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Publisher's Summary

For the past 2,500 years, we've heard about the Persian Empire as a decadent civilization run by despots, the villains who lost the Battle of Marathon and supplied the fodder for bad guys in literature and film. But it turns out this image is inaccurate. As recent scholarship shows, the Persian Empire was arguably the world's first global power- a diverse, multicultural empire with flourishing businesses and people on the move. The key is to look at the Persian Empire from the Persian's perspective. Over the span of 24 fascinating lectures, you'll take on the role of a history detective to discover the truth about this grand civilization.

You'll discover the key to the empire's success lay in its greatest rulers, each of whom played a critical role in shaping and strengthening a civilization we still remember today. But while the great kings were administering justice or waging wars, everyday Persians were just as important to the success of the empire.

You'll also learn about the empire's efficient communications network; the Persian economy and the workers and entrepreneurs who supported it; the role of women in the empire, especially the influence of royal women; and the daily cultural exchanges between the diverse peoples of the empire.

Professor Lee shows you a whole new history of the ancient world - a perspective largely unknown even by students of history. These lectures capture the people, the strength, the rise and the downfall of this great empire, revealing the complexity behind centuries of a previously one-sided history. Take this opportunity to complete your understanding of the ancient world and discover the humanity of the ancient Persians.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Persian Empire

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Ahhh those Persians!

The best historical work I've yet listened to or read about the Persian empire. Most of what I've read to date has been boring, academic, a series of facts strung together with little passion about the subject. Professor Lee, who also narrates through twenty or so odd lectures, takes us through an updated history of Persia, tells us who the sources were and how reliable they were, and tells us about the people, culture, religion, wars, court, economy, etc etc of this ancient and great empire. I strongly recommend this for any history buff.

4 people found this helpful

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Amazing but ..

Great story, great narration, well-structured and much more but the defending stand of the professor is sometimes overweening when he tries to convince the audience they should not believe all the criticism of the empire they hear.

Also, without providing maps, talking about geographic details is usually just confusing. I can imagine that such a course will be accompanied with detailed and annotated maps in an actual classroom. The provided text doesn’t include such maps, unfortunately.

I liked it som much, nevertheless.

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enjoyable

great speaker. very clear and interesting. unfortunately not to much history from the actual people but what can you do

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  • BM
  • 2021-05-11

Just amazing

I truly enjoyed these lectures. It was factual, and gave historical references from multiple sources. The stories did a great job in visualizing how life had been back then at various corners of the empire lived by ordinary people all the way up to the nobles.
I also liked how the author referenced recent archeological discoveries and referred to his academic knowledge and experience to connect the dots and fill in the gaps when necessary.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in ancient world history in general and in the Persian empire in particular.

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John Lee’s amazing adventure into the past

I have learned so much about the Persian Empire through this course. I have come to appreciate how historians must be careful to examine all the evidence available before making assumptions about history. It is all too easy to take one or two sources as fact when as John Lee shows us, we can find evidence in some of the most unlikely places.
My favorite take away from this course was the thinking of Cyrus the Great who said that to be a good citizen of the empire you must, Ride well, Shoot straight, Speak the truth. Fabulous course!

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King of Kings

I generally do not like history by Americans, but this was an excellent story of the worlds first superpower. The author explores with great sensitivity the strengths and weakesses of the Achaemenid Empire. The attached pdf was disapointting. I really enjoyed the book and learned a lot.

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Great Listen

I found these lectures very interesting and informative in presenting a view of Persian history that is more balanced. Each of the lectures were well organized and covered good topics.

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Excellent

This series added to and corrected our understanding of the "non-western" era of world history

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Great Book

Thank you Mr. Lee for the great book which reveals the truth about one of the most important parts of human history. Unfortunately, this part of human civilization have always been marred by the wrong descriptions, and your research has been a wonderful way to show the rich culture of Persian Empire to the rest of the world.

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  • Knute
  • 2015-09-08

Fantastic thematic historical exploration

As a student of history, I found this exploration to be filled with both crucial details that made me re-think ancient times and anecdotal cultural cues that wove a fascinating tale in my mind. Great balance of archaeological historical evidence, secondary sources and myth debunking!

14 people found this helpful

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  • John Wayne
  • 2014-05-19

Ancient History Does Not Get Much Better Than This

Would you consider the audio edition of The Persian Empire to be better than the print version?

Not sure. I do not have the print version of any of the Great Courses. This category of Audible products is unique.

Have you listened to any of Professor John W. Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Not yet but if he has any others available I definitely will consider purchasing them.

Any additional comments?

John Lee really made the history of the Persian Empire come alive for me. This is a difficult subject to teach because so much of the evidence was destroyed by Alexander the Great--and then buried under so many later layers of history. However, John Lee did a fantastic job of putting all of the evidence in context (in a manner that did not require one to have a PHD in Archaeology to understand) which allowed listeners to form more complex conclusions about the ancient Persians than the remaining biased sources state.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Curtis
  • 2018-07-11

Good... not great

Dr. Lee is obviously very knowledgeable in his subject and many of the lectures (particularly the earlier ones) are very good. However, this course is at its worst when it is trying to argue against pre-conceived notions about Persia that most modern listeners would never have had to begin with. Unfortunately, Dr. Lee does this quite a bit. One example is his lecture on Persian women where he draws stereotypes about the ancient rights of Greek women in order to show us that what we thought we knew about Persian women is all wrong. I never assumed Persian women were less advantaged than Greeks?? He uses unfavorable Greek comparisons and anecdotal evidence from royal class women instead of spending that time telling us more about the role of women in the wider Iranian cultural context which would have been much more interesting.

I was also not convinced by his argument that Persia wasn't in decline in the mid-4th century. I understand why he does this but again I think he's fighting to hard against tendencies that the average listener doesn't have. Egypt was lost, the Greeks made inroads into Asia Minor and there were other internal problems... sounds like relative decline to me. Of course that doesn't mean the civilization was in danger of imminent collapse which I think should have been his point.

All in all though I was happy to see a course on Persia offered on Audible and I much enjoyed it despite its flaws.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Burnes
  • 2014-02-28

This Book Would be Better as a Visual Experience..

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I am a history buff and admired Dr. Lee's command of the material and his passion for it. I know with other video CD versions of "Great Courses" there are handbooks, visuals, etc. as part of the video series. I suspect that those versions of this lecture have a non-stop series of images which Dr. Lee refers to as he lectures. It was difficult to visualize this very "fact-based" set of lectures. He describes artifacts, objects and locations, none of which you can see obviously, by listening. It seems that this soundtrack was literally lifted from the in-classroom lecture without any adaption for the audio-only format. The Great Courses publishers do this lecture series a great disservice by being careless in adapting this to audiobook format. I wouldn't take any of their courses without the visuals now.Without the images or illustrations/maps, etc it becomes quite frustrating listening to events located in ancient cities without being able to see where they are, e.g., "Babylon". A verbal aside saying "Babylon, located in central modern Iraq, near the city of Hillah", etc.would have helped for some basic geographic positioning instead of saying "it's on the same latitude as San Diego" which doesn't tell us anything of value. I quit halfway through the first section. I wish I could get a refund. That was an expensive experiment learning that "Great Courses" don't translate well into audio files.

What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

Darius dies.

What didn’t you like about Professor John W. Lee’s performance?

See above.Given it is so "fact-based", without images it doesn't lend itself to stand-alone audio without adopion (there are some great examples of how to do this on Audible- I just listened to "Without Their Permission" and the author was very considerate and did an audio book which was uniquely produced for audio. For this lecture series to succeed in this medium, it would have to be more story-driven (vs. fact-oriented); think of how David McCullough or Robert Caro tell a historical story.

Did The Persian Empire inspire you to do anything?

Yes, read some BOOKs on it. :-)

Any additional comments?

Someone should get the "Great Courses" people to stop trying to take the shortcut way of simply re-packing the existing audio and re-engineer their content approach for audio-only.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Heidar
  • 2014-01-20

Disapponted

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor John W. Lee?

Doubtful. Please stop playing the nerve racking music at the start of every chapter.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Probably, with hesitation.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

I do not know what this question means, The material were mostly trivial and extremely narrow in topic, not covering the great pre-Islamic contributions of Persian Empire in science, literature, arts for over four centuries.

Could you see The Persian Empire being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Absolutely.

Any additional comments?

The author did show a great deal of passion about his subject, I appreciated that. Unfortunately, he spoke only of the geography and wars of B.C. Persian Empire, very limited details, and nothing of the great engineering, mathematics, literature, medicine, etc. that all were developed between 200 and 700 AC centuries.

9 people found this helpful

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  • D.S.
  • 2020-03-30

Not bad.

This feels like a HS level set of lectures. Professor assumes everyone has some anti-Persian historical viewpoint. Hint, if someone is sitting down to listen to 12 hrs + of lectures, it's safe to assume objectivity is expected. Also Prof, anyone who takes 300 seriously from a historical stance, isn't a fan of history, they are a moron. I guess he must teach bunch of morons? We paid for this, we aren't being force fed it in some bleak classroom setting, thanks for making it feel like it. Unfortunate really.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Jonathan Kuzma
  • 2015-08-28

A 360 degree view of Ancient Persia

This is a great course for people new to studying ancient history or people that have studied it for years.
For periods I was familiar with, like Alexander's invasion of Persia, Prof. Lee does a great job of presenting the Persian viewpoint which is very thought provoking.
Topics like the role of women in Persia, the economy of the period, and the daily lives of everyday people were covered in penetrating detail with reference to the ancient sources.
The downside of the overall excellent presentation is that Professor Lee is too in love with the topic and appears to sometimes dismiss Greek sources completely while presenting Persian sources with little criticism.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Trevor
  • 2015-12-21

Completely worthwhile!

I never really gave the Persians too much thought, and certainly almost no credit in terms of their success. Professor Lee frames the entire course in a more balanced perspective of the Persian empire than is typical. Overall, this course really made me realize how integral the Persians are to classical history; their impact on past and present times is remarkable.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Karakoram
  • 2016-04-11

Magnificent! Simply magnificent.

Professor Lee has put together as comprehensive, objective and complete a treatment of the Achaemenid Persian Empire as any I have come across, covering not just event history, but analyzing Achaemenid Persia in the context of of the larger forces of history, and covering such aspects as travel and communications in the Empire, and the lives and status of women. If you want to learn about the Achaemenid Empire, start here!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Maurine Starkey
  • 2016-03-31

The Persian Empire.

Most of what we know about the Persian empire is what we read from the ancient Greeks. This course gives you a better perspective.

4 people found this helpful