History professor publishes new ancient Persia book

Text meant to be for introductory level audience



Story by Courtney Kueppers, Copy Editor

Ancient history and classics professor Matt Waters once vowed he would never use one of his own books in any of his classes but he may have to make an exception he said.

Waters recently authored a new book, “Ancient Persia: A concise History of the Achaemenid Empire 550-330 BCE,” published by Cambridge University Press. The book came out about a month ago.

It is an entry-level text about the most well-known empire in ancient Persia, Waters said.

“It’s meant to be a history of that dynastic period and its predecessors for a couple centuries before that but it really focuses on about 200 years when that dynasty was in control,” he said.

Being a published author about ancient history isn’t a new trade for Waters but writing at this level is, he said.

“I’ve written loads of articles and another book for specialists so I wanted to do something to try to make (ancient history) more accessible,” Waters said.

He said that while there are a lot of things published about Persia most of them are a brief overview and are not done for the introductory reader.

“This is meant to be much more in depth. For someone to sink their teeth into it but not have to be a specialist to understand,” Waters said.

History and English education major Ryan Furlong had Waters for a professor for a Roman History class and said Waters’ passion for ancient history is impressive.

“He just has a vast knowledge on the subject of ancient history he can just speak off the cuff about it,” Furlong said.

Waters said Persia is often forgotten when studying ancient history, which is a niche his book can fill.

“Classical studies is generally focused on Greece and Rome as key parts justifiably of the Western tradition but some of the other civilizations who heavily influenced them … aren’t necessarily as well known so I got pulled into that because I was interested in something a little bit different,” Waters said.

Cambridge University Press asked Waters to consider writing the book in 2010. Waters said a big reason he was able to finish the book in about three years was due to a sabbatical, which gave him time to focus on the project.

Chair of the history department, Kate Lang, said Waters brings a special level of expertise to the department as a “top-notch scholar.”

“He is a phenomenal teacher, he loves teaching he loves working at Eau Claire,” Lang said. “But when you’re at a place like this to produce that level of scholarship it takes a lot of time and dedication to focus on. This is really a labor of love for him.”

Waters said his main goal for the book was simply to complete it. Now that it’s done and he has received positive feedback from Cambridge, Waters said it would be an added bonus if the book served its expressed purpose: to open up this part of the world to more people.

“Now how effective it will be I don’t know, I don’t expect it to be a blockbuster by any means,” Waters said. “If there are people out there who are interested and appreciate this then all the better.”