Book Review: The Armies of Ancient Persia | HistoryNet MENU

Book Review: The Armies of Ancient Persia

By HistoryNet Staff
4/29/2018 • Military History, Military History Book Reviews

The Armies of Ancient Persia: The Sassanians, by Kaveh Farrokh, Pen and Sword Books, Barnsley, U.K., 2017, $44.95

Following Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian empire, rule of the region passed from the Seleucids to two succeeding powers: the Parthians (247 bc–ad 224) and the Sassanians (224–651). Before Muslim armies ultimately overwhelmed the latter, the Sassanians earned due recognition as the most formidable rival of the Roman–Byzantine empire. Over more than three centuries the two powers fought a number of major and minor wars, conflicts that weakened both, until the armies of Islam overran the Sassanians. Much of what historians later attributed to Muslim culture in art, architecture, military technology and medicine was mostly Sassanid in origin, spread through the Mediterranean world by the expansion of Islam.

Despite their contribution to Western military history and its technological advances, the armies of ancient Persia have received scant attention from Western military historians. Focusing on the armies of the Sassanians, this book is the first in a three-volume set intended to address that oversight.

Author Farrokh is a native Iranian who speaks several languages, attributes that enabled him to access source materials inaccessible to most Western scholars. The book is well researched, edited, organized and written, with no hint that English is not the author’s first language. His 46 pages of footnotes, 15 pages of references and 14 pages of maps place a trove of source materials in the reader’s hands, though general readers may find the level of detail somewhat overwhelming. The result is a major work of scholarship that is long overdue.

—Richard A. Gabriel

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