The Persian Empire

Course No. 3117
Professor John W. Lee, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
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Course No. 3117
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Course Overview

What do we know about the Persian Empire? For most of the past 2,500 years, we've heard about it from the ancient Greek perspective: 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 is this image really accurate?

Recent scholarship examining the Persian Empire from the Persian perspective has discovered a major force that has had a lasting influence on the world in terms of administration, economics, religion, architecture, and more. In fact, the Persian Empire was arguably the world's first global power—a diverse, multicultural empire with flourishing businesses and people on the move. It was an empire of information, made possible by a highly advanced infrastructure that included roads, canals, bridges, and a courier system. And the kings of Persia's Achaemenid dynasty —Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and others—presided over an empire that created a tremendous legacy for subsequent history.

The Persian Empire is your opportunity to see one of the greatest empires in the ancient world from a fresh new perspective: its own. Over the span of 24 fascinating lectures, Professor John W. I. Lee of the University of California, Santa Barbara—a distinguished teacher and an expert on the long-buried secrets of the ancient world—takes the role of a history detective and examines Persian sources to reveal what we now know about this grand civilization. Tapping into the latest scholarship on the Persian Empire, this course is sure to fill in some critical gaps in your understanding and appreciation of the sweep of ancient history and its undeniable effect on later civilizations. Including our own.

Meet Ancient Persia's Great Leaders and Everyday Citizens

According to Professor Lee, the Achaemenid Persian Empire was enormous, comprising 25 million people—only 1 million of whom were Persian. How did such a small minority manage such a large population? Why were these imperialists so tolerant of those under their rule, leaving untouched many of the subjugated population's local customs?

In The Persian Empire, you'll discover how the Persians were able to create and control such a vast empire. And the key to that success lay in the empire's greatest rulers, each of whom played a critical role in shaping and strengthening a civilization we still remember today. Among the fascinating leaders you'll meet are

  • Cyrus, ancient Persia's first Great King, whose pragmatic leadership solidified the empire;
  • Cambyses, who through military prowess expanded the Persian Empire into Egypt;
  • Darius I, who created Persia's imperial ideology and built up the empire's celebrated infrastructure; and
  • Artaxerxes II, who held the empire together in the face of civil war and restored its power.

But while these great kings were administering justice or waging wars, everyday Persians were just as important to the success of the empire. Professor Lee expertly moves between the historical record—the story of kings and battles—and the lives of ordinary people. You'll learn about

  • the empire's efficient communications network, which in some ways presaged today's globalized world;
  • the Persian economy and the workers and entrepreneurs who supported it;
  • the role of women in the empire, especially the power and influence of royal women;
  • the relationship between the state and the popular Achaemenid religion; and
  • the daily cultural exchanges between the diverse peoples of the empire.

Get at the Startling Truths about the Persian Empire

The Persians did not write histories, and no literature from ancient Persia survives; rather, the earliest historical narratives we have about this empire come from Greeks such as the historians Herodotus, Xenophon, and Ctesias. While important, these accounts detail the frequent wars between the Persians and the Greeks, and they tend to demonize the Persians as despotic barbarians.

Unfortunately, it's a stereotype that's persisted through the millennia. But The Persian Empire helps correct this misinformation by tapping into the ways that historians, within only the last 30 years, have been reconsidering this civilization. Professor Lee guides you through a wide variety of sources that finally get at the startling truths about the Persian Empire:

  • Histories written by non-Greek sources, including the Hebrew Bible
  • Persian administrative records and historical documents
  • Inscriptions by Persia's great kings, including Darius
  • Long-buried archaeological artifacts and ruins

By learning from these and other sources, you'll get to know the people and the culture of the Persian Empire on intimate terms. And, in doing so, you'll come to grasp a much fuller history of an important early empire.

For instance, despite the negative accounts of war, the Greeks and the Persians had many peaceful interactions. Many Greek doctors, craftsmen, and especially mercenary soldiers were comfortable serving under Persian rule. It was this tolerance and practical leadership, you'll learn, that allowed the Persians to maintain their powerful empire for hundreds of years.

Discover a Whole New History of the Ancient World

With The Persian Empire, and with Professor Lee, you'll discover a whole new history of the ancient world—a perspective largely unknown even by students of history. In fact, even today very few universities offer in-depth courses on ancient Persia. With these lectures, you'll find yourself on the cutting edge of historical research.

Recognized multiple times by the University of California, Santa Barbara for his teaching prowess and scholarship (including the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award and the Harold Plous Award), Professor Lee is the perfect guide on your tour of this unique corner of the ancient world. With dozens of maps, animations, illustrations, and other informative graphics featured in the video versions of the course, you'll get to know the terrain of the empire, which stretched from the Mediterranean all the way to the Indus Valley in South Asia.

Spanning these thousands of miles, the Persian Empire was truly a force to be reckoned with in the ancient world. Its successes were great—and so were its failures. The empire's downfall to Alexander the Great and the Macedonians is a suspenseful tale of military cunning and historical circumstance. And while the Persian Empire ultimately fell, its legacy lives on in the areas of language, religion, and so much more.

Professor Lee's The Persian Empire captures 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.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Rethinking the Persian Empire
    Cyrus. Darius. Xerxes. These great Persian kings were sometimes stereotyped as one-dimensional despots in Greek histories. But through modern history detective work, you’ll uncover the truth about the Achaemenid Persian Empire—an “empire of information” that stretched from Egypt and Asia Minor, through Mesopotamia and Iran, all the way to the Indus Valley. x
  • 2
    Questioning the Sources
    Explore how we’ve come to know the Persian Empire. Greek historians such as Herodotus provided valuable information, but the Greek perspective was often negatively biased. For a more balanced perspective, turn to archaeology, which has uncovered inscriptions, administrative tablets, and other documents that let the Persians speak for themselves. x
  • 3
    The World before Cyrus
    Take a tour of the ancient world before the Persian Empire. In the centuries leading up to the Persian Empire, the Assyrians were the major international power. When the Assyrian kingdom collapsed, it left a power vacuum in the region. Watch as the stage was set for a new power to seize the imperial mantle. x
  • 4
    Cyrus and Cambyses—Founders of the Empire
    Learn how Cyrus, the first great king of the Persian Empire, expanded the empire through pragmatic leadership. You’ll see how he made use of local customs and traditions and thereby gained legitimacy over a wide territory—including central Asia and Babylon. His son Cambyses continued that method when he expanded the empire into Egypt. x
  • 5
    Darius I—Creator of the Imperial System
    Witness the first challenge to the new empire: Was Darius, the son-in-law of Cyrus, a legitimate king? After Cambyses died, and in the face of civil war, Darius established himself as a swift, decisive, unwavering leader. See how Darius created both a royal genealogy and a Persian identity, after which he turned to building infrastructure. x
  • 6
    Persian Capitals and Royal Palaces
    Step back and tour the five Persian capitals—Pasargadae, Ecbatana, Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis. Built in strategic, fortified locations, these cities were important symbols of power for the great kings. For instance, you’ll encounter the great hall at Persepolis, which could hold 10,000 guests. x
  • 7
    The Great King—Images and Realities
    Look beyond the outside stereotypes of Persian kings as tyrants and see what the kings themselves had to say. In sculpted reliefs and carvings on royal tombs, the words and images of Darius and Xerxes show Persian values of harmonious cooperation. x
  • 8
    Royal Roads and Provinces
    Take a road trip into the western provinces and see the empire’s diverse local customs. The Persian Empire was famous for its roads and bridges, and people traveled often. Learn how its express messenger system allowed information to travel quickly—and allowed the king to keep tabs on every corner of the empire. x
  • 9
    East of Persepolis
    Travel east through what is now Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and onward into Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Here you’ll discover the complexity of Persian power, as well as its lasting influence. With people moving across vast distances, the Persian Empire was held together by its efficient administration and communication systems. x
  • 10
    Challenges in the West, 513–494 B.C.
    Revolts in Ionia and Cyprus and an attack by the Athenians show the limits of the Persian philosophy of harmonious cooperation—not everyone was content under Persian rule. Explore the early challenges to Persian power and see how Darius contained these threats using diplomacy, military force, and strategic communication. x
  • 11
    Across the Bitter Sea, 493–490 B.C.
    Examine the war with the Greeks from the Persian perspective. After the Athenians threw a Persian herald into a pit, Darius sent his fleet across the Aegean Sea. They advanced into Greece without trouble, but at Marathon the Persian forces stumbled and were defeated by the Athenians. x
  • 12
    Xerxes Becomes King
    Learn the facts that dispel the image of Xerxes as a decadent “Oriental despot.” As a grandson of Cyrus, Xerxes was handpicked by Darius to succeed him. After assuming the throne, Xerxes easily defeated rebellions in Egypt and Babylonia, then returned to Persepolis to finish his father’s domestic projects. x
  • 13
    Xerxes’s War, 480–479 B.C.
    Once again, the Persian Empire tried to take control of Greece, this time under Xerxes. See how Xerxes captured half the nation without a fight—and then scored a great victory against the Spartan king Leonidas. But witness the critical mistake at Salamis, after which the Persians were forced to retreat. x
  • 14
    Cultures in Contact
    Discover the variety of cultural exchanges in the Persian Empire. Never before in human history had such a large area of the globe come under the control of a single power. Here, people were constantly exchanging goods and adopting foreign customs. See how the Persian policy of tolerance of local customs enabled this multiethnic empire to flourish. x
  • 15
    Achaemenid Religion
    Continue your investigation of Persian culture—this time, Achaemenid religion. The Persians were influenced by the sage Zarathustra, who lived around 1000 B.C. The ancient Persians practiced polytheism, with the god Ahuramazda on top. Learn how the kings viewed themselves as instruments of god, which helped legitimize their power and justify imperialism. x
  • 16
    From Expansion to Stability, 479–405 B.C.
    Delve into a new phase of the Persian Empire, which experienced relative security and stability following Xerxes’s war in Greece. After the assassination of Xerxes, his middle son, Artaxerxes I, held the empire together and used diplomacy to deal with the Greeks. Further down the line, watch how Darius II used diplomacy during the Peloponnesian War. x
  • 17
    The War of the Two Brothers
    The empire was stable under Darius II, but his passing presented a new challenge to the empire. Experience the crucial moment when, after Artaxerxes II took power, his brother Cyrus orchestrated a revolt. Feel the suspense as the two brothers clashed in a great showdown at Cunaxa, fighting for the kingship. x
  • 18
    Persian Gold
    As part of its administrative system, the empire created a new Persian currency. From surviving business documents, discover that while agriculture was important, wealth sometimes became concentrated in the hands of a few crafty entrepreneurs, whose financial clout presented systemic risk to the empire. x
  • 19
    City and Countryside
    The history of the empire was not just about kings and battles. Take a look at the lives of ordinary folks. Beyond the capital cities, farming was the basis of the empire’s wealth. Explore the agricultural practices of the empire and meet day-to-day workers—including migrant laborers and slaves. x
  • 20
    Women in the Persian Empire
    Learn why scholars debate how much political power women had in ancient Persia. Compared to Greek women, Achaemenid women had considerable legal and economic freedom. Discover how royal women participated in palace ceremonies, and meet three powerful women in the empire—Artemisia, Mania, and Epyaxa. x
  • 21
    Artaxerxes II—The Longest-Ruling King
    Chart the life of “the king who loved his subjects.” After defeating his brother Cyrus, Artaxerxes II stabilized the empire, eventually negotiating an important peace with the Spartans. Watch as he then embarked on a building program unlike anything since Darius I, which showed the empire could still mobilize enormous resources. x
  • 22
    Persia and Macedon, 359–333 B.C.
    As the empire progressed into the 4th century B.C., rumors of Macedonian aggression abounded. See how Philip II—father of Alexander the Great—reformed the Macedonian military. In an interesting historical coincidence, Darius III came to power in Persia the same year as Alexander in Macedon. See how Darius III prepared for battle. x
  • 23
    The End of an Empire, 333–323 B.C.
    Witness the suspenseful battles between the Persians and the Macedonians, the sieges of Alexander the Great, and Darius III on the run. Alexander, arguably one of the greatest generals in history, commanded a powerful army and defeated Darius, then took on the mantle of Great King, adopting much of Persian ideology. x
  • 24
    Legacies of the Persian Empire
    When an empire ends, its culture and institutions don’t vanish overnight. Learn about the Persian legacy and what became of the kingdoms that followed—the Seleucids, the Parthians, and the Sasanians. By the time Islamic invaders arrived in 651, the Persian Empire had become legend, but its legacy lives on even in modern Iran. x

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  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 224-page printed course guidebook
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  • 224-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

John W. Lee

About Your Professor

John W. Lee, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Professor John W. I. Lee is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He grew up in Southeast Asia and Hawaii. After studying history at the University of Washington, he earned his Ph.D. in History from Cornell University. Professor Lee's research specialty is the history of warfare in the ancient world. He has published on ancient mercenary soldiers, Greek and Persian armies, women in...
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Reviews

The Persian Empire is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 86.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delivers All It Promises! At the course's beginning Professor Lee stated that he would give reasons for me to change my attitude about the Persians. He definitely did. He provided countless insights that challenge the conventional wisdom about Persians. Consequently, I now have expanded my view of the Persians beyond that provided by Greek historians. Professor Lee's understanding of the topics is exhaustive, thorough and impressive. He brought the ideas of the course to life. Because of the course and Professor Lee's expertise, I know lots more about a great civilization.
Date published: 2018-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well paced, interesting presentation I lived in Iran and have been a reader of Persian history for years, but this course provided me with information I had never uncovered before and put that new information into perspective, both for the empire, the region and world history.
Date published: 2018-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good ! Really enjoyed!History from a different Persian view.
Date published: 2018-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from really Great Course Very well presented and fully covers the subject. Visuals are great --- course should be via video stream or DVD. Audio only will cause several lectures to be basically useless, and others to be of diminished value.
Date published: 2018-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! We watched this course recently (in 2017). We thought the lecturer was very good and provided a lot of information. The course content was very interesting -- something we did not know much about before.
Date published: 2018-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course marred by "production values" The content of the course was excellent and informative, but the presentation left much to be desired. The constant camera movement and the word-for-word reading from Monitor A and Monitor B detracted from the presentation. It also appeared that Professor Lee was not comfortable with the choreography required by this format. For future courses, bring back the professor behind the podium and do away with the silly embellishments!
Date published: 2018-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Perspective from the Persian Point of View This course provides great historical narrative on the Persian Empire from its origins in Aprx. 559 BC to its collapse at the hands of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. The Professor did a good job of telling things from a Persian point of view (where applicable) to help us question current-day western bias and in some cases show that we may have felt more at home in ancient Persia than ancient Greece (the economy, treatment of women). The course had the right mix of historical/political narrative and discussion on Persian society (women, religion, food, economy, etc.) and the professor mixed it up at just the right times (so one wasn’t left feeling there was too much of one and was ready for the other). Professor Lee was easy to listen to and understand which is always a huge plus when listening to a course for 12 hours. Anyone who does not try to show superiority by resorting to highfalutin speech is A+ in my book. Some pretty minor minuses: • Some of the lectures (6-9) that provided directions around the palaces or the cities of the empire were hard to follow without a visual or map (for example the professor would say “enter the palace from the south gate and turn east”; listening audibly it was hard to gain much insight from such directions) • Though the professor tried to create some drama when describing the battle scenes, more often than not it did not succeed • Was hoping for a little more discussion on the shifting allegiances Persia made with Sparta and Athens in the 4th century BC (lecture 21) and on the conflicts of the Greek states considering Persia seemed to always be somewhat involved (He did mention the King's treaty and that Persia provided aid to Athens but would've liked a little more detail of the political landscape at this time across the lands. All in all this is indeed worth of the title "Great Course". There are many courses out there on ancient history but I am so glad I found this one: not just because we finally get the perspective from the Persian point of view but also because it was a well done class regardless.
Date published: 2017-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It has been a few years since I Studied Persian culture/history visited the area in the 50s found this course its presentation to be enlightening, refreshing, appropriate in light of this changing, shrinking world,
Date published: 2017-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Persian Empire The CD held my attention and found it interesting. I purchased as I needed something to pull together my recent travels to Iran and Central Asia. I listened as driving so did not use book as reference. I plan to re-listen with book. Content had the right amount of detail and review to keep me engaged.
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great perspective I greatly enjoyed Professor Lee' Persian Empire because it gave a great perspective of life in the empire. Rather than focus solely on the rulers, the lectures painted a more complex portrait of the economies, religions, and lives of the peoples of the empire. I also appreciated how Professor Lee discussed the weaknesses and strengths of the sources of information and presented alternative explanations for what may have occurred. Professor Lee made the Persian Empire come alive.
Date published: 2017-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Necessary to understand the ancient world. Very good overall history of the Persian Empire, such an important part of ancient world history. I knew little about it, and only from Biblical references. I took very few history classes in college, and now I'm trying to get up to speed. The more I learn about history, the more I am convinced that knowledge of history is necessary in order to understand our present world. As to the course, the only improvement would have been to have overlays on the maps that would have shown the present-day nations.
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is presented by Professor John W I Lee of the University of California: Santa Barbara. His focus is on the rise and fall of the Persian Empire, its history, people, and kings. He also sought to challenge the Greek based stereotype (strong in the West because of the influence of the Greek sources) of the Persians as "despotic and effeminate". The primary reason I did this course is because of the place of the Persians in the Old Testament, with: 1) Cyrus allowing the return and authorizing the building of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem. 2) The work of Darius in ensuring the temple's completion. 3) Xerxes and Esther (mentioned in the course, but more in the form of "myth"), 4) and Artaxerxes, mentioned in regards to Ezra, although not Nehemiah. I found his style easy to listen to. He was very informative, with good maps and illustrations. His biggest problem, which isn't his fault, is the lack of Persian sources. Not that much of Persian writing remains. There are some documents and inscriptions, but nothing like for the Greek sources, and, because of the influence of Greek, these are what formed the major opinion in the West. And so he is compelled to use the Greek sources, but he encourages a very careful and critical use. This is especially true for Herodotus, particularly as the events came closer to Herodotus' own age, because of his own bias. However, where Persian era sources exist, he uses them well, and they are very informative, particularly regarding the financial dealings of certain families in Babylon. He has also visited many of the areas he discusses, and so can speak from firsthand knowledge of cities, territories, and battlefields. This enhanced his presentation.
Date published: 2017-07-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Narrative history as it should be taught! Have you ever wondered how in the world Alexander could manage to conquer the entirety of the East, all the way from Egypt to India in a mere ten years? How was that ever possible? This course will answer that question: Not by looking at the conquests of Alexander but by laying the foundation by surveying the Persian Empire. I listened to Prof. Lee’s History of the Persian Empire immediately after finishing Prof. Castor’s Between the Rivers course. The two are excellent contrasts with one another as Prof. Castor’s course covers the history of ancient Mesopotamia up through, and including, the Persian Empire. Prof. Lee’s course covers the last three hundred years of Prof. Castor’s course. The contrast is quite stark, and in my view very favorable to Prof. Lee. The Persian Empire covers the narrative history as narrative. Prof. Lee is an excellent storyteller, and the stories are fascinating. Many of Prof. Castor’s commentators talked about how the focus was too much on historiography and not enough on narrative history. Prof. Lee’s course, by contrast, is the perfect blend. He spends lots of time on pure narrative history, but intersperses the narrative lectures with occasional lectures on the lives of common people in the empire, including women, dependent workers, and city dwellers. Those lifestyle lectures are interspersed with discussions of historiography, but always in a way that’s relevant to the topic and interesting. In addition, Prof. Lee takes a long view of the great man (woman) vs. driving currents debate. My guess is that he’s a great man proponent, but he presents the other side very convincingly as well. The course is not perfect, however. Prof. Lee’s presentation is not as smooth as the best of the Great Courses professors, but it is not as jarring as Prof. Castor’s. Also, the audio lectures (which is what i listened to) suffer in a couple of ways. Prof. Lee gives two lectures on tours of the empire. These lectures are interesting, but the absence of visual maps makes them extremely hard to follow. Other reviewers also complained about not being able to see the family tree as Prof. Lee was describing it. I didn’t have any trouble personally constructing that in my head, but you may agree with the other reviewers. Copies of the maps and family tree in the booklet would be helpful, but sadly are absent. Overall, despite listening to and loving the audio, I suspect that the video is much better. But the audio lectures were fascinating and fun to listen to. I recommend either version very highly.
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging teaching style I just finished this course and absolutely loved it. I enjoyed the easy to follow "story telling" teaching style that put the listener right into the plot. The range of topics from the lifestyle and characteristics of the great leaders right down to life and commerce for common men and women was refreshing. I also appreciated how the lectures placed the Persian empire into a world wide context helping me to connect the pieces from other GC lectures. I know I'll be listening to this one again!
Date published: 2017-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Historical Treasure My heritage is Persian American. Did not have a great deal of knowledge of Persian history with such detail. Sources are difficult to find and even more difficult to read. I've read several book and historical accounts but this course tops them all. the depth of knowledge and delivery is unmatched.
Date published: 2017-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative course on an important subject The first Persian (Achaemenid) Empire lasted a little over 200 years, lasting from 559 B.C.E. with the ascension of Cyrus II to the Persian throne and ending in 323 B.C.E. with the death of Alexander, who as Professor Lee points out was actually the last Great King of ancient Persia. The Persian Empire was the first world empire, encompassing lands from Egypt to India. During the short reign of its Macedonian conqueror Alexander, the Persian and Greek lands briefly became one, truly forming a world-embracing community. Persian rulers, though sometimes brutal, were generally tolerant, not trying to impose a single cultural mold on their vast domains (unlike the later Roman and Chinese empires). The religion of the Persian rulers, Zoroastrianism, recognized a single supreme God, Ahuramazda, although it also acknowledged lesser gods. Zoroastrianism had a major influence on the formation of Judaism and Christianity. The Persian Empire is also the setting of all of the later books of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), such as the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. The pre-exilic kingdom of Judah became the Persian province of Yehud. The Persian Empire existed contemporaneously with the height of ancient Greek civilization. Typically, the Greeks have been portrayed as adversaries of the Greeks. But as Professor Lee shows, the relationship between Greeks and Persians was far more complex. Greek mercenaries served in Persia Emperors on a large scale. The Ionian Greek cities on the west coast of Turkey passed between Greek and Persian control several times. A Greek physician, Ctesius, is one of our two main sources (the other is the Greek mercenary Xenophon) for the events in the "War of the Two Brothers" at the end of the 5th Century B.C.E. Persian philosophical ideas likely had an influence on Greek thought. The concept of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus that fire is the basic material of the world likely derived from Zoroastrianism. Given the importance of the Persian Empire to world civilization, its history needs to be much more widely known. Professor Lee gives an outstanding overview of the Empire, both in its political events and its social, economic, and intellectual life. Fascinatingly, he points out that we today might find ourselves on more familiar ground living in ancient Persian than in ancient Greece. Persia's mercantile economy, cultural openness, and even the structure of its military resemble those of our times more closely than do those of the ancient Greeks. Persian women, though certainly not treated equally to men, had a much higher status than women in the ancient Greek world. I highly recommend this course. It is fascinating, entertaining, and most informative.
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Persians Come Alive. The stereotypes of the Persians are destroyed by this course. Their humanity is presented with flair and dignity by the Professor. It really is an eye opener for those used to only Greek sources. I heartily recommend this course to anyone who wants to know the truth about the Persian Empire...
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Persian Empire is the not so evil empire Great course that helped to counter a long standing bias against Persia. It was a well presented history that traced the rise and fall of this great and important empire.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Summary This was an excellent course on the Persian empire. The lecturer is knowledgeable, especially about some of the less discussed topics during the empire's later history. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2016-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from good so far well I like this one right off the bat..the lecturer is well organized and relays the concepts in an easy to understand format. I have to admite I don't have a lot of time so I listen at a speed of 1 1/2 times normal to fit it in..and he sounds just fine!
Date published: 2016-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from good presentation I found the professor engaging and easy to follow. The subject matter filled in a lot of blanks in my understanding of the time. It was interesting from beginning to end.
Date published: 2016-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Well researched, well thought out and well presented. Congratulations to Professor Lee. I hope to see more from this Professor in future.
Date published: 2016-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Ancient Persians - were they not wonderful... The kings believed in truth, their women had status, and just one million ruled fairly over the largest empire, up to then, containing 25 million 'subjects'. Sure, the rulers were cruel when they had to be, but that is what happened in that era. More importantly, they appear to have ruled with due cognisance of the conquered peoples, allowing their religions and their social mores to be retained. So much so, that later rulers often pardoned people that had revolted ! Having been exposed to much of the Mediterranean history of the 5th/4th centuries extolling the virtues of the Greeks, it has been an absolute joy to hear Professor Lee's view from the Persian empire's perspective. The value one will get from this course totally depends on one's existing knowledge. Therefore, there is no point in giving a review that begins with 'I was expecting..." All knowledge and understanding comes in tranches and ADDS to one's experience. This course does this delicately and subtly. Don't be perturbed by Lee's oft-times lengthy pauses - wait for the next delivery. This is a truly wonderful addition to TGC's portfolio.
Date published: 2016-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Persian Side of the Story Much of what we were taught about Persia was passed down by the enemies of Persia, especially the Greeks. Recent archaeological work allows Lee to compare and contrast what we've learned recently to what the Greeks tell us. Overall, this is an excellent course. Lee is clearly enthusiastic and is very animated in his presentation. Yes, he's probably reading to us, but he's doing so energetically. I don't know why some reviewers claim he's speaking in a monotone - I've seen lecturers do so and he definitely isn't. But, some folks really object to being read to and I'm not one of them. I felt the pacing of the course was very good. I also thought he did a very good job on the lectures on culture. These interrupt the historical flow, but he always reminded us where he left off when he was last teaching history. I like the way the topics were interleaved: waiting until all the history was done and then presenting the culture lectures would seem anticlimactic. And if the culture lectures came first, we'd have no context. So, well done here as well. I watched the DVDs and the maps and genealogical charts were very well done. And, while many of the photos and illustrations were great, some of them popped up too many times. I've watched several other courses which had a few lectures on the Persian Empire. As I expected, this course added far more depth to what I previously learned.
Date published: 2015-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Persians in their own words Too often, when we learn about the Persians, it is part of a great conflict between freedom and tyranny, between good and evil. Indeed, until this course, I thought the Greeks and Persians fought and then never interacted again. How wrong I was. In this course, we hear about the Persians from their perspective. They built some of the world's first roads, showed an unusual tolerance for other beliefs, and their kings judged themselves by how noble they were (believe the truth and not the lie). They gave money to help rebuild temples, and Cyrus is well known for allowing the Jews to return from their captivity in Babylon. They are not the simplistic vision of evil decadence so often presented in Greek texts and modern movies. As far as they were concerned about the Greeks, they were one colony on the margins of a large empire, and they did battle, traded, had diplomatic ties where they gave money to various polls (e.g., Sparta), and many Greeks even fought with the Persians as mercenaries in their army. As for me, I would love one day to see Cyrus the Great's tomb and pay my own respects to one of the great leaders in history. This course is well done, well-paced, and just the sort of foundation that leaves you wanting to learn more. Great job.
Date published: 2015-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great gateway to lifelong learning This is the third course from "The Great Courses" I have completed, and this is my favorite because of the maps and remote sensing from Lecture 6. Professor Lee's lectures of The Battle of Marathon and Phillip and Alexander of Macedon are among the strongest lectures I have watched. Professor Lee points out that "history is a constantly evolving exploration of the past." He distinguishes the split between event history and long-duration history of agriculture of ordinary people. We do not have to be totally dependent on the Greek sources, because of the Tablets that were discovered in the 1930s. These tablets reveal evidence of what some people might call land barons and corporate farms. I found this course to be an excellent gateway to lifelong learning, because I did a lot of cross-referencing. I read all 9 books of "The Histories" by Herodotus. The other suggested readings I found listed in the written transcript are interesting because the journey of cross-referencing and history never ends.
Date published: 2015-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Very Interesting Course I was pleasantly surprised by this course. One of professor Lee's objectives is to present the Persians from a different perspective and try to get away from the more familiar Greek perceptions, and I think he does a good job with this. His delivery is very good and easy to follow, his lectures are full of great photographs and maps. It was a very informative course and one of the best that I've watched from the teaching company. It certainly changed my perceptions of the Persians and has sparked me to study them in greater detail. A really strong course.
Date published: 2015-05-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from little known Persia this history should be known by ancient near east history buffs. Well researched, fine presentation and many areas of interest covered.
Date published: 2015-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A truly great course This is a truly is a great course because it made me see the Persian Empire from a different perspective. Like many other reviewers it is great to examine the Persian empire, not through 'Greek eyes' but through Persian eyes. Like many others I am sure, I was taught that the Ancient Greeks were freedom-loving and the Persians were despotic tyrants. Yet the Persians displayed a tolerance to other cultures that would put the Ancient Greeks to shame i.e. you were a Greek or a barbarian. If you are interested in viewing Persian history from a different perspective, I strongly recommend this course.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Welcome Addition to the Ancient History Library. Professor Lee clarifies what many professors and historians have hinted at for years - our perception of the Persians perhaps has been warped by Greek-centric versions of their own history. In the Persian Empire we see the events of the Greco-Persian Wars and the rise of this ancient Mid-East power from a less stereotypical and biased western viewpoint.. Very refreshing insights and a well-organized approach by Professor Lee.
Date published: 2015-01-14
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