Ancient History Beyond the Academy: Herodotus, Persia and the Greeks


Research on the historian Herodotus, the history of the Achaemenid Persian empire, and the complex relationship between Greek and Persian worlds in the Classical period, challenges rose-tinted views of the Achaemenid Empire, a view that has previously dominated scholarship and public understanding. This challenge is based on both new interpretations of the historiographical tradition, ancient and modern, and the analysis of documents from the Achaemenid period.   

About this Project

Professor Tom Harrison has presented a sustained challenge to a number of aspects of the dominant orthodoxy on Persia of the last two decades, in particular examining the use of Greek sources for the writing of Persian history. Harrison’s work on Greek historiography has focussed on developing a contextual understanding of Herodotus’ Histories, in particular the ways in which they are informed by religious assumptions, contemporary views of geography or the nature of language.

Professor Christopher Tuplin has illuminated understanding of central aspects of the Achaemenid Persian empire. This has been fundamental to understanding the realities of such aspects, eg.

  • The administration of the empire
  • Persian military organisation
  • Travel within the empire
  • Impact of the empire on its subject peoples.

This work has made a substantial contribution to the ‘Arshama project’, a new edition and analysis of the archive of the parchment letters of the Persian prince Arshama to Nakhthorof. This collaboration with the Bodleian Libraries and the University of Oxford, has provided a crucial source for understanding the character of Persian provincial administration.


Working with partner institutions, such as:

the research project has  contributed to the professional development of secondary school teachers of Ancient History (through the University of Liverpool Ancient History Teachers’ Summer School) and improved the educational experience of secondary students through the provision of learning and teaching resources.

The Chair of Examiners for Classics attributes a significant aspect of the increase in the uptake of Ancient History in secondary schools to the effect of the courses based on Liverpool research.

Through popular publications, exhibitions, webinars, and through influence on popular historians, the project has extended and deepened public understanding of the ancient world and its interfaces with the present.