The Persians were one of the great empire builders of the ancient world. Three successive dynasties emerged: The Achaemenids who conquered from the borders of India to the Danube but finally fell to Alexander the Great. Next came the Parthians who challenged the imperial power of Rome. Finally the Sasanids who humbled Rome in the 3rd century AD and challenged Byzantium before falling to the new power of Islam in the 7th century. This course explores the history, archaeology, religion and literature of this neglected civilisation.