The Persian Wars are one of the great ‘David and Goliath’ struggles of history, with a particular resonance today as the first truly historical clash between East and West. In the sweep and vividness of his prose Tom Holland does the subject proud, and he is also good at trying to look at the conflict as much through Persian eyes as Greek, and at getting inside the psyche of Darius and Xerxes. If anything, indeed, his enthusiasm for all things Persian leads him to dwell too long, for example, on the rise of the Persian Empire.
He also, perhaps, takes too long on the earlier history of Sparta and Athens, though otherwise I have little comment to make on these chapters, except to say that I do not believe the Spartans were as bad as he paints them. Plato, for example, in the Laws, gives no