Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review of Waters, Ctesias' Persica and its Near Eastern context

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern context..
Matt Waters, Ctesias' Persica and its Near Eastern context. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2020. Pp. 184. ISBN 9780299310943 $21.95 (pb).

Review by Reinhold Bichler, University of Innsbrück.

There has by no means been a lack of studies on Ctesias’ work published over the past few decades, but Matt Waters’s book is of special interest. The author, an expert on Achaemenid Persia and its historical and cultural background, here presents “a series of case studies that illustrate prominent Near Eastern traditions and motifs in the Persica” (p. 16), guided by a close reading “through a Near-Eastern lens”. However, which text is the basis for such scrutiny?


Ctesias was a physician who served (conscripted as a prisoner of war) with the Persian army in the fifth century BCE. He work, the Persica, is lost, but a good bit of it survives in quotations by later writers. The Persica is an important source for traditions of what I like to call Greek Fantasy Babylon.

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