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Xerxes and Darius III

In 1891, George Nathaniel Curzon, ‘the very superior person’ of the mocking Balliol rhyme, and future viceroy of India, arrived at Persepolis. Torched in 330 BC by Alexander the Great, it had once been the nerve-centre of an empire that stretched from the Aegean to the Hindu Kush. For Curzon, whose tour of Iran had already taken him all over the country, the ruins of the great palace were a particular highlight. The Persia of the Achaemenids, the ruling dynasty of the ancient empire, was, so he declared, ‘immeasurably superior to medieval Persia in its attributes and even now more respectable in its ruins’. Coming from a man who was himself no slouch at imperial pomp, this was high praise indeed.

Read the full article on the Spectator website: http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/books-feature/9435602/darius-iii-alexanders-stooge/