The book “Falcon of Sparta” by Conn Iggulden is a historical novel telling the fate of Spartans and Greeks who, after enlisting in the army of Cyrus the Younger, are forced to return to their homeland through the vast lands of Persia. The plot of the book is based on the surviving work of Xenophon, the Greek historian, “Anabasis”.
It is the end of the 5th century BCE, Darius sits on the throne of mighty Persia, and he must hand over power to one of his sons. He chooses the elder Artaxerxes, whom he recommends murdering his brother to prevent an unnecessary power struggle. Fortunately, after the death of the ruler, Cyrus the Younger avoids execution thanks to his mother, who favors him. Cyrus, believing that being governor in the eastern part of the Persian Empire is not enough, begins to gather and hire troops. Under the pretext of crushing the rebellion in one of the regions, he moves with powerful troops to the capital of the Empire. The most important role is to be played by his mercenary Greek troops, including the Spartans, whose discipline and military skills amaze him. Finally, there is a clash between the brothers’ armies, and Cyrus dies. The Greek army, numbering over 10,000, must return home, encountering numerous obstacles along the way and being forced to repel Persian attacks.
In the book – apart from the aforementioned characters – we will meet other heroes known from historical sources: Klearchos – a Spartan veteran and the main commander of the mercenary army, Xenophon – a young soldier who will lead the mercenary army back to Greece, Tissaphernes – the Persian satrap who supports King Artaxerxes or himself Socrates.
The book touches on some really interesting events in history that not many people really know about. Well-documented (thanks to the main character of the novel) they allow the author not to focus too much on creating the plot, and devote his efforts to creating a fantastic story. The world of the Persian Empire, with endless borders and various peoples, was especially amazingly shown. The reader also experiences what the Persian court looked like – full of intrigue, conspiracies and dangers from ambitious satraps.
The book is crowned with a historical note in which the author allowed himself to note important issues and educate the reader. The position has been additionally enriched with two maps showing the extent of Persian rule at the time in question and the way back of the Greek forces.
Overall, the book is highly recommended. The author touches on an extremely intriguing event in history when the army of the Greeks managed to return from the heart of the Persian Empire to their homeland. The plot is based on a historical text from the pen of the commander of the return expedition, which certainly exaggerated the numbers, but still seems to be the most reliable source we could wish for. Certainly, the position will appeal to everyone who appreciates historical facts and great adventure.