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A Persian Life

Richard Stoneman

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The first full-scale account of a Persian king vilified by history

Xerxes, Great King of the Persian Empire from 486–465 B.C., has gone down in history as an angry tyrant full of insane ambition. The stand of Leonidas and the 300 against his army at Thermopylae is a byword for courage, while the failure of Xerxes’ expedition has overshadowed all the other achievements of his twenty-two-year reign.
In this lively and comprehensive new biography, Richard Stoneman shows how Xerxes, despite sympathetic treatment by the contemporary Greek writers Aeschylus and Herodotus, had his reputation destroyed by later Greek writers and by the propaganda of Alexander the Great. Stoneman draws on the latest research in Achaemenid studies and archaeology to present the ruler from the Persian perspective. This illuminating volume does not whitewash Xerxes’ failings but sets against them such triumphs as the architectural splendor of Persepolis and a consideration of Xerxes’ religious commitments. What emerges is a nuanced portrait of a man who ruled a vast and multicultural empire which the Greek communities of the West saw as the antithesis of their own values.

Richard Stoneman is Honorary Visiting Professor, University of Exeter, and the author of numerous books. He lives in Devon, UK.

'Hallelujah! But it is not only Handel  ians who will be thrilled to read this authoritative and comprehensive biography of one of the more colourful characters of ancient Persian (and ancient Greek) history, written by an expert in both the Greek and the Persian traditions. Thanks to Richard Stoneman's scrupulous scholarship, fans of the movie 300 will also have to revise their view of a king and emperor who was far less flamboyant and impetuous, and far more thoughtful and sane, than has been portrayed by Greek sources and Hollywood directors alike. Robert Graves' "truth-loving Persians", please take note.' - Paul Cartledge, author of Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World

“A biography that awakens curiosity and whets the appetite for more information.”—Kirkus Reviews

“…breezily written and rich with detail.”—Peter Frankopan, History Today

Xerxes offers a highly engaging and broadly sympathetic take on a figure widely regarded as one of history’s greatest villians… explores the motivations and character of the Great King, Xerxes, with great sensitivity, wit and no little panache. In doing so it puts a human face to an empire long assumed to be the antithesis of western values and cultures. For this and much more it deserves to be applauded.”—Joseph Skinner, Argo

“Stoneman shows Xerxes in an exciting new light.”—Choice

“Stoneman succeeds in offering a re-examination, or a biography as he calls it, of Xerxes’ life and work. . . . A useful companion for everyone interested in the Greek-Persian wars, the civilizations of the Near East and especially those unfamiliar with the Achaemenid Empire.”—Michael Iliakis, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“[Xerxes] is an enlightening account and one well worth consulting.”—J.M. Bigwood, Mouseion
ISBN: 9780300180077
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
40 b/w illus.
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