King of Kings
My favorite podcast of all time is Hardcore History.
It’s hands down the best podcast ever made, and to me, there’s not even a close second.
Dan Carlin records epic podcast series’ about, well … history. But it’s in a way that only Dan Carlin can do. He’s so smart and is so good a reciting his viewpoint in historical events while never veering too far away from historical records, documentation, and direct quotes.
It’s the best.
Today I started King of Kings for the fourth time. Yes, that’s right. This is the first time I am listening to this podcast series.
King of Kings is about the Persian empire.
As Westerners, we see Persians as the evil empire, and The Greeks as the freedom loving scrappy republic who is fighting for “the rights of men.”
Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker.
That’s hardly the case at all.
Persia was founded by Cyrus the II, more commonly known as Cyrus the Great. He built the largest empire in the history of the world, up until Alexander the Great and subsequently Genghis Kahn.
But more than that, he was awesome. He was so cool. He was the leader that every leader wants to be. He was strong and demanding while also having a reputation for compassion while simultaneously having a reputation for cruelty for those who crossed him.
Cyrus is the father of Persia. It’s rare you find one man that truly gave birth to empires in the way that Cyrus did.
After Cyrus died, there was a bit of a power struggle and ultimately a guy named Darius took the throne. Darius also was given the label as “Darius The Great.”
Darius is a strange character because he doesn’t come from nobility, nor is he a descendant of Cyrus. He had no business being on the throne. But in my view, it was his connection to the common man that made him so great. He was logical, methodical, calculated and ruled (mostly) without an ego.
Darius is the one who made Persia an empire of outsourcing. He treated Persia like a corporation and he was the CEO. He outsourced so much of his army, his labor, his financing, etc. He was brilliant. If Cyrus is Steve Jobs, Darius is Tim Cook.
Persia ruled extensively for more than 200 years. It was a beautiful culture with art, language, and high society.
I wish Westerners weren’t so self centered, because we always see the story of Persia from the viewpoint of The Greeks. In reality, The Persian’s hardly cared about The Greeks. The Greeks were no one, they were on a small peninsula on the complete other side of the empire. They hardly mattered and the Persian’s figured it was easier letting The Greeks continue to kill each other.
To the west, the battle of Thermopile and the 300 Spartans is part of our grand narrative, but to the Persians, it was more like a stubbed toe. Something that really hurts but doesn’t actually matter.
Eventually, Greek culture, and more importantly, Phillip II’s adaptation of The Phalanx started to penetrate Persian rule. But it was the madness and ungodly brilliance of Alexander The Great who truly defeated Persia and spread Hellenism to modern day Iran.
Nonetheless, the story of ancient Persia is much cooler than we give it credit for.
If this sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend you start King of Kings. Buckle up, it’s a wild ride.