Introduction to Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones

Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is a senior lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Edinburgh and a specialist in the history and culture of ancient Iran, Greece, and Egypt. His research focuses on the history, culture, and society of Achaemenid Iran and of ancient Greek perceptions of Persia. Llewellyn-Jones’s interests reach into the royal court, monarchy and the Great King, royal women, the ancient Persian body, and the role of dress in Persian culture.

He received his Ph.D. and MA from the University of Wales and his BA from the University of Hull. His current research focuses on the image of the body of the Great King of Persia in Greek and Near Eastern sources, and on the role and semiotics of dress in the Persian Empire.

He has co-authored a volume entitled, Ctesias’ History of Persia: Tales of the Orient (2010) as well as a publication named King and Court in Ancient Persia (2013), a study of Persian court society and the role of the monarchy in ancient Near Eastern cultures.

Excerpt from Interview with Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones at the University of Edinburgh

Okay yep let’s do it.

Okay so just do a – okay so I’ll just do a general kind of chronological span of it.

This way?

Okay that’s alright.  Okay fine.

So the first Persian Empire was the biggest world empire the world had ever seen before the conquest of Alexander of Macedon.  To put in to kind of global perspective today it radiated from the center of Iran, so around the Fars area in Southwest Iran and it radiates right the way out to span an area which goes from the deserts of Libya, in North Africa, right away across to the borders of Pakistan and India.  From the bottom of the Nile in Ethiopia right he way up to Southern Russia. The biggest landmass empire the world had ever seen to that date. So this in itself is remarkable. It supersedes any vision of empire that the world had seen before that date; the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians.  These are all small fry compared with what the Persians put together as their world empire.

The remarkable thing is it runs harmoniously and effectively for around about 250 years.  Essentially from about 559 B.C.E. when we think that Cyrus the great, Kourosh, had the impetus to go from Central Iran first of all conquering Babylonia and Asia Minor right the way down to the time when Darius the III is defeated by Alexander of Macedon.

It runs so well because the empire, maintained at its heart in Central Iran, employs Satraps, so governors, to rule in different parts of the empire.  So there’s a central core government constantly in touch with the Satraps who are ruling in the name of the king. The Persians allow indigenous languages to flourish, indigenous cultures to flourish, and in fact what’s remarkable about the Achaemenids is that they draw constantly on all of these different traditions.

When you look at, say, Achaemenid art and architecture you will see that there is a blend of Mesopotamian, Egyptian styles, but put together in such a way as there is always something distinctly Persian about it.  I think this is part of the genius of what the Achaemenids were all about: Maintaining this vast empire but always being aware of the centrality of their own position; who they were as a people.

Now the empire expands and retracts, expands and retracts over these 250 years.  We see, first of all, – so we see first of all Cyrus establishing the empire. One of the big things he does is move his forces north, to the north of Iran, around the Hamadan area where he conquers the tribes of the Medes.  Then he moves, with this sphere of influence of the Medes once had, into Northern Iraq, into Anatolia, and this is where our Greek sources start talking about Cyrus. We have the fall of Sardis, the great city of Sardis, in the western part of Anatolia. 

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