Has the world forgotten the Persian empire? Three new publications approach this question from different angles. Despite what their titles imply, the British Museum's landmark 2005 exhibition, 'Forgotten Empire. The World of Ancient Persia', and catalogue of the same name have aimed to reclaim the Persian empire not from oblivion but rather from its reputation, founded upon Hellenocentric and Eurocentric biases, as a 'nest of despotism and tyranny', and to illuminate its 'true character' as a remarkably tolerant and cohesive imperial power that embraced cultural variation (pp. 6, 8). One could say that the Persian empire has not until now been forgotten, but remembered and recast in different ways over the centuries. That is, in fact, a central point of L. Allen's new survey of Achaemenid history, The Persian Empire. A History, which also explores the self-conscious 'remembering' of earlier Near Eastern dynasties by the Achaemenid kings themselves. The papers collected in Birth of the Persian Empire demonstrate in their own way how ideas about the Achaemenid past are shaped and reshaped by modern concepts of culture and national identity.

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Copyright © 2008 Ancient West & East. This article first appeared in Ancient West & East 7 (2008), 345-353.

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