100 books like Shadows in the Desert

By Kaveh Farrokh,

Here are 100 books that Shadows in the Desert fans have personally recommended if you like Shadows in the Desert. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

Peter Darman Author Of Pacorus

From my list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover.

Who am I? Why this topic?

My interest in Parthia began with a desire to write a novel about the Spartacus slave rebellion. I first became interested in the Thracian after seeing the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus as a boy, my interest growing over the years. Knowing there were quite a few fiction accounts of the slave leader, I wanted to find a new perspective. This led me to devise a story around a Parthian prince who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the slave army. ‘The Parthian’ was born, as was my interest in the Parthian Empire, which would lead to the Parthian Chronicles series of novels and to date over 10 years of research into the Parthian Empire. I do not pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I hope my novels have shed light on an empire that lasted nearly 500 years but is almost unknown in the West. I also hope they spur readers on to explore the history of Parthia for themselves and to discover more about a fascinating people.

Peter's book list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover

Peter Darman Why did Peter love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of The Parthians: The Forgotten Empire

Peter Darman Author Of Pacorus

From my list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover.

Who am I? Why this topic?

My interest in Parthia began with a desire to write a novel about the Spartacus slave rebellion. I first became interested in the Thracian after seeing the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus as a boy, my interest growing over the years. Knowing there were quite a few fiction accounts of the slave leader, I wanted to find a new perspective. This led me to devise a story around a Parthian prince who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the slave army. ‘The Parthian’ was born, as was my interest in the Parthian Empire, which would lead to the Parthian Chronicles series of novels and to date over 10 years of research into the Parthian Empire. I do not pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I hope my novels have shed light on an empire that lasted nearly 500 years but is almost unknown in the West. I also hope they spur readers on to explore the history of Parthia for themselves and to discover more about a fascinating people.

Peter's book list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover

Peter Darman Why did Peter love this book?

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.

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…


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

Peter Darman Author Of Pacorus

From my list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover.

Who am I? Why this topic?

My interest in Parthia began with a desire to write a novel about the Spartacus slave rebellion. I first became interested in the Thracian after seeing the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus as a boy, my interest growing over the years. Knowing there were quite a few fiction accounts of the slave leader, I wanted to find a new perspective. This led me to devise a story around a Parthian prince who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the slave army. ‘The Parthian’ was born, as was my interest in the Parthian Empire, which would lead to the Parthian Chronicles series of novels and to date over 10 years of research into the Parthian Empire. I do not pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I hope my novels have shed light on an empire that lasted nearly 500 years but is almost unknown in the West. I also hope they spur readers on to explore the history of Parthia for themselves and to discover more about a fascinating people.

Peter's book list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover

Peter Darman Why did Peter love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Cataphracts: Knights of the Ancient Eastern Empires

Peter Darman Author Of Pacorus

From my list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover.

Who am I? Why this topic?

My interest in Parthia began with a desire to write a novel about the Spartacus slave rebellion. I first became interested in the Thracian after seeing the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus as a boy, my interest growing over the years. Knowing there were quite a few fiction accounts of the slave leader, I wanted to find a new perspective. This led me to devise a story around a Parthian prince who is captured by the Romans and ends up fighting in the slave army. ‘The Parthian’ was born, as was my interest in the Parthian Empire, which would lead to the Parthian Chronicles series of novels and to date over 10 years of research into the Parthian Empire. I do not pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I hope my novels have shed light on an empire that lasted nearly 500 years but is almost unknown in the West. I also hope they spur readers on to explore the history of Parthia for themselves and to discover more about a fascinating people.

Peter's book list on the Parthian Empire from a history lover

Peter Darman Why did Peter love this book?

The armies of ancient Parthia were mostly composed of two troop types: horse archers and cataphracts. This title explores the development of the latter horsemen, which in fact predated Parthia but were particularly effective in Parthian service. So much so that they were adopted by the Romans in the second century AD as they sought to defend the borders of their threatened empire.

By Erich B. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cataphracts were the most heavily armoured form of cavalry in the ancient world, with riders and mounts both clad in heavy armour. Originating among the wealthiest nobles of various central Asian steppe tribes, such as the Massegatae and Scythians, they were adopted and adapted by several major empires. The Achaemenid Persians, Seleucids, Sassanians and eventually the Romans and their Byzantine successors. Usually armed with long lances, they harnessed the mobility and mass of the horse to the durability and solid fighting power of the spear-armed phalanx. Although very expensive to equip and maintain (not least due to the need for…


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

Richard Foltz Author Of Iran in World History

From my list on Iranian history and culture.

Who am I?

Richard Foltz is a cultural historian specializing in the broader Iranian world. He holds a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern History from Harvard University and has published eleven books and over one hundred articles on topics ranging from animal rights to Zoroastrianism. He is currently Professor in the Department of Religions and Cultures at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada.

Richard's book list on Iranian history and culture

Richard Foltz Why did Richard love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire

John O. Hyland Author Of Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450−386 BCE

From my list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with ancient history since childhood, but really fell in love with the Achaemenids in college while taking classes on Greek history and wondering about the other side’s perspective on familiar stories of the Persian Wars. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to study both Greek and Persian history in graduate school at the University of Chicago, a leading center of scholarship on the Achaemenid world since the Persepolis excavations in the 1930s. Since 2006, I’ve taught in the History department at Christopher Newport University, a liberal arts university in Newport News, Virginia. I’m currently working on my next book, a new history of Persia’s Greek campaigns. 

John's book list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors

John O. Hyland Why did John love this book?

This monumental two-volume collection, published in 2021, contains 110 accessible essays by some of the most prominent scholars of Achaemenid Persian history. It introduces the ancient evidence, including written sources, artistic materials, and archaeological remains, for every major region from the Indus to the Nile and the Aegean, and ably surveys the disciplinary history of the modern study of ancient Iran.  Thematic chapters trace numerous aspects of Persia’s imperial world, including geography, languages, gender, religion, court dynamics, administration, communications, war, diplomacy, economics, art, science, and many more. The narrative chapters place the empire’s rise and fall, including but hardly limited to the Persian-Greek wars, into a longer context of Ancient Near Eastern empire formation, setting up valuable insights through comparison with Assyria, Babylonia, and other predecessors. 

By Bruno Jacobs (editor), Robert Rollinger (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A COMPANION TO THE ACHAEMENID PERSIAN EMPIRE

A comprehensive review of the political, cultural, social, economic and religious history of the Achaemenid Empirem

Often called the first world empire, the Achaemenid Empire is rooted in older Near Eastern traditions. A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire offers a perspective in which the history of the empire is embedded in the preceding and subsequent epochs. In this way, the traditions that shaped the Achaemenid Empire become as visible as the powerful impact it had on further historical development. But the work does not only break new ground in this respect, but…


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

Brendan Gerad O'Brien Author Of Dark September

From my list on gripping historical thrillers.

Who am I?

My passion for historical thrillers comes from the excitement I felt as a lad when I immersed myself in the classics like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Robinson Crusoe. Then a book on WW2 shocked me with the images of the brutality inflicted on the innocent caught up in the madness. On exercise with the Royal Navy in the Brecon Beacons, the gem of a story planted itself in my imagination. What if the Germans did invade Britain? What if the people chasing me over this bleak countryside were intent on killing me? What if I was desperately trying to get my family to safety? Dark September was born…

Brendan's book list on gripping historical thrillers

Brendan Gerad O'Brien Why did Brendan love this book?

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.

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.


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

John O. Hyland Author Of Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450−386 BCE

From my list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with ancient history since childhood, but really fell in love with the Achaemenids in college while taking classes on Greek history and wondering about the other side’s perspective on familiar stories of the Persian Wars. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to study both Greek and Persian history in graduate school at the University of Chicago, a leading center of scholarship on the Achaemenid world since the Persepolis excavations in the 1930s. Since 2006, I’ve taught in the History department at Christopher Newport University, a liberal arts university in Newport News, Virginia. I’m currently working on my next book, a new history of Persia’s Greek campaigns. 

John's book list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors

John O. Hyland Why did John love this book?

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.  

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…


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

John O. Hyland Author Of Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450−386 BCE

From my list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with ancient history since childhood, but really fell in love with the Achaemenids in college while taking classes on Greek history and wondering about the other side’s perspective on familiar stories of the Persian Wars. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to study both Greek and Persian history in graduate school at the University of Chicago, a leading center of scholarship on the Achaemenid world since the Persepolis excavations in the 1930s. Since 2006, I’ve taught in the History department at Christopher Newport University, a liberal arts university in Newport News, Virginia. I’m currently working on my next book, a new history of Persia’s Greek campaigns. 

John's book list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors

John O. Hyland Why did John love this book?

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. 

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.…


Book cover of Persepolis: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Persian Empire's Capital City

Michael Buckley Author Of Shangri-La: A Travel Guide to the Himalayan Dream

From my list on the best places you have never been to.

Who am I?

I have a life-long interest in the intersection of the real and the mythical when it comes to travel and adventuring in foreign lands. This has driven my own exploration of many parts of Asia and the Himalayan regions. One tiny nugget of information can take you on a wild journey that leads to great discoveries. Curiously, we keep losing precious knowledge through war and neglect—and then re-discover it. The finest example of lost and found cultural facets has to be hieroglyphics. The meaning of the writing was lost for over a thousand years until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, which enabled us to decipher Egyptian temple art again. So hieroglyphics entered the realm of the mythical and then returned to reality once decoded.

Michael's book list on the best places you have never been to

Michael Buckley Why did Michael love this book?

The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great, or at least named in his honour. And Alexander the Great is responsible for wiping out other fabled cities. Most notably, the ancient Persian city of Persepolis, located in modern-day Iran. Finally, a place you can actually visit! But the massive palace lies in ruins, nowhere near its original splendour with all the statuary and furnishings, and the pomp and majesty of Persia’s kings and courtiers—at the time when Persia was a global superpower.

Around 2,000 years ago, Alexander the Great’s troops looted Persepolis and burned it to the ground. And there it lay in the sand, forgotten, until the site was revived in the 1930s and somewhat restored. The site lies in southwest Iran and was inscribed to the World Heritage List in 1979.  Given that travel to Iran today is fraught with obstacles, this book about Persepolis could…

By Charles River Editors,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Includes pictures *Includes ancient historians' descriptions of Persepolis and the Persians *Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading “By the favor of Ahuramazda these are the countries which I got into my possession along with this Persian people, which felt fear of me and bore me tribute : Elam, Media, Babylonia, Arabia, Assyria, Egypt, Armenia, Cappadocia, Lydia, the Greeks who are of the mainland and those who are by the sea, and countries which are across the sea, Sagartia, Parthia, Drangiana, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Chorasmia, Sattagydia, Arachosia, Hinduš, Gandara, Sacae, Maka.” – An inscription on a terrace wall…


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

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Parthian Empire, Iran, and the Achaemenid Empire.

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