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Publisher's Summary

In 480 BC, Xerxes, the King of Persia, led an invasion of mainland Greece. Its success should have been a formality. For 70 years, victory, rapid, spectacular victory, had seemed the birthright of the Persian Empire. In the space of a single generation, they had swept across the Near East, shattering ancient kingdoms, storming famous cities, putting together an empire which stretched from India to the shores of the Aegean. As a result of those conquests, Xerxes ruled as the most powerful man on the planet. Yet somehow, astonishingly, against the largest expeditionary force ever assembled, the Greeks of the mainland managed to hold out. The Persians were turned back. Greece remained free. Had the Greeks been defeated at Salamis, not only would the West have lost its first struggle for independence and survival, but it is unlikely that there would ever have been such an entity as the West at all.

Tom Holland's brilliant new book describes the very first "clash of Empires" between East and West. Once again he has found extraordinary parallels between the ancient world and our own. There is no competing popular book describing these events.

©2005 Tom Holland (P)2005 Time Warner AudioBooks

Critic Reviews

"Incendiary stuff. Sparkling insight and no less sparkling writing." (Independent)
"Excellent." (Sunday Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mary K McGilloway
  • 04-02-16

Why oh why is this abridged?

What would have made Persian Fire better?

I will definitely pay more attention next time, I thought it was unabridged. I am afraid there are too many huge gaps in the narrative and important details lost for me to be happy with this as I wanted a good introduction to this part of history. I have now gone back to the book itself. A great shame as Andrew Sachs is a perfect narrator.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Raal Harris
  • 08-16-16

About the Greeks basically

What would have made Persian Fire better?

Some new insights. There isnt much more to go on it would seem beyond Herodotus it seems but at the very least some interesting theories would have been nice.

What was most disappointing about Tom Holland’s story?

I didn't think I knew anything about the Persians but there was nothing new to me here. Its basically a retelling of the same old stories. The story ends abruptly after the second invasion.

What didn’t you like about Andrew Sachs’s performance?

A lot of irritating mispronunciations

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment, I thought I'd learn something new about the Persians. I didn't.

Any additional comments?

This is not a book about the Persians, it dwells to a much greater extent on the Greeks and on stories any one having shown an interest in the period is probably well aware of. Grab the Dan Carlin free podcast on the subject it is much more interesting, informative and thought provoking.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Brian
  • 05-26-16

Better than fiction

Holland's rip-roaring book is brilliantly bought to life by Sachs - if you knew a bit about Thermopylae but not the context around it, this is a great book. The relevance to contemporary conflict is covered at the beginning but not two overplayed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • T
  • 04-29-15

Holland on top form as usual

Any additional comments?

Holland's natural wit and his wonderful narrative history story telling ability makes this a joy to listen to. The best way (in my opinion) to understand the information presented in this well researched and comprehensive book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter Smith
  • 01-27-18

Excellent! The title is misleading though.

It is more about Greece than about the Persian Empire and is written from the Greek point of view. Not sure how well that notion stands up today that the Greek success in repelling the invasion by Xerxes is what established the foundation of the west, but it doesn't matter. It's a great tale very well told in this audiobook.

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  • Przemek EU
  • 01-07-18

This is not same book as original

This audio book is a shortened version of the original “Persian fire”. It's very disappointing, because lots of bits, sometimes interesting or important are missing or simply make it harder to understand with ommited information.

Also, the frequent mispronunciations of the narrator are very irritating.

The original paper or Kindle versions are much better and definitely worth of reading, but the audio book is very disappointing.

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  • Paulo
  • 03-08-17

Amazing! one of my favorite books.

I love Tom Holland's books. Thoroughly researched, gripping in the way is told and Andrew Sachs is great. love it.

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  • Mrs. E. Arman
  • 07-27-16

Great book

This book has had me enthralled from start to finish I cannot wait for the next story

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Andrew M
  • 01-27-15

Enjoyable story, well read, content a bit lobsided

If you could sum up Persian Fire in three words, what would they be?

An ancient Greek perspective of encounters with the Persian empire; and in-fighting between the Greek city states: at a time when history could have taken a very different course if Sparta and Athens hadn't repulsed Xerxes.

Would you be willing to try another book from Tom Holland? Why or why not?

Yes- not for historical information but for a potentially enjoyable story (I enjoyed Rubicon).

Which character – as performed by Andrew Sachs – was your favourite?

Andrew Sachs is a great narrator; a great voice for reading a story

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

nope

Any additional comments?

From the title I was hoping for more of the Persian perspective (I already know a bit of Ancient Greek history). But sadly that's a bit limited. The Persians are referred to as 'Barbarians' throughout- technically accurate as it means 'non Greek speakers' (so most people fit into that category!). However, the occasional Persian viewpoint that's touched on doesn't seem to support the use of 'Barbarian' in its more common usage. The story of Artemisia (Persian woman leader) is interesting (and in marked contrast to the Athenian view on women!|). The book ends on some interesting aspects: Athens becoming a despot through enforced payment protection from other Greek states and the looming clash between Sparta and Athens and the decline of both.It raised my curiosity about the Persian Empire: where it came from; what happened to it after Thermopylae; Alexander the Great and beyond... and I found the title 'The Persian Empire' by J Lee (Great Courses series in Audible) fascinating and informative (and will listen to more of the Ancient History 'Great courses').

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  • John Welch
  • 08-29-16

Wrong book!

This is not Persian fire!!!! They have confused the audiobook!!! Very disappointing and unprofessional- unhappy

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Greg Sale
  • 08-02-17

Fabulous

The only criticism I have is to myself not keeping track of all the Greek names, I had to listen to a few sections a couple of times, very enjoyable.

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  • WERNER&MRS
  • 02-01-17

Would, am sure, been better

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Wished it were the unabridged version. This writer/subject is too good to cut out any portions.

Would you be willing to try another book from Tom Holland? Why or why not?

Most definitely, and have,

What three words best describe Andrew Sachs’s voice?

Rich, distinct, appropriate.

Did Persian Fire inspire you to do anything?

Yup. Look for the unabridged version.