Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Persian Fire” as Want to Read:
Persian Fire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Persian Fire

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  5,176 Ratings  ·  336 Reviews
In the fifth century B.C., a global superpower was determined to bring truth and order to what it regarded as two terrorist states. The superpower was Persia, 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 Great King of Persi ...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published June 12th 2007 by Anchor (first published 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Persian Fire, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Persian Fire

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
WarpDrive

I am going to give this book a rating that is the result of an average between two different ingredients:
- the fluent and compelling writing style, the exciting, vibrant and riveting historical narrative, the moments of epic poetry reminiscent of the best Homeric tradition, the startling immediacy with which the most stirring episodes of the confrontation between the Persian behemoth and the Greek city-states are brought to life by the author, they all unequivocally deserve, in my opinion, a 4-
...more
Jonfaith
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I Bought Persian Fire in Heathrow returning from Morocco. We had spent the night before with my wife's brother in Reading. Having returned from the dually (you know what I mean) arid Marrakesch, we were greeted with a bounty of Czech pilsners. The following morning I was half-pained and entirely groggy. I bought this upon entering the airport. It was only then that we discovered that our flight had changed gates and we literally dashed for 45 minutes until we arrived for our flight, dripping wit ...more
Marcus
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think that merits of this book need to be judged from two rather different perspectives. Seen from purely literary point of view, 'Persian Fire' is an excellent book. Holland's writing style is both rich and engaging. What's maybe even more important, he makes all those historical figures come alive. If the book was a pure work of fiction, I probably wouldn't be able to stop prizing Mr. Holland's amazing gift of story-telling.

The thing is though that this is not work of fiction, but retelling
...more
Jean Poulos
This is a dramatizing of the Greco-Persian Wars, not the history of the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire was founded by Cyrus the Great in the sixth century B. C. and was a massive Empire even by todays viewpoint. He ruled the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and well beyond the Danube River in Europe. Holland provides a brief history of the Persian Empire and also of Sparta and Athens. This brief history allows someone unfamiliar with this timeframe to understand the events under discussion. ...more
Siria
I picked this up because although three years of a degree in Ancient History mean that I know the history of this conflict quite thoroughly from the Greek side, I think I'm less informed about it from the Persian point of view. I'm not sure that this did an awful lot to correct that—while the early part of the book does discus the Persian Empire, Holland focuses much more on Greece and a recounting of the battles than he does on Persia. I would have loved a deeper cultural analysis of what happe ...more
Arun Divakar
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes at the most drowsy of moments spent on musing about history, I see the whole picture as a rise and fall of global powers. A number of races, faiths and faces have all struggled for domination over the planet and when looked at from the longer term, every single one of them have failed. Knowing that it is futile, why do men and women struggle for this momentary blaze of glory ? Swords, spears, shields, horses, elephants, men, muskets, bayonets and rifles…no matter what the weapons, the ...more
Ali Khan
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I must say that this book was really disappointing for me as I was, judging from the title, excitedly expecting a historical narrative of the first Persian Empire. The title was, however, misleading, to say the least.

The book starts with a rather hasty overview of Persian empire's background and even with the clever and very interesting insertions of anecdotes, one cannot but feel that the pace is forced. Cyrus the Great gets a decent but short description and his two sons are mentioned in the p
...more
Mike
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Very readable and entertaining, this book tackles a topic that has been covered by many historians and attempts to give a balanced view of the events leading up to and following the war between Greece and Persia, as well as of course covering the war itself in detail. The striking thing about this one is that the Persians are given equal time and a fair treatment. It is all too tempting to dwell on the heroism of the Greeks defending their liberty in a series of dramatic episodes out of Herodotu ...more
Sean DeLauder
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, holland
The title of this book would lead a reader (this reader, anyway) to believe the focus to be the Achaemenid Empire and it's leading men, Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes, leading up to and through the clash between Persia and Greece. That assertion is an error of scope, as Holland looks not only at the rise of Persia, but that of all the major players (e.g., Persia, Sparta, Athens, etc.) in characteristic thrifty but efficient detail, which was much more than I expected--so much the better.

Persian Fire
...more
Stoyan Stoyanov
Dec 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is a truly remarkable achievement. On one hand, it is genuine, unadulterated history... no fiction about it. On the other hand, though, Tom Holland's prose is remarkably vivid, more readable and exciting than many books of fiction I've read.

This is the history of the clash between Greece and Persia (remember the movie "The 300"?). What makes this book really great is the fact that Holland provides a panoramic view of almost 3 centuries of rather obscure ancient history. He tells the s
...more
Dеnnis
The title is somewhat misleading. Persian Empire serves more of a backdrop to a narrative about the heroic struggle and legendary civilization of Ancient Greece. The story is wonderful in its own right, but this is not what I counted on. There're many good books on the Greek-Persian war. I expected a more thorough investigation of this world's first superpower, to which that conflict amounted to something more than a border skirmish. Too bad yet again we only scratched surface and seen just a ti ...more
Forrest
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
Tom Holland's history of the Persian Wars is thorough, enlightening and eminently readable, striking just the right balance between big-picture analysis and enthralling personal anecdotes. The tricky thing about this conflict -- which pitted the small but scrappy city-states of Athens and Sparta against the almost inconceivable might of the Persian Empire under the all-powerful Darius and Xerxes -- is that there were very few battles, but to understand them requires a story spanning several gene ...more
Elentarri
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read The Classical World by Robin Lane Fox, which makes only a passing mention of the Battle at Thermopylae, Battle of Salamis and the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, King of Persia. So I decided to fill in the gap with Persian Fire by Tom Holland.

The author provides a well written narrative of the rise of the Persian Empire, the political experimenting/squabbling of the Greek city-states (such as Sparta and Athens) and the eventual clash of Persia and Greece. Holland has the ability to
...more
Bettie☯
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: GeeVee
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Susanna, then gifted by mimal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive look at the battles between the Greeks and the Persian Empire: Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea. Not so much comprehensive as to the battles themselves but more about what brought these two forces into conflict. So you get a lot of backstory which is good.
Slightly less effective was the author's attempt to contemporize things by referring to the Greek city-states as "rouge terrorist nations." Not that I don't think such a comparison is wrong I felt the author didn't see it through
...more
Sean
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ancient
Superb pop-history. Despite the title, still a bit graeco-centric; understandable, given the sources available. Certainly more sympathetic to the Persians than any number of recent histories, though in the end it does toe the "Western civilization was nearly stillborn" line.

At any rate, a nice overview written in a flowing narrative style (and he even clues you in when he's making assumptions or arguments based on fragmentary evidence!). not bad for seven bucks.
Cassidy
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know what happened in the 5th century BC now
Elliott Bignell
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most rivetting reads I have encountered in the field of popular history. I finally tackled it shortly after seeing the cartoon cut-out version of the film "300" for the first time, and actually found this more balanced account the more moving and fascinating. There can be no doubt about the unique symbolic significance of Thermopylae, which might have been made for cinema, but once one looks past the pro-Greek propaganda to try and see how the suicidal stand fits into the bro ...more
Stephen Dearden
I couldn't finish this one. It's an interesting read on a THICK slab of history. I feel like this topic would have been better presented as a lecture series complete with maps, pictures, and reviews. As an audiobook, I was lost before I was an hour in. So many people, so many places, so many gods, so many battles. The rich Persian history isn't conducive for an audiobook.
Jerome
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable, well-written and well-researched history of Persia’s war with the Greeks. Holland clearly describes the events of the time period from both sides, but with a decided focus on the Persians. Holland gives us plenty of background, beginning with the Assyrian empire to the rise of Persia, and why Persia viewed Sparta and Athens as such dangerous threats.

Holland gives us plenty of background, beginning with the time when Athens was ruled by a rapid succession of quarreling tyrants (mobs
...more
Lindz
Holland doesn't really answer the question he poses in the introduction. 'Why do they hate us?' Yes this was a question my friends and I posed on the morning of 10 September 2001 sitting around a table drinking bad coffee, trying to take in the news we had all woken up too in the morning of two planes flying into the twin towers in New York. 'Why did the Middle East hate us? What had we done to encourage such an extreme and horrifying reaction? Was the never ending coverage going to push back th ...more
Ann
Apr 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it
Probably one of the first pieces of non-fiction I have read voluntarily in quite some time...and I actually finished it! Pretty good- it seems to give a pretty balance view of the Persians and the Greeks, pointing out the strengths of each, as well as the stupidities and follies of each. It covers the rise of the Persian Empire under Cyrus through the Persian Wars with Greece (under Darius and then Xerxes), and ends with the beginning of the Peloponnesian Wars in 431 B.C. It then gives a quick r ...more
Reid
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tom Holland scored some major points with Rubicon, a terrific, narrative account of the fall of the Roman Republic. His clear prose, entertaining characterization and solid research and diverse use of sources can be apppreciated by all levels of readers. Holland may not have improved between his two books, but he certainly hasn't lost a step either. In Persian Fire, he recounts the rise of the Persian Empire and the revolutionary changes in Greek life, focusing on the late Archaic age in Sparta ...more
Caroline
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
I'll confess, I was first prompted into reading this by seeing the film 300 a few years, and I'm so glad I did. It's just as good a read the second time around.

It's absolutely wonderfully written, really engaging and gripping, and Holland really makes the history come alive. I never really knew much about the period other than Thermopylae, but this has made me so interested in the Persian Empire, the beginnings of Greek democracy, and the great battles, Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea
...more
Neil Pearson
Despite the title, the majority of the book is about the Greeks (which the author suggests is largely due to the amount of information available). Luckily, my knowledge of ancient Greece was clearly not so in-depth and I enjoyed the accounts of Athens and Sparta. When the book gets into the Persian invasion of Greece things become interesting and I appreciated that there was a lot more than 3 key battles occurring in this period. I wasn't aware of how long the war went on and just how close Pers ...more
John
Sep 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a narration of the events of the war between Persia and Greece around 485 BC. It begins with portraits of Persia, Sparta and Athens before discussing the progress of the war and the decisive battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Artemisium, Salamis and Plataea. What is good about the book, in my view, is that the author has taken the historical evidence and come up with his own interpretation of what these cultures were really like. This is good because it, like a historical movie, gives the ...more
Fraser
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this even more than I had "Rubicon".

Holland knows how to present and deliver on ancient history. He questions and cajoles his sources but does so in a way that doesn't lessen the pace around the unfolding dramatic events. He looks into the psychology of the time, the motivations of the peoples, factions and warring tribes. All of this combines beautifully into a narrative that honestly it is so hard to put down once started. Although I had read about these events before, it didn't les
...more
Andrew Tollemache
"Persian Fire" is a great narrative history of the war between the Greek city states and the Persian Empire under Xerxes. While giving great credence to the importance of the Spartan last stand at Thermopylae (the movie "300" covered this) in blocking a key land route, the real success the Greeks had thwarting the Persian invasion came at a series of naval engagements where the outnumbered Greeks used the narrow straits of the Greek coast to cripple the Persian navy. The prior battle of Maratho ...more
Libby
This book is a must for ancient history buffs. These are the Persians! You know, the guys on the other side of the pass at Thermopylae! This is the other empire, the one the Romans could never quite defeat. This book is so full of the meaty stuff of history that I wanted a knife and fork. It didn't hurt my opinion to find that Tom Holland still writes as fluently and beautifully as he did in Rubicon, his previous history of the end of the Roman Republic. If you love learning new stuff about old ...more
Simon
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly readable, until you suddenly realize just how much spirit-channeling Holland is doing. He jumps inside the heads of Themistocles, Xerxes, Darius, Artemisia --- and it gets a little nerve-wracking to follow. Holland relies heavily, and I mean heavily on Herodotus. He is careful to avoid taking sides until the actual battle of Salamis, when he abandons all pretenses as the West is Saved. Which it was, so there you go. I liked it very much, but more as an interpretation of history than as a ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • In the Name of Rome: The Men Who Won the Roman Empire
  • Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy & the Birth of Democracy
  • Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity
  • A War Like No Other: How the Athenians & Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War
  • Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire
  • The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
  • The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-heroes of Ancient Greece
  • Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire
  • The Peloponnesian War
  • The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece-and Western Civilization
  • The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World's Greatest Empire
  • The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
  • Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization
  • 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West
  • Babylon: Mesopotamia And The Birth Of Civilization
52292
An acclaimed British author. He has written many books, both fiction and non-fiction, on many subjects from vampires to history.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Holland was born near Oxford and brought up in the village of Broadchalke near Salisbury, England. He obtained a double first in English and Latin at Queens' College, Cambridge, and af
...more
More about Tom Holland...