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Howard C. Baskerville

October 29, 2018 by  

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

Following Alexander’s conquest of the Achaemenid empire, rule of the region passed from the Seleucids to two succeeding powers: the Parthians (247 BCE–۲۲۴ CE) and the Sassanians (224–۶۵۱). 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 Kaveh Farrokh is a historian born in Greece who speaks Persian, among several other languages, attributes that enabled him to access source materials inaccessible to most Western scholars.
The book is well researched, edited, organized and written. 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.

Secret of Laughter: Magical Tales from Classical Persia
by Shusha Guppy
Tauris Publishers
This magical collection of stories, gathered from the rich treasury of Persian folk and fairytales, tells of love and ​longing, fate and human ingenuity, loss and grace. Although sources of these tales have been lost over the ages, their memory runs through the collective psyche of the Iranian people. Handed down through generations, told by professional storytellers in bazaars and gatherings, these tales have been made popular the world over by great poets such as Rumi and Firdowsi.
At the same time, beneath these charmed narratives, they reflect deep cultural and psychological insights into the attitudes, values and structures which constitute Iranian society. In her own unique voice – with style, charm and humour – Shusha Guppy narrates these timeless fables of princes and princesses; dervishes and miracle-working saints; jinns and giants; flame-breathing dragons and winged horses; sorcerers and magicians.

The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam
Mehdi Aminrazavi
Representative of the exotic and erotic east, enemy of Christianity, prophet of hedonism, champion of free thinkers, Omar Khayyam and his Ruba’iyyat have been the stuff of legend for centuries.
Nourished by an admiration of Khayyam that has been with him since childhood, Aminrazavi’s comprehensive new biography reintroduces the figure of Khayyam, and his great achievements, to the Western world. Blending a readable and accessible narrative with scholarly ambition and years of research, Aminrazavi’s work covers not only Khayyam’s well-known poetry, but also his extraordinary life, his neglected philosophical writings and the impact of his work in the West.
It features a variety of supporting material, including original translations and the full text of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyyat, and will prove an ideal introduction not only for those who want to know more about the poets inspired by Rumi, but also for students on a variety of humanities and Middle-East related courses.

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