The (Persian) Empire strikes back

Persia, conquered by Alexander the Great on Oct. 1 331 B.C. at the Battle of Gaugamela on the plains of what is now northern Iraq, is having a moment.

Pierre Briant’s “Darius in the Shadow of Alexander” (Harvard University Press, $39.95, 579 pages), newly translated into English and released in the United States, considers how and why Darius III, the last of Persia’s Achaemenid emperors, came to be, in the author’s words, “condemned to haunt the realm of historical oblivion.” Briant, emeritus professor of history of the Achaemenid world and Alexander’s empire at the Collège de France in Paris, offers perhaps the first multifaceted portrait of Darius, a sympathetic patriarch ill-equipped to face a new kind of adversary in Alexander, and a complex, fascinating, extensively researched argument that hinges on several points – victors, of course, write the history books; the Greco-Macedonians whom Alexander represented took a more proactive approach to leadership; and they really knew how to spin. Or as Briant writes, “Se non è vero, è ben trovato. (Even if it’s not true, it’s a good invention.)”

Modern-day Persia (Iran) is celebrated in part in ArtsWestchester’s “Crossing Borders: Memory and Heritage in a New America” (through May 2) and in the folk and popular music performed by Monika Jalili. In honor of Nowruz, the Persian new year, Jalili and her ensemble will perform songs from the 1940s through ’70s by composers and poets whose careers were cut short in 1979 by the Iranian Revolution.

The concert takes place 8 to 10:30 p.m. March 21 at ArtsWestchester’s Arts Exchange headquarters, 31 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. Tickets are $20; $15 for students with IDs and ArtsWestchester members.

For more, call 914-428-4220 or visit For more on ArtsWestchester’s garden of 50 artists, plucked for the arts council’s 50th anniversary, look for WAG’s May “Passion Flowers” issue. And for more on Pierre Briant’s “Darius in the Shadow of Alexander,” visit my blog at – Georgette Gouveia

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