I’m not sure how I managed it, but the week that I was working in Scotland was the week of the Edinburgh Iranian Festival. Being as my husband is Iranian I wanted to partake in some way but time was very limited.
So after work on a wet and wild windy evening, I made my way to Blackwell’s bookstore in the University part of town, feeling very old, to a book reading by Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones on Ctesias at the Court of the Great King. Dr Jones (unfortunately(!) not the original Indiana) was an interesting and engaging speaker and held my attention on a subject I knew nothing about for a full 45 minutes.
What I hadn’t appreciated is that the ancient Persians do not have a tradition for writing narrative histories to document their progress instead preferring an oral tradition of communicating by song, muse, epic tales, story-telling and poetry. This means that our knowledge of Persian history is provided mainly by arch-enemy Greek sources which is deemed to be unreliable at worst and biased at the very least.
Ctesias, a Dr, was born a Greek but was commissioned to the Persian Court and spent two decades in Iran in the service of the King. Whilst he is known for being more of a story-teller than a narrator, Ctesias probably provides the most illuminating stories of intrigue that are known about the Persian court and I’m sure that Dr Jones’ book makes fascinating reading for enthusiasts.
Overall, a very nice way to spend a spare 60 minutes in Edinburgh but I will plan better next time, visit more events and connect with my Iranian tribe!