‘Holland has the rare gift of making deep scholarship accessible and exciting’
– A. N. Wilson, author of THE VICTORIANS
‘Incendiary stuff. Sparkling insight and no less sparkling writing’
‘Masterly and gripping’
— INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
‘Holland is too canny a scholar… [and] too canny a storyteller… he paints a fine portrait’
— Peter Stothard, THE TIMES
‘A masterly study [that] brings the Persians to vivid life… panoramic and gripping’
It was 2,500 years ago that the East and West first went to war. Early in the fifth century BC, a global superpower was determined to bring truth and order to what it regarded as two terrorist states. The superpower was Persia, whose kings had founded the first world empire, incomparably rich in ambition, gold and men. The terrorist states were Athens and Sparta, eccentric cities in a poor and mountainous backwater: Greece. The story of how their citizens took on the most powerful man on the planet and defeated him is as heart-stopping as any episode in history.
The charge of the Athenians at Marathon; Xerxes, the King of Kings, riding his chariot over a bridge of boats from Asia to Europe; the heroic last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae: these are scenes lit by an unrivalled epic glow. PERSIAN FIRE brilliantly dramatizes not only the great conflict itself, but also the whole extraordinary panorama of East and West. From the temple priests of Babylon to the Spartan secret police; from the Persian love of ducks and gardens to the Athenian relish for prostitutes; from Darius, murderer, usurper and the supreme political genius in the history of the Middle East, to Themistocles, the man who saved the West: all are brought to dazzling life in Tom Holland’s masterly narrative.
Tom Holland was born near Oxford and brought up in Salisbury, England. He obtained a double first in English and Latin at Queens’ College, Cambridge. He is the author of RUBICON: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (Little, Brown, 2003) and PERSIAN FIRE: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West (Little, Brown, 2005), and MILLENNIUM: The Eleventh Century and the Making of the West (Little, Brown, 2008). He has adapted Herodotus, Homer, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio, and lives in London with his wife and two small children.