10 books like Cataphracts

By Erich B. Anderson,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Cataphracts. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Defeat of Rome in the East

By Gareth C. Sampson,

Book cover of Defeat of Rome in the East: Crassus, the Parthians, and the Disastrous Battle of Carrhae, 53 BC

Rome suffered many military reverses during the course of its 800-year history, but of them all the reverse at Carrhae in 53BC was more keenly felt than any other (even the disaster in the Teutoburg Forest resulted in the loss of only three eagles). The loss of seven eagles to the barbarian Parthians stunned the Roman world and led to a crisis of confidence, made worse by the realisation that an army of 50,000 Romans had been defeated by 10,000 Parthians. This excellent title explores the background to the battle and how the numerically inferior Parthians were able to defeat the army of Marcus Licinius Crassus.

Defeat of Rome in the East

By Gareth C. Sampson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Defeat of Rome in the East as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 53BC the Proconsul Marcus Crassus and 36,000 of his legionaries were crushed by the Parthians at Carrhae in what is now eastern Turkey. Crassus' defeat and death and the 20,000 casualties his army suffered were an extraordinary disaster for Rome. The event intensified the bitter, destructive struggle for power in the Roman republic, curtailed the empire's eastward expansion and had a lasting impact on the history of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It was also the first clash between two of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world. Yet this critical episode has often been neglected by writers…


The Parthians

By Uwe Ellerbrock,

Book cover of The Parthians: The Forgotten Empire

Compared to the Roman Empire, there are few titles on Rome’s greatest rival in the ancient world. This volume, the result of 30 years of research, goes some way to redress the balance. Scholarly yet very readable, superbly illustrated and exhaustively researched, this should be on the shelves of anyone interested in the Parthian Empire.

The Parthians

By Uwe Ellerbrock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Parthians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the history and culture of the Parthian Empire, which existed for almost 500 years from 247 BC to 224 AD.

The Parthians were Rome's great opponents in the east, but comparatively little is known about them. The Parthians focuses on the rise, expansion, flowering and decline of the Parthian Empire and covers both the wars with the Romans in the west and the nomads in the east. Sources include the small amount from the Empire itself, as well as those from outside the Parthian world, such as Greek, Roman and Chinese documents. Ellerbrock…


Shadows in the Desert

By Kaveh Farrokh,

Book cover of Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War

A single-volume history of the ancient Persian, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires written by an expert on ancient Persia. It is a very readable account of the great powers of the ancient world that inhabited the region that is now Iraq and Iran. It places the Parthians in the context of the story of Persia and from an eastern perspective.

Shadows in the Desert

By Kaveh Farrokh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shadows in the Desert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The empires of ancient Persia remain as mysterious today as they were to contemporary Western scholars. Although Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia is legendary, the military successes of the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanian empires, along with their revolutionary military technology, tactics and culture have been almost forgotten in the sands of the East. In its day, Persia was a superpower to rival Greece and Rome, and conflict between them spanned over a millennium. Through these wars, and trade, these foes learnt from each other, not only adopting elements of military technology, but influences in the arts, architecture, religion, technology…


Rome's Wars in Parthia

By Rose Mary Sheldon,

Book cover of Rome's Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand

An excellent account of the military and political rivalry between Rome and Parthia, the two superpowers of the ancient world, spanning 300 years. Sheldon shows how the Roman defeat at Carrhae in 53BC resulted in a Roman obsession not only to reclaim the eagles lost in the battle, but also to avenge a humiliating military defeat, leading to 250 years of military campaigns and political intrigues.

Rome's Wars in Parthia

By Rose Mary Sheldon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rome's Wars in Parthia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The leader of an empire invades Iraq. He has inadequate intelligence and underestimates the resistance of the locals, but he believes his overwhelming military strength will bring him a swift victory. His army overruns the area between the Tigris and the Euphrates, but as soon as he occupies the area a massive insurgency arises, made up of various ethnic and religious groups. What began as a simple conquest for dominance bogs down in deadly fighting as the once-victorious commander-in-chief now desperately searches for an exit strategy.... This scenario could be any number of Roman campaigns, not to mention America in…


The Lost Wisdom of the Magi

By Susie Helme,

Book cover of The Lost Wisdom of the Magi: the memoirs of Sophia Zealotes

This is a really well-told story and deserves praise for the detail and the observations throughout the book. Sophia, an elderly Babylonian Jew, is telling her account of her years in Palestine to the Sisters of Alexandria. As a little girl she studied the ancient languages because her father was a keeper of the royal archives of the Parthians. When she turned fifteen, her mother tried to commit her to an arranged marriage. Sophia runs away and joins a Nabataean caravan. Helme’s forensic research captures the atmosphere of Sophie’s travels brilliantly. The detail is amazing and her description of the everyday struggles brings the story vividly to life.

At 521 pages, it’s a long story, but like any journey, if it’s enjoyable and exciting, it ends all too soon.

The Lost Wisdom of the Magi

By Susie Helme,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lost Wisdom of the Magi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This engaging, meticulously researched novel tells the story of Sophia, a first-century Babylonian Jew who learns ancient languages at the royal archives of the Parthians and secretly studies the magic on cuneiform tablets.
Sophia runs away from home, joining a Nabataean incense caravan, studies with the Essenes on the Dead Sea and joins with the militants of Qumran. As the Zealots battle to defend revolutionary Jerusalem against Titus, she falls in love with a Greek freedman, Athanasios, a comrade in arms. Jews and Christians briefly unite with Samaritans and the People of the Land. But messiahs can prove false.


Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC

By Margaret C. Miller,

Book cover of Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC: A Study in Cultural Receptivity

This remarkable study views the encounters between Persia and Athens through the movement of artwork and material artifacts. Beginning just after Xerxes’ invasion with the Athenian acquisition of Persian objects as wartime spoils, it explores other avenues for cultural dissemination in the contexts of economic exchange, diplomatic gifts, architectural influence, and the emulation and transformation of selected Persian fashions in status-signaling by wealthy Athenians. Carefully illustrated and argued, it expands the horizons of Persian-Greek studies from conflict to culture, driving home Lewis’ maxim that there was no “Iron Curtain” across the Aegean. 

Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC

By Margaret C. Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is a commonplace of modern scholarship that the Athenians hated and despised the Persians, but the claims of contempt are disproved by the evidence of archaeology, epigraphy, iconography and literature, all of which reveal some facet of Athenian receptivity to Achaemenid Persian culture. The Athenian response was as richly complex as the spheres of interaction: both private and public, elite and sub-elite. It appears in pot shapes, clothing, luxurious display and monumental architecture. This innovative study, the first comprehensive collection of evidence pertaining to the relations between Athens and Persia in the fifth century BC, aims to make this…


Sparta and Persia

By David M. Lewis,

Book cover of Sparta and Persia

This short book inspired me to become a historian of Persian-Greek relations, and my own first book sought to build on its foundations. It contains a series of lectures by a great scholar of ancient history and languages, reflecting on the partnership between two ancient powers that were less foreign to one another in cultural and political terms than often supposed. Rather than focusing on Xerxes’ invasion and Thermopylae, it explores the worldviews, communication methods, and diplomatic practices of Spartan elites and Persian officials over the century that followed, brilliantly tracing how the Spartans and Persians crafted their Peloponnesian War alliance and overcame a number of disputes to complete the peace of 386, which provided autonomy for Greeks outside Asia while consolidating Persian rule over Greeks in Asia Minor.  

Sparta and Persia

By David M. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sparta and Persia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

put these thoughts in the mouth of someone whom he disapproved


The Persian Empire

By Amélie Kuhrt,

Book cover of The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period

The Persian empire’s size and diversity impose special challenges for modern study. The major sources are written in a wide variety of ancient languages, including Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian, Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and many texts were initially studied in specialist publications with limited accessibility outside a small circle of scholars. Kuhrt’s sourcebook did a tremendous service to scholars and students alike by gathering reliable translations of a wide range of written evidence from the Persian empire, replete with supporting notes and bibliography for further reading. It includes substantial selections from Greek historians of Persia, including Herodotus, Xenophon, and the Alexander biographers, but ensures that readers are able to contextualize these texts alongside internal materials reflecting the full diversity of Persian empire and society. 

The Persian Empire

By Amélie Kuhrt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Persian Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing together a wide variety of material in many different languages that exists from the substantial body of work left by this large empire, The Persian Empire presents annotated translations, together with introductions to the problems of using it in order to gain an understanding of the history and working os this remarkable political entity.

The Achaemenid empire developed in the region of modern Fars (Islam) and expanded to unite territories stretching from the Segean and Egypt in the west to Central Asia and north-west India, which it ruled for over 200 years until its conquest by Alexander of Macedon.…


From Cyrus to Alexander

By Pierre Briant,

Book cover of From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire

Almost three decades after its original French publication, this magnum opus continues to stand alone as the definitive narrative history of the first Persian empire under the Achaemenid dynasty. Briant’s sweeping account offers countless insights into Persian political history, demolishing dated views of the Persian-Greek wars as the beginning of the empire’s decline, and exploring the resilience of Persian elites and institutions even during the conquest by Alexander of Macedon. But the analysis is hardly limited to histoire événementielle, and is at its most impressive in the exploration of social and economic conditions and interactions between Iranian officials and settlers and the empire’s diverse subject populations, from Egypt and the Aegean to Central Asia and the Indus valley.  

From Cyrus to Alexander

By Pierre Briant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Cyrus to Alexander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Around 550 B.C.E. the Persian people-who were previously practically unknown in the annals of history-emerged from their base in southern Iran (Fars) and engaged in a monumental adventure that, under the leadership of Cyrus the Great and his successors, culminated in the creation of an immense Empire that stretched from central Asia to Upper Egypt, from the Indus to the Danube. The Persian (or Achaemenid, named for its reigning dynasty) Empire assimilated an astonishing diversity of lands, peoples, languages, and cultures. This conquest of Near Eastern lands completely altered the history of the world: for the first time, a monolithic…


A History of Iran

By Michael Axworthy,

Book cover of A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

An engagingly written, fair and balanced history for readers interested in more detail and analysis than is found in my own slim introductory volume. In my view the single best scholarly history of Iran ever written.

A History of Iran

By Michael Axworthy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of Iran as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Iran is a land of contradictions. It is an Islamic republic, but one in which only 1.4 percent of the population attend Friday prayers. Iran's religious culture encompasses the most censorious and dogmatic Shi'a Muslim clerics in the world, yet its poetry insistently dwells on the joys of life: wine, beauty, sex. Iranian women are subject to one of the most restrictive dress codes in the Islamic world, but make up nearly 60 percent of the student population of the nation's universities. In A History of Iran, acclaimed historian Michael Axworthy chronicles the rich history of this complex nation from…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Parthian Empire, the Achaemenid Empire, and the Scythians?

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