In the 6th century AD, the Near East was divided between two great empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on, and one had vanished for ever, while the other was a dismembered, bleeding trunk. In their place, a new superpower had arisen: the empire of the Arabs. So profound was this upheaval that it spelled, in effect, the end of the ancient world.
But the changes that marked the period were more than merely political or even cultural: there was also a transformation of human society with incalculable consequences for the future. Today, over half the world's population subscribes to one of the various religions that took on something like their final form during the last centuries of antiquity. Wherever men or women are inspired by belief in a single god to think or behave in a certain way, they bear witness to the abiding impact of this extraordinary, convulsive age - though as Tom Holland demonstrates, much of what Jews, Christians and Muslims believe about the origins of their religion is open to debate.
In the Shadow of the Sword explores how a succession of great empires came to identify themselves with a new and revolutionary understanding of the divine. It is a story vivid with drama, horror and startling achievement, and stars many of the most remarkable rulers ever seen.
A stunning blockbusterA compelling detective story of the highest order, In the Shadow of the Sword
is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity. Every bit as thrilling a narrative history as Holland's previous works, [it] is also a profoundly important bookWritten with flamboyant elegance and energetic intensity, Holland delivers a brilliant tour de force
of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomaniacal empresses and visionary prophets . . . UnputdownableFrom the bestselling author of Rubicon
and Persian Fire
comes this thrilling panoramic account of the rise of IslamTom Holland is the author of Rubicon
, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2004; Persian Fire
, which won the Anglo-Hellenic League's Runciman Award 2006; and the highly acclaimed Millennium
. He has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio.
The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller
In the Shadow of the Sword
The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World
'A brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling . . . Unputdownable' Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Times
'A compelling detective story of the highest order, In the Shadow of the Sword is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity . . . A profoundly important book' Christopher Hart, Sunday Times
'Beating a path from the height of the Persian Empire established in AD 224 to the rise of the Abbasid caliphate in 750, Holland's new book traces the process by which the world of the first millennium came to be dominated by one God, three religions and an innumerable succession of emperors' Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph
'It is difficult not to be bedazzled by a cast that includes ulcerated Christian holy men, Zoroastrian priests obsessed with dental hygiene, demonic emperors, barbarians with self-inflicted cranial deformities, perfumed Persian monarchs and Arab ambassadors stinking of camel' Richard Miles, Financial Times
'I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn . . . He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument with which we can understand our neighbours and our own times, maybe even ourselves' Barnaby Rogerson, Independent
Was a Top Ten Sunday Times
bestseller.Little, Brown/Abacus has now sold over 320,000 copies of Tom Holland's historical non-fiction.In the Shadow of the Sword
received stunning review coverage and added to a hotly debated subject.