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Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire.

Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire. By Touraj Daryaee. (New York, NY: I. B. Tauris, 2013. Pp. xxvi, 225. $29.00.)

In antiquity there were two great Persian empires. The first was that of the Achaemenids founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC and destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. After a long interval of rule by the successors of Alexander and the Parthians, the Sasanian Empire was established in AD 224 and overthrown by the Arabs in AD 651. In recent years, interest in the Achaemenids has quickened as may be witnessed from the slew of publications in the area. The Sasanians have received much less attention, and so Touraj Daryaee has set himself the task of providing us with an introduction to them.

The work is divided into five chapters. The first deals with the often tangled political history of the period and provides good discussion of Sasanian relations with the other great empire of the day, Rome. The second is concerned with society and, among other issues, discusses such topics as urbanization, the court, and slavery. The next chapter is devoted to religion. At this time, Zoroastrianism was the state religion, but Manichaeans, Christians, and Jews also lived in the empire, and they too are discussed in detail. The following chapter then deals with languages and the texts that survive, while economy and administration are considered in the final chapter.

This publication is a paperback reprint of a book that first appeared in hardback in 2009. The only additions that this reviewer has been able to discover are a second dedication and a map of the empire. The virtues of the book are clear. It provides, as the author intended, a useful overview of and introduction to the Sasanian Empire. Full citation of ancient sources and a generous bibliography provide a starting point for those who wish to pursue the topic further. The density of the exposition of material can occasionally be daunting, but the main problem is that English does not seem to be the author's first language. This in no way impedes our understanding of what the author is saying, but it sometimes leads to rather awkward expressions.

Arthur Keaveney

University of Kent

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Author:Keaveney, Arthur
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2014
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