56: Domestic Affairs

“The Mishandling of the Wife of Masistes, daughter-in-law of the Persian King Darius” – Print by Jan Luyken, 1699

As the war with the Greeks drags on into obscurity, it is time to investigate what was happening inside the empire under Xerxes. In the far west, most territories slipped from Persian control completely. The Mediterranean coastal region was reconfigured and given a new leadership class to carry on the war against Athens. In the royal court, Xerxes dealt with infamous court drama and intrigue, while in Babylon the daily minutia of government wore on and dealt with economic crises.
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55: Still Loud on the Western Front

The Achaemenid fortress at Eion as seen today from Amphipolis, via Wikimedia

After the Persian defeat at Mycale, the stories of the Greco-Persian war get less dramatic, but the war itself did not come to an end. Late 479 BCE saw the beginning of Greek offensives in Persian territory, which continued long after the Spartans pulled out of the war in 478. The third year of war between Xerxes and Athens saw the foundation of the Delian League, which could continue to lead Greek attacks on Persian cities for years to come.
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54: Two By “Sea”

Mycale battlefield diagram via Livius.org

Supposedly on the same day as the Battle of Plataea, another battle was unfolding at the foot of Mount Mycale (modern Mount Dilek). The Greek fleet agreed to aid Samian rebels against Persia and sailed all the way to mainland Anatolia to fight the Persian fleet. Still recovering from Salamis, the Persians opted to turn the confrontation into a land battle, but the new general, Tigranes, and his men were overwhelmed and even more of the fleet was destroyed by Greek hands.
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53: One By Land

The Death of Masistios as imagined by M.A. Barth in 1832

After a year of relative success, the Persian occupation of northern Greece received its second massive defeat. For the first time, the Hellenic League managed to field the full might of a Greek army against the occupation force commanded by Mardonius. They clashed repeatedly in the plains surrounding the small town of Plataea until their maneuvers drew both sides into a decisive and bloody confrontation.
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Interview: Sean Manning

Armed Force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire: Past Approaches, Future Prospects by Sean Manning (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2021).

I sat down with Dr. Sean Manning, author of the new book: Armed Force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire: Past Approaches, Future Prospects to discuss the military might of the Persian Empire (and why it’s so hard to find anything written about it). That includes both the academic nuances of which sources deserve primacy, and ever exciting topics of arms, armor, and tactics.

Dr. Manning’s research represents an invaluable resource for anyone trying to engage with the military history of Achaemenid Persia – especially when we try to disentangle it from the Greek Wars.
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Recommended Articles:
> A “Primitive” Battle in Afghanistan
> Gadal-iama, English Translation

PhD Dissertation via the University of Innsbruck


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52: The Adventure Continues

Cylinder seal depicting a Persian King (probably Darius I or Xerxes) killing a Greek warrior via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of 480 BCE, there was a lull in the conflict between the Greeks and Persians, but not a stop. The Peloponnesians went home. The Athenians raided the Aegean. Xerxes took most of his troops back to Lydia while Mardonius stayed in Greece, and Artabazos lead a Persian army back from Lydia to Thrace. All of them had their own adventures along the way.
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51: Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

September 480 BCE marked the high point for the Persian army in Greece. Athens was the smoldering fire at the heart of the Persian army’s camp. The Greek army had retreated all the way to Corinth and their fleet was in limbo with the Athenian refugees on Salamis. After some deliberation, Xerxes sent his navy to clear out the Greek ships only for the land and sea themselves to turn against the Great King.
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Interview: Uzume Wijnsma

I sat down with an interview with Uzume Wijnsma, a researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Leiden, whose research has proved invaluable to the podcast on a few occasions. Her research focuses on Babylonian and Egyptian resistance to Achaemenid rule, and she is part of the Persia & Babylonia project at Leiden.
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50! Ask Me Anything

Glazed brick mosaic from Darius’ Palace at Susa via Wikimedia

Thank you all so much! The AMA Episode was a great success and I look forward to the next 50 episodes of the History of Persia. This episode has everything: the ancient world in color, beard fashion, video games, book reviews, time travel, and of course me trying to piece together something to say about provinces we don’t actually know much about. Links below in order of appearance:
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Great Courses: The Persian Empire by John W. Lee

Literature and History Podcast

History of Iran Podcast
Khodad Rezakhani @sasanianshah

Top 10ish History Podcasts (in no particular order):

  1. The History of Byzantium – The narrative history of the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire beginning c.476 CE.
  2. The Oldest Stories – The history and mythology of the Bronze Age Near East, including Mesopotamia, the Hittites, and Mittani.
  3. The Hellenistic Age Podcast – A combination narrative and cultural history of the Hellenistic World from Alexander to Caesar.
  4. The History of English – The history of the English language, tracing linguistic history from Indo-European to modern English
  5. The Timur Podcast – A biographical history of the great 14th century conqueror Timur, also known as Tamerlane.
  6. History in the Bible – A well researched critical history of the stories told in the Bible and its many variants and accouterments
  7. The Vacation Bible School Podcast – Reading and discussing the Bible in order for an audience of any background.
  8. Behind the Bastards – Robert Evan’s and an array of guests discuss the absolute worst people in history, past and present.
  9. The Pirate History Podcast – A history of the Golden Age of English Piracy beginning with Sir Francis Drake.
  10. History of Aoteroa New Zealand – A history of two of Earth’s most unique island from the beginning of human in habitation.
  11. Words For Granted – A great linguistic history show following the history of individual words in each episode.

History of Modern Iran Podcast

The Heroic Legend of Arslan on Amazon
on Hulu
on crunchyroll

Creation by Gore Vidal
Audible Audio Book

The Ancient World Podcast

Audacity audio editor

Holiday Special 2019 – on Achaemenid food and feasting

Apadana Treasury Relief to showcase different beards

Persepolis in Color – Don’t forget to follow Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones!

Books on the Sassanids and Parthians:
The War of the Three Gods: Romans, Persians, and the Rise of Islam by Peter Crawford
Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire by Touraj Daryaee
Reign of Arrows: The Rise of the Parthian Empire in the Hellenistic Middle East by Nikolaus Leo Overtoom
ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity by Khodad Rezakhani
Decline and Fall of the Sasanian Empire: The Sasanian Confederacy and the Arab Conquest of Iran by Parvaneh Pourshariati

Interview with Michael Bonner

Patreon Bonus 13: Why is Persia Under-Emphasized
Original AskHistorians Question

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Purim: Holiday Special 2021

Queen Esther by Edward Long, 1878

It’s that somewhat random time of year again, where I set aside a bit of time to celebrate a holiday that intersects with our narrative. This year that means Purim, the Jewish celebration of the Book of Esther. Esther tells the story of a Jewish woman turned Achaemenid queen in the court of Ahasuerus (maybe Xerxes, maybe an Artaxerxes, probably a bit of both). Esther and her cousin Mordecai have to foil the genocidal plans of the King’s vizier Haman to save their people, and the result is today’s festivities.
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