Iran often appears in the media as a hostile and difficult country. But beneath the headlines there is a fascinating story of a nation of great intellectual variety and depth, and enormous cultural importance. A nation whose impact has been tremendous, not only on its neighbours in the Middle East but on the world as a whole - and through ideas and creativity rather than by the sword. From the time of the prophet Zoroaster, to the powerful ancient Persian Empires, to the revolution of 1979, the hostage crisis and current president Mahmud Ahmadinejad - a controversial figure within as well as outside the country - Michael Axworthy traces a vivid, integrated account of Iran's past.He explains clearly and carefully both the complex succession of dynasties that ruled ancient Iran and the surprising ethnic diversity of the modern country, held together by a common culture. With Iran again the focus of the world's attention, and questions about the country's disposition and intentions pressing, Iran: Empire of the Mind is an essential guide to understanding a complicated land.