persia was a superpower to rival Greece and Rome, and conflict between them spanned over a millennium. Through these wars, and trade, these foes learnt from each other, not only adopting elements of military technology, but influences in the arts, architecture, religion, technology and learning. In this beautifully illustrated book, Dr Kaveh Farrokh narrates the history of Persia from before the first empires, through their wars with East and West to the fall of the Sassanians. He also delves into the forgotten cultural heritage of the Persians, spread across the world through war and conquest, which, even after the fall of the Sassanians, continued to impact upon the Western world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Dr. Kaveh Farrokh's Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, is the definitive work in the field. This Osprey Publishing effort combines the scholarship of Dr. Edwin Yamauchi's Persia and the Bible and Dr. Lindsay Allen's The Persian Empire with a readability accentuated by beautiful maps and photography which bring academic data and precise historical analysis into play with the majestically artistic. Put simply, it is a masterpiece and reference work which will stay on the shelf of the interested generalist and specialized scholar for decades to come.” —Mark Dankof, Republic Broadcasting Network

“This is an excellent well-illustrated survey of an important period, useful for students and a general readership alike. It deals not only with military matters, but also more broadly with political developments in Persia. My students have consulted it with profit.” —Geoffrey Greatrex, University of Ottawa

“This beautifully illustrated book will no doubt serve as a useful companion for all those interested in the military history of the pre-Islamic Middle East... Useful maps, photography and color plates make this a handsome and desirable volume; it will be of interest to students and scholars alike.” —Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, University of Edinburgh (Department of Classics)

“Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War is perhaps on of the finest books that has been produced from Western publishing houses, in this case Osprey Publishing... For the first time, we see a clearly written history book that outlines the relationship between these Iranian achievements to the wars that took place between the Greco-Roman world and ancient Persia...this book draws on excellent research that has received little mention; not to mention previously un-translated Greco-Roman historical sources.” —Professor Nikoloz Kacharava, MD, PhD, The University of Georgia in Tbilisi, Member of Academy of Sciences in Georgia, Active Member of New York Academy of Sciences

“In this beautifully illustrated book, Dr. Kaveh Farrokh narrates the history of Persia from before the first empires, through their wars with East and west to the fall of the Sassanians.” —Paul Houston,

“...those with an interest in this period of history or the military will find it an invaluable resource. Indeed, those pursuing degrees associated with these fields may find It on their required reading lists.” —Timothy Baghurst, The Traveler

“... a book for all who have ever been curious about the 'other' view on Persia, not from the Western standpoint rooted in Greece, but from the traditions of the Persians themselves... Meticulously researched and documented... I have recommended it to many and am also using it here at Stanford not only for research but also in a course ... There is not only no better book on Perisan warfare, it is carefully and sensitively written with great verve and love of history. I much appreciate how the research and analyses of texts showed Achaeminid, Parthian and Sassanid military accomplishments, often to the astonishment of Greeks and Romans and beyond. I notice from excellent reviews that other scholars agree.” —Patrick Hunt, Stanford University (Classics)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
General Military Series
Product dimensions:
7.72(w) x 9.78(h) x 1.19(d)

Meet the Author

Dr Kaveh Farrokh has been researching the military history and technology of Persia for two decades. He obtained his PhD in 2001 from the University of British Columbia, where he specialized on the acquisition of Persian languages. He has given lectures and seminars in the University of British Columbia and has written articles for various journals. He is the author of Elite 110: Sassanian Elite Cavalry AD 224-642. He is currently acting as historical advisor on a film project titled Cyrus the Great, and will be appearing in a History Channel documentary on the Persian Empire in October 2006. The author lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
With the publication of his latest book, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, professor Farrokh heralds in a new era in Iranian scholarship. In this masterfully written text, he strikes an unprecedented balance between conventional historical sources and newly emerging archaeological evidence. He carefully revisits famous battles with meticulous attention and sifts through the ¿traditional¿ Greek sources, which often portray Greco-centric bias and contradictory statements, as seen in Herodotus¿ compositions. Dr. Farrokh identifies many discrepancies and formulates an unbiased picture to give the reader a ¿clean¿ version of the events. Not once, does the reader get a sense that he is either siding with the Greeks or the Persians. The author¿s vast knowledge of Greco-Iranian history and Indo-European linguistics shine through every section, and his expert knowledge of Trans-Caucasian cultural transitions over the millennia prove indispensable in recreating the intricate details of Greco-Persian affairs. The bar has irrefutably been raised in Iranian studies, and I would like to congratulate Dr. Kaveh Farrokh on his most recent masterpiece!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Iranian influences on Gothic architecture, Zoroastrian influences on Christianity, Sassanian impact of Medieval knighthood? Dr. Farrokh is one of the very few scholars who narrates things as they were, and not as one side 'namely some Greek and Roman authors on one side, and a few Iranian scholars on the other' would have you believe. Perhaps this is the true backbone of scholarship, minus the bias. Of course there are subtle hints that point to sympathy for the Do-Gooder empire that Persia at times tried its hardest to be, but this should not come as a surprise, since a great deal of modern scholars such as ancient military historians like Peter Wilcox, Nick Secunda, Tim Newark, or Prof. Frye, Dr. Marry Boyce, Prof. C. Littleton who is an expert of Arthurian lgends linking the tales to old Iranian mythical heroes in his book 'From Scythia To Camelot'', British Museum currator John Curtis, Nigill Tallis, A.T. Olmstead etc, all seem to give us a dramatically different view of the world's first Super-Power [Iran]. Thus, amid countless books shoving down our throats the same-old-same-old narrations on Greece and the merciless Romans, such endeavors by the likes of Dr. Farrokh are a refreshing change of pace, that serve to balance things a bit. 'Note that Dr. Farrokh who was born in Greece gives it to both sides equally, e.g. he mentions the cruel treatment of captured Arab War Lords by some Sassanian kings while praising Greece for her magnificent accomplishments, so this book may not please some Persian chauvinists, as it certainly does not please Greek or Roman ones'. Just to mention also, before I read this book, I actually had read articles and one book by the Irish scholar Michael McClain giving extensive mentions of the link between ancient Indo-Iranians and their Indo-European kin, the Celts, so Dr. Farrokh's discoveries were not that new to me, but were nonetheless shocking. Overall, however, the images in the book are beautifully illustrated and almost all of them contain useful captions -- the narration of the wars, types of armour used, geographical locations and NEW DISCOVERIES unravelled by Farrokh himself, such as Iranian influences on Gothic architecture makes the book worthy of read. At any rate, the thrilling achievments of Persia is right up there with the gorgeous art and proud cultures of Greece and Rome, and this book points them out. Unlike the triumphant Greeks though, the saga of the Persians seem to be a tragedy. Perhaps Dr. David Khupenia of the University of the Republic of Georgia was right, 'Persia has given so much to the world and is appreciated so little'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has to be seen as one of the future classics on Persian history. Not only dealing with the Achaemenid Empire, the book delves into Parthia and the Sassanian Dynasty. Filled with high class photos and maps, this book gives the reader an excellent view of Ancient Persia at War and its campaigns. Various quotes from Ancient Greek historians are also included in the book, an excellent connecting point for fans of Ancient Greek history. Shadows in the Desert has been expertly researched and should belong in every Ancient history book collection. Fans and students of both Ancient Persia and Greece will appreciate the effort which has gone into compiling a first class book from a first class author.