“With an open mind, seek and listen to all the highest ideals. Consider the most enlightened thoughts. Then choose your path, person by person, each for oneself.”Zoroaster
A work of drama or a scholarly book
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, writer of Persians: The Age of the Great Kings, got his bachelor’s degree in Drama from the University of Hull in England in 1988. It wasn’t until 1966 that he decided to pursue a career in Ancient history (specifically Ancient Persia) by getting his Master followed by PhD from Cardiff University in Wales. Source
I assume he couldn’t pursue his interest in drama. He might have found out that there are lots of demands for Persian studies in the Western world!
Looking at his background, it is now clear to me why this is a “Misleading, Unhelpful Cultural Perspective on Ancient Persia” as one of the reviewers on Amazon has stated. Charles N.Pope continues: “This book (Persians: The Age of the Great Kings) claims to fill a void in ancient Persia by presenting the “Persian Version” of that period. It does not – at least no more so than the gratuitous Greek porn”! Source
I couldn’t agree more with Charles.
Even though this book is having a different perspective on ancient Iran’s history and to some extent is closer to reality than classic Greek resources, I never think a non-Iranian author would be able to give an accurate version of my birth country’s history.
After all, growing up with European history and mindset makes it so difficult to accept that an empire was to promote peace, unity, kindness and freedom of all individuals in regards to religion or culture.
Propaganda in the most cunning way
On the West’s Demonization of Ancient Persia is the name of an article by Lloyd about his new book. I accidentally saw this article in April 2022 while researching ancient Persian history on the internet. The title was like no other I ever read on this subject in English. I kept reading and was extremely surprised by the perspective of the writer. The subtitle of the article was: “Unmask the Philhellenic Myth that made Europe”. The whole article was as if it came from my thoughts as a Persian/Iranian. I had an immediate connection with the article. I for one was glad that finally there is an open conversation about the truth!
But soon I realised that all my hope was in vain.
Even though this author is shedding light on some deniable truths, on facts that have been known by Iranians/Persians for many years and yet are buried in the Western world with propaganda; he, as many others before him, is sadly still trying to westernise Persian history and Cyrus the Great by making an invader out of him.
As part of a trend in Britain, the author is trying to reduce the importance of Cyrus the Great and his Cylinder in human history. He ignorantly labels him a “shrewd” and a “ruthless Imperialist” – as he describes him in his book – ruler whose Cylinder is a propaganda masterpiece!
These historians always overlook the important role of Zoroastrian beliefs in shaping ancient Iran and even the current Iranian culture. I often ask myself ‘why do we let them write our history for us?’. Have you ever known an Iranian historian to create history for them?
I think the only person who got the Persian culture right is Yoshiki Tanaka. Yoshiki is the author of The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Interestingly enough his book is a work of drama, not a scholarly book!
A planned move or an honest opinion
On my recent visit to the British Museum, I noticed a book written on Middle East history “The Middle East: The Cradle of Civilization“. It had a cover displaying colourful Hakhamaneshian (Achaemenians) Soldiers from Parseh on it. It sounds promising, doesn’t it?
I also surprisingly noticed that the complete translation of “Cyrus Cylinder” was removed.
By digging more, I soon realised that this was another tailored propaganda to degrade a great civilisation and historical figure.
While during the previous management of the British Museum, astonishingly video clips like this one are created. The new management once again is promoting westernised ancient Persia and history.
Lloyd insists that his book (Persians: The Age of the Great Kings) is from the Persians’ perspective. But he not only ignores Iranian/Persian scholars’ opinions; Shahnameh, Zoroastrian faith and Gataha as important factors to understand Koroush and the culture he is from are also ignored.
He is constantly using Persian terms incorrectly and out of context. Loyd also relies on German scholar, Karl Hoffman, theory as a fact when confidently discussing the meaning of Koroush (Korash/ Cyrus)’s name. He completely ignores all theories represented by Iranian scholars such as Dr Baghbidi. Source
He even goes further and calls Ahura-Maza, one of the Persian deities. This shows the level of ignorance of this author who knows nothing about the monotheistic Zoroastrian religion.
In summary, except for what he has summarised in this article as a long forgotten and twisted fact in history, the rest of the book (Persians: The Age of the Great Kings) is full of contradictions. He is adding to the already existing confusion around ancient Persia in the western world and he is definitely not representing Persians.
Books and resources written by Persians
It is time to refer to Persian resources if you would like to learn about Persian culture from the Persian perspective. I have listed some of these resources below;
- Gataha by Dr Abtin Sasanfar, this book includes only the part of Avesta (Zoroastrian religious book) which consists of Zoroaster’s poems. It goes back to thousands of years ago (the only book which survived Greek, Arab and Moghul invasions of Iran). By reading this book, you will learn about the core of Achaemenian beliefs. This book is in Farsi/Persian/Parsi and is available online for free. Zoroaster’s poems are also in their original Old Persian language format in this book. English versions of these poems are also available online but I am not sure how accurate their translations are.
- Shahnameh Ferdosi, Persian Poetry is a YouTube channel that is all about Persian poets throughout history. These amazing videos of Shahname’s epic poems in Parsi/Farsi/Persian also have English subtitles
- Ali Aghajanzadeh is another amazing Persian/Iranian YouTuber. He is from the birth city of Koroush the great, Pars, and takes you to discover unknown historical sites and places in Persia/Iran. These videos also have English subtitles.
- Two Centuries of Silence is a translation of a book originally in Farsi/Persian/Parsi by Professor Zarinkoob. This book is about the dark period during which the Arabs invaded Iran and took ownership of its historical and cultural developments. It is translated by Avid Kamgar into English.
- Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power, In this book, Professor Cyrus Ghani, attempts to demonstrate how a patriot goes against all odds to recreate a country out of its ashes.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan
In the end, I also recommend you to watch The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Japanese anime series. Despite its entertainment value and combining different historical eras and characters, this anime does a marvellous job of capturing the essence of Persian culture and history. The novel by Yushiki Tanaka is more interesting if you could find the original one in English.