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Publisher's Summary

In the fifth century BC, a global superpower was determined to bring truth and order to what it regarded as two terrorist states. The superpower was Persia, incomparably rich in ambition, gold, and men. The terrorist states were Athens and Sparta, eccentric cities in a poor and mountainous backwater: Greece. The story of how their citizens took on the Great King of Persia, and thereby saved not only themselves, but Western civilization as well, is as heart-stopping and fateful as any episode in history. Tom Holland's brilliant study of these critical Persian Wars skillfully examines a conflict of critical importance to both ancient and modern history.

©2005 Tom Holland (P)2016 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Hard on a novice.

Excellent for someone already well versed in ancient history. While details of battle were exciting and gave believable character to heroes, traitors and opportunists, descriptions of life (other than death) lacked depth and empathy. I presume a dearth of actual history made for shallow accounts of the in between tines, while much glory (and detail) was heaped on the fights. The first half of the book was more even, while the later half had intricate tales of the action, but seemed to leave out everyday life. Yes, I enjoyed the book, but as a newly interested history reader (as are many Audible customers, I'll presume), I could have used more posting of dates and especially tips on locations. A map and timeline could be added without a rewrite and would be immense boons.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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East Mets West

An in-depth look at the role of Persia and Greece in world history. From the title one would conclude this is more story about Persia however it is just as much the history of Greece and its role in preventing Persia from adding Greece to the list of nations conquered in its quest to build its empire.

Expertly written and wonderfully narrated, a must-listen for any history buff.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 02-16-17

Engaging

This is a dramatizing of the Greco-Persian Wars, not the history of the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire was founded by Cyrus the Great in the sixth century B. C. and was a massive Empire even by todays viewpoint. He ruled the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and well beyond the Danube River in Europe. Holland provides a brief history of the Persian Empire and also of Sparta and Athens. This brief history allows someone unfamiliar with this timeframe to understand the events under discussion. The immediate cause of the War was a revolt in the Greek Cities on the Ionian coast in 499 B.C. The Greeks were rejecting Persian rule. The revolt was put down, but in 493 B.C. the Persians launched a punitive expedition which was defeated at Marathon in 490 B.C. Ten years later the Persians again launched an invasion this time by both land and sea. The Greeks deployed at Thermopylae and Artemisium in 480 B.C. The Athenians were led by Themistocles and the Spartans by Leonidas. The Persians were commanded by Darius. In 479 B.C., the battles for Plataea and Mykale were fought and the Persians were led by Xerxes.

Holland tells these famous ancient battles in a dramatic fashion. He attempts to bring history to life and make a more interesting read. Holland provides a mostly pro-Greek account of these battles. It would have been great if he had presented a neutral viewpoint and provided detailed information about both sides of the War. I am very familiar with the Greek viewpoint of these battles and would have liked to learn the Persian viewpoint. Otherwise, it was a fun way to learn a chronicle of the Greco-Persian War.

The book is about 15 hours long. Michael Page does a good job narrating the book. Page is a multi-award winning narrator and has been narrating audiobooks since 1984.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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The best of Tom Holland

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely! Wonderful balanced coverage of both the Persian and the Greek players.

If you know next to nothing about early Greek & Persian history, this is the place to start.

What did you like best about this story?

The sense of time and place. The Greeks won but it could easily have gone the other way. Holland brings a sense of drama to events long gone and all in all, a fantastic narration.

What does Michael Page bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Michael Page was wonderful in his delivery. Added a lot to the enjoyment.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Answers a lot of questions

The Persian empire comes alive, but it's an unwieldy bureaucratic nightmare. Biggest takeaway: Athenian democracy less than a generation old at time of Marathon. Citizens still trying to figure it out. If aristocracy still ruled they would have settled with Persians and willingly accepted Asian hegemony--most of the rest of Greece did. A fast read and I will definitely read again.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Persian Firefox

The story was well organized and gave the development of each of the antagonists history a logical rendition so the climactic battles were completely understandable. The narrator had a pleasing tone and reminds me of the Harry Potter narrator that made the listening so pleasurable. Time well spent.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Recommended by Dan Carlin - great read

This was the first time I've explored a source text recommend by Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast - no disappointments. It has a very similar focus on the human element; bringing the audience into the physical and psychological world of the past. Stunning in its detail and attention to the nuance of both the Greek and Persian worldviews, the book was a constant pleasure.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Good Review, Though Not Much New

This work was good, though there is much more detail about the Greek side of the conflict, rather than the Persian. It sometimes seemed as though the author veered too far away from the intended topic.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Narrative fictional-history at its best.

Mr. Holland's work is a wonderful example of the use of historical facts in such a way as to be both informative and entertaining. Truly it is the equivalent of a page turner. It is thus also a worthwhile way to spend your time. Now if only we can get our children to listen or read this work, many of his audience and readers would give Mr. Holland six stars.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Another book about Greeks

What does Michael Page bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I can't say the narrator provides something that reading could not. However, the dramatized tone of this book could have been disastrous in less capable hands. Page's reading makes the text dramatic, where it might otherwise come across as corny.

Any additional comments?

Perhaps I did not adequately preview this book before purchase -- I was disappointed to discover that it is much more focused on a making-present of the Hellenistic "story" of the Persian threat than the Persian Empire itself. To that end, it is successful, so long as one is interested in the Greek narrative (as opposed to an anaylitical historical text -- there are a number of episodes recounted without aside which range from dubious to downright Greek fiction). I found value in this book, as it colorizes and synthesizes a number of (primarily Greek) sources elegantly. If you are unfamiliar with the details of the Greek resistance, this is an excellent place to start. The downside of this emphasis is that it has been done a number of times, and though this installment is a worthy telling of the Greek story, it is still, at root, a telling of the same, much-told story of Greek resistance.

This book is NOT an examination of the Persian Empire. Anyone desiring to learn more about Cyrus/Cambyses/Darius will likely be disappointed when, about an hour into the audiobook, Cyrus and Cambyses are already dead, and the book has turned to detailed considerations of Athenian and Spartan societies.