Book Review: The Persian War, In Herodotus and Other Ancient Voices


by William Shepherd

Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2019. . Pp. 512+. Illus., maps, gazetteer, table, biblio., index. $30.00. ISBN: 1472808630

The Persian Wars Beyond Herodotus

The story of the Graeco-Persian wars has been often told, by ancients and moderns alike. But early in this book Shepherd, a classicist with several works on Ancient Greek history under his belt, points out that most accounts of the wars rely almost exclusively on Herodotus, largely ignoring the surprisingly voluminous number of ancient works that touch, at least in part, on the protracted conflict.

In this book, Shepherd, who did a well-received translation of Herodotus, uses the evidence from the “Father of History” in combination with that which can be found in other sources. So we get a “fusion” of the evidence from Herodotus, which naturally still comprises the bulk of our information on the wars, with, for example, the voice of Aeschylus, who fought at Marathon, as well as views of other dramatists and poets, and the works of other historians and biographers, such as Thucydides, who wrote less than a century later, as well as Diodorus and Plutarch, further removed from the events, but who appear to have drawn on now lost accounts, as well as materials surviving in fragments from such lost treatments.

Shepherd also uses evidence from archaeology, geography, and other disciplines, to help fill out gaps in the narratives. Where the evidence from the sources appear contradictory, he offers often detailed critical analyses in an effort to resolve the problems, making valuable and, at times, surprising conclusions.

The Persian War, In Herodotus and Other Ancient Voices is a very good read for anyone interested in the period, and a particularly good introduction to these events for the novice.


Note: The Persian War, In Herodotus and Other Ancient Voices is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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