The Ancients: Alexander the Great Through Persian Eyes

Conqueror. Destroyer. Convert. Legendary king. It's fair to say that Alexander the Great's relationship with ancient Persia was complicated. Despite conquering the Persian Empire, Alexander admired and adopted many aspects of Persian culture. Despite sacking the prestigious Persian centre of Persepolis, he honoured the great Persian king Cyrus and married a Persian princess. Alexander may have conquered the Persian Empire, but ultimately this conqueror became a willing 'captive' of Persian culture.

Alexander was extraordinary - one of the most written about figures in history. But what did the ancient Iranians think of him?

I was delighted to be joined by Professor Ali Ansari in this podcast to chat through the complicated history of Alexander the Great in the Persian narrative. A once-hated figure, overtime he was adopted into Iranian legend. This was a fascinating chat. Alexander Romance, Immortals, Persepolis, Persians, Parthians – it has it all.

Some definitions from the pod:

The Alexander Romance - a legendary account of the life and exploits of Alexander the Great that remained popular into medieval times. Various versions exist (Greek, Syrian, Armenian, French, Jewish, Persian and more).

Zoroastrianism - the central religion of the Persian Empire (e.g. the Zoroastrian priests at Persepolis).

The Seleucids - one of the Successor kingdoms that emerged in the aftermath of Alexander the Great's death. Named after its founder, Seleucus / Seleukos. Controlled Persia for over 100 years.

The Parthians - an Iranian / Hellenistic culture that ruled ancient Persia after the Seleucids. They remain the longest single dynasty to have ruled Iran (c.500 years).

The Immortals - the 10,000 strong guard of the Persian Achaemenid King.


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