We should welcome any new book-length narrative history of the Persian kingdom of the Sasanids—which held power over the land of today’s Iraq and Iran from the third to the seventh century of our era. Michael R. Jackson Bonner has written such a narrative history in 347 pages (plus bibliography and notes). Its intended audience is “a more general, but learned, audience” (4), yet it has some of the apparatus that a specialist would want as well as many arguments of importance to specialists, who will therefore need to consult it. Its scale and detailed treatment are admirable, but some of the choices in its coverage and delivery are strange and retrograde.

It appears to be the first book-length history devoted specifically to the Sasanian Kingdom written in English by a native speaker of English since Rawlinson’s in 1882.1 The others that I am aware of are translations from...

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