Greek Perspectives on the Achaemenid Empire

Persia Through the Looking Glass

Janett Morgan

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Traces the historic development of responses to the Achaemenids and their Empire

The Greek’s view of Persia and the Persians changed radically throughout the archaic and classical period as the Persians turned from noble warriors to peacock-loving cross-dressers. This book traces the development of a range of responses to the Achaemenids and their empire through a study of ancient texts and material evidence from the archaic and classical periods. Janett Morgan investigates the historical, political and social factors that inspired and manipulated different identities for Persia and the Persians within Greece. She offers unique insights into the role of Greek social elites and political communities in creating different representations of the Achaemenid Persians and their empire.

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Introduction: Perspectives, Looking-Glasses and the Achaemenid Empire

1. Journeys of the Mind: Greek perspectives of the East before the Achaemenid Empire

2. Journeys through the Looking-Glass: early perspectives of the Achaemenid Empire

3. Facing the Gorgon: reactions to the Achaemenid Empire in Classical Athens

4. What the Butler saw: intimate perspectives of King and court in Classical Ionian texts

5. The Mirror Crack’d: Spartan responses to the east and the Achaemenid Empire

6. Entering the Hall of Mirrors: Macedonia and the Achaemenid Empire

Conclusion: travelling with eunuchs


The Greek response to Achaemenid Iran is sometimes seen as a special case within the wider story of interaction between the Greek and non-Greek worlds. Janett Morgan insists that this is not so, and her claim is one to which students of Greek cultural history will have to pay serious attention.'
Christopher Tuplin, University of Liverpool
Janett Morgan in Greek Perspectives on the Achaemenid Empire succeeds in showing that perceptions of Achaemenid Persia are crafted by "the looking glass of political agendas", the gravitational pull of the Persian-Greek wars shaping one of many agendas... [She] has written an engaging and reader-friendly study that benefits from a generous amount of illustrations of the material evidence she examines, not just photographs of monuments, vases, archaeological sites, mosaics and sculptures but line drawings of reliefs and scenes on pediments.
Shaun Sheehan, Dublin Review of Books
Morgan’s text contributes immensely to the study of the Graeco-Persian wars by explaining the mutual socio-cultural impacts through the re-examination of archaeological evidence and narratives, in order to demonstrate the variety of cultural receptivity in different contexts. She offers a long dureé view on the subject with a detailed study of available evidence, but also a comprehensive study of the archaeological corpus dedicated to Greek and Persian interactions, making use of it to avoid generic explanations. She scrutinizes the shifting perspectives of antiquity, as well as the modern ones, by placing the debate in a wider scope through discussing the Athenocentric and Eurocentric approaches to political and academic agendas.
Elif Koparal, Hitit University, Journal of Greek Archaeology
Nothing has changed our understanding of Greek culture more than the uncovering in the past thirty years of its debt to the East. In this wide-ranging, amply illustrated and thought-provoking book, Morgan offers a longue durée view of Greek engagement with Persia through elite use of cultural imports.
Margaret C. Miller, University of Sydney
Janett Morgan is an interdisciplinary ancient Greek historian. Her research focuses on material culture and its representation in ancient texts, investigating the ways in which individuals, groups and communities in Greece and Achaemenid Iran used architecture and artefacts to create religious, social and political identities and to express differences. She is the author of The Classical Greek House (Bristol Phoenix Press, 2010).

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