The Shoe is On the Other Foot
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Categories: Ancient, Modern

The Shoe is On the Other Foot

A much younger self was once sitting in a professor’s office when the conversation turned to the textbook which we were using in that professor’s course. He asked me what I thought of it. I commented that it was good enough … but that it was better at telling people what not to believe about its subject than what to believe.

Over the last six months I have read a representative sample of scholarly writing on the Persian army in the Achaemenid period. While there are a handful of trustworthy overviews and some specialized studies based on lengthy thought about a wide range of evidence, there is quite a lot of scholarship based on much more dubious things. I am building a list of commonplaces about the Achaemenid army, all of which I have found in books written by people with relevant PhDs and published by university presses, and all of which would be hard to support with the balance of the Greek evidence, let alone with the other sources which we can use to study the Persian army. I think that I can replace many of these commonplaces with ideas which are more consistent with more evidence, but first I will have to clear away a thicket of stereotypes. I am not sure if younger-me would have approved of such an approach.

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