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This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about hu This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history. Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This narrative history employs the methods of “history from beneath”—literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts—to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.


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This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about hu This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history. Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This narrative history employs the methods of “history from beneath”—literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts—to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.

30 review for The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome

  1. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I feel like I was listening to this book for so long that NOT listening to it feels strange. The end just kind of came out of nowhere... One minute I'm listening to the fall of Rome, and the next Audible is hoping that I enjoyed the program. Did I enjoy it? Mostly. I liked the subtle humor that made these historical figures personable and relatable (relatively speaking). It served to make this a bit less like a 26 hour stint in Professor Binns' class - though for much of it, it is simply a recap I feel like I was listening to this book for so long that NOT listening to it feels strange. The end just kind of came out of nowhere... One minute I'm listening to the fall of Rome, and the next Audible is hoping that I enjoyed the program. Did I enjoy it? Mostly. I liked the subtle humor that made these historical figures personable and relatable (relatively speaking). It served to make this a bit less like a 26 hour stint in Professor Binns' class - though for much of it, it is simply a recapping of a lot of facts and names and dates and places. This gives us a bit of narrative, making it a little more storylike... but only a little. The format of this book is not ideal. I'm not really sure what a better method would be, since the world is a big place and contained many civilizations getting their feet wet all at the same time. I think that there should have been, or could have been, a bit more referential material though. Don't rely on me to remember what happened in 3,000 BC in Egypt AND China AND wherever else... Link it together for me. "At the same time Pharaoh whoever was doing this thing, over in China, Emperor whoever was starting this war." Or maybe year range sections would be good... That way I kind of have a frame of reference - all of the things I'm hearing about are happening at the same time. That would be better for me than subject breakdowns. Sure, they are interesting - The origins of Kingship, or the Persian Wars, etc... but I tend to think more linearly than that, so this format was a bit hard for me to follow and get the most out of. It likes to start with a topic, and then choose a location, discuss the topic's relevance there, jump to a new place, repeat. Usually it's around the same time period... but I couldn't tell you because as hard as I tried, listening with my full attention just wasn't happening. Anyway... mostly enjoyable, but a bit tedious at times. I'd still recommend it though if you're into history.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alex Nelson

    Although an impressive scope, the approach I feel was flawed. First, the author takes a "big person" historiographical approach. This seems terribly cartoonish... Next, the history seems questionable. Take the exodus, for example. Now, there is no archaelogical evidence for the Hebrew exodus from Egypt, there is no empirical evidence supporting it...the only document mentioning the exodus is the Torah, written some 500+ years after the event. (Imagine how accurate a description one would have of s Although an impressive scope, the approach I feel was flawed. First, the author takes a "big person" historiographical approach. This seems terribly cartoonish... Next, the history seems questionable. Take the exodus, for example. Now, there is no archaelogical evidence for the Hebrew exodus from Egypt, there is no empirical evidence supporting it...the only document mentioning the exodus is the Torah, written some 500+ years after the event. (Imagine how accurate a description one would have of someone guessing at Christopher Columbus discovering America!) But it's taken as "fact", despite sloppy mentions of how ambiguous the dating is. Worse the history seems to correlate Biblical events with historical events. If I wanted cheezy Biblical explanations, I'll dig out genesis. Besides, this was attempted once before (well, many times) in the 19th century. Spoiler alert: they didn't work. Well, this is a 21st century resurrection. I'd suggest skipping it...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I'm about halfway through this book, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. In a style similar to her history books for school-age children, the author presents short episodes of history, always formed as narratives based around human interactions and personalities, and jumping between centers of civilization in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and the Mediterranean. Personalities arise from the mists of history, even from the evidence of fragmentary clay records and broken and buried monuments. Patte I'm about halfway through this book, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. In a style similar to her history books for school-age children, the author presents short episodes of history, always formed as narratives based around human interactions and personalities, and jumping between centers of civilization in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and the Mediterranean. Personalities arise from the mists of history, even from the evidence of fragmentary clay records and broken and buried monuments. Patterns develop, and one can hear the song of history rhyming if not repeating through the ages. The book is incredibly well-researched, and Bauer does a great job of presenting the scholarship and controversies over different interpretations, even while she sensibly picks some over others in order to synthesize her own narratives. My only complaint with this book would be the way that she treats biblical subjects. I'm guessing that for her this must be a complicated issue. Her sharp intellect comes through both in this book and in her other two books on home- and self-education. She is obviously brilliant, with a critical mind for reading evidence and stories and understanding not only the motivations of the readers but the writers. But she also has an audience to maintain/humor, as one of her biggest customer bases is homeschooling parents, a group largely consisting of fundamentalist Christians, especially on the east coast. Because of this (and perhaps also because of her own inner convictions) she presents two biblical figures as historical figures, Abraham and Moses, and treats their stories as largely based on actual events. She does note that there is not one shred of archeological evidence for the exodus, and of course nothing to affirm the existence of any of the patriarchs. Once she reaches more historical parts of the bible, with kings like Omri and Ahab whose existence has been confirmed, she is on firmer ground. The stories of the old testament were written down sometime after the return of the exiles from Babylon, and for the people of the Levant, lying between and being conquered repeatedly by the huge kingdoms of Egypt and Assyria/Babylon (and the Hittites, too), claiming ancestry out of these two areas is not surprising. Abraham provides the Mesopotamian link, Moses the Egyptian. Here is one example of what I am talking about: the story of Moses, the baby set afloat in a basket on a river, echoes that of a Mesopotamian king, Sargon, from centuries earlier (just as the story of Noah and the great flood is originally a Mesopotamian myth). The most likely interpretation of that fact is that the exiles, having just lived in Babylon for decades, picked that story up and added it to their Moses myth. Bauer gives that as an interpretation, but presents as her explanation that Moses' mother knew the myth of Sargon and decided to copy it in setting her son afloat. That logic doesn't pass the smell test, or Occam's razor. In the same way, she treats Sarah's geriatric pregnancy (and Abraham's comical episodes where he has to disguise himself because his aging wife is so hot) largely at face value. Apart from these off-key notes, this is an important and very edifying book, an incredible source of information, well-illustrated, clearly written, and beautifully organized. I've finished the book and it was excellent - told at a very entertaining level of detail and well edited. What is interesting is that the subtitle is not at all right. The history goes up to about 311AD, when Constantine converts to Christianity and unites the Roman Empire, not to 476AD and "The Fall of Rome" as is claimed on the cover. The emphasis at the end is the comparison with what is happening in the Mediterranean and what is happening in China, with different dynastic and revolutionary claims to the thrones of those great empires. Well done all around.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    The first 3,000 years of known history in Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, China, etc "History is just one damn thing after another" is a famous quote misattributed to the venerable historian Arthur Toynbee. What he actually said was: "Life is just one damned thing after another, whether it is private or public life. And looking back upon history (which in reality, of course, has never stopped happening, even during our brief halcyon days), one can see that in almost every age in almost every part of th The first 3,000 years of known history in Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, China, etc "History is just one damn thing after another" is a famous quote misattributed to the venerable historian Arthur Toynbee. What he actually said was: "Life is just one damned thing after another, whether it is private or public life. And looking back upon history (which in reality, of course, has never stopped happening, even during our brief halcyon days), one can see that in almost every age in almost every part of the world, human beings have had to live their normal lives and do their normal business under conditions of uncertainty, danger and distress. . ." Well, I don't know who co-opted his expression, but it's an amusingly cynical view of history. Is there no rhyme or reason, no ebb and flow, no discernible pattern to the rise and fall of empires, kingdoms, royal families, noble houses, great leaders and generals, shrewd politicians, religious figures, powerful merchants, meticulous scholars, and petty bureaucrats, not to mention priests, commoners, farmers, criminals, slaves, and thieves? Surely history is an infinitely complex and grand tapestry throughout which the joys and despair of men, women, and children are woven, in often mysterious and conflicting patterns, but making up a gloriously gripping narrative of human existence? Well, I'm no historian but I certainly find myself increasingly drawn to history precisely because enough time has passed to gain some distance and perspective away from current events. Given the state of the world today, with its myriad thorny and seemingly unsolvable problems such as economic and political disparity, environmental destruction, overpopulation, social class and religious conflicts, relentless invasion of technology into our daily lives, and growing moral relativism as traditional belief systems are undermined, there is something very attractive about casting our gaze back into previous millennia, not because they were simpler or better times, necessarily, but because we can see some of the same delusions of certainty, righteousness, justice, and equality then that persist now in stark contrast to the messy reality of the world we live in today. This series of books by Susan Wise Bauer seeks to capture huge swaths of history not simply with sweeping generalizations and explanations, but rather covering a seemingly endless series of empires and leaders rising and falling in different parts of the ancient world, sometimes achieving greatness, oftentimes megalomaniac and despotic, but quickly seeing their demise in favor of the next to seize power. So in many ways, this book could be described as "History is just one damn crazy leader after another", and Bauer makes a great effort to make these colorful individuals into real characters with good and bad traits, outlandish ambitions, sadistic tendencies, and often incredible duplicitousness. There are no angels out there who rose to power - hardly - but there weren't pure devils either. They were just as conflicted and confused as we are, just in a less complex and smaller-scale world than the global societies of today. But the same dynamics of religious, military, political, and economic power and the struggle for control operate. In this book we get a never-ending parade of individual dramas from different eras and regions of the world, a thousand variations of the same efforts to establish and maintain order in increasingly large empires with the inevitable collapses due to external battles with rival empires or, just as frequently, the internal struggles for power and sudden betrayals of family and allies. It is a bloody affair, and Bauer describes the many treacherous and cruel actions of rulers to keep power with unflinching enthusiasm, in fact a certain maniacal glee at their brutality. With absolute power in the ancient world, anything was possible, and tens of thousands of people could be slaughtered as cities were sacked by armies, or tortured and executed as traitors, or enslaved for generations, a story repeated again and again, and yet also there were moments of impressively enlightened ideas of collective and individual political rights to protect citizens from tyranny, to protect property rights, and so forth, which are the underpinnings of our modern democracies and capitalist/market economies. We may have plenty of inequalities and injustices still persisting today, but we are less likely to be persecuted and executed by a capricious leader on a whim. So there is such a thing as progress, though it is far from universal and far from guaranteed. To sum up, I enjoyed this 26-hour pageant of history. If you asked me to repeat most of the leaders and kingdoms and battles and when/where they took place, I would be very honest in saying it's all a blur, a flood of information that flowed over my ears and mind over many a dog walk in the neighborhood during lockdown, but I was enriched by it and left thirsty for more, which is perfect since there are two more hefty installments, one on the Medieval World and the next on the Renaissance World, coming up next.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    Fast paced history of the ancient world. Wile reading, I could not help but visualize the earlier humans marking their territory as they competed for power and resources, spread out from every corner of Earth to build the cities and civilizations we see today. It's always a good idea to remember from where and from whom we came. This book, though long, will take you on an extremely compact tour from the first kings of whom we are aware through the fall of Rome. It covers how power and land were Fast paced history of the ancient world. Wile reading, I could not help but visualize the earlier humans marking their territory as they competed for power and resources, spread out from every corner of Earth to build the cities and civilizations we see today. It's always a good idea to remember from where and from whom we came. This book, though long, will take you on an extremely compact tour from the first kings of whom we are aware through the fall of Rome. It covers how power and land were gained, how laws were written and followed (or not followed), and how ideals were born or killed in different regions of our globe. Since this book provides a history for such a long stretch of time, at no time does it go into great detail of any particular period or king. The book is already longer than most books. If Wise Bauer were to go into more detail, the book would simply be another book. Rather, this book gives the reader a mere glimpse into each time period as it races along. I made of note of the time periods and leaders I would like to read more about later. At times the author, like all authors before her, had to construct the story from sources that are difficult to verify or are included in religious texts that might be unreliable in providing an accurate history. In those cases, she did a great job and informing the reader about the speculative nature of the narrative. Excellent writing. Excellent timeline. Excellent history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Omar Ali

    If you already know all about Tiglath Pilesar the third and the problems of Assyrian imperialism then this may not be the book for you. It is a very quick (and therefore necessarily superficial) overview of the history of all major Eurasian civilizations from 3000 BC to 300 AD. It helps you to put all of them in place parallel to each other and to get a nodding acquaintance with all of the actors. It is strictly narrative history, focused on rulers and popular stories about them...it is also a b If you already know all about Tiglath Pilesar the third and the problems of Assyrian imperialism then this may not be the book for you. It is a very quick (and therefore necessarily superficial) overview of the history of all major Eurasian civilizations from 3000 BC to 300 AD. It helps you to put all of them in place parallel to each other and to get a nodding acquaintance with all of the actors. It is strictly narrative history, focused on rulers and popular stories about them...it is also a bit too eager to take various ancient texts at face value (I have seen other reviewers particularly offended by her treatment of the bible as a source of historical information). And if you want to know what deeper economic, cultural and ecological trends underlay the rise and fall of ideas and empires, then this is not your book. But if you want a quick introduction to the whole era and especially if you just want to have a clearer picture of who was contemporary with whom, then this will do. In short, if you are mostly ignorant (as I was about most of Babylonian history for example), you will learn something. But when she covers ground you are more familiar with, you may find yourself disagreeing with some of what she chose to pick up and how she summarized it (I had that feeling at times when she talked of the late Roman Republic and the Roman empire). Worth a read. And easy to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    This book changed my perspective on humanity. Who we are. What we've done. And the fact that there's nothing new under the sun. It was especially interesting for me, as a Christian, to see how secular history overlaps and influences the Biblical stories that shape my faith. A must read....can't wait for volume 2. ----- February 2010: Picking up to read this again since I enjoyed it so much the first time....

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alex Telander

    THE HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: FROM THE EARLIEST ACCOUNTS TO THE FALL OF ROME BY SUSAN WISE BAUER: The History of the Ancient World is Susan Wise Bauer’s first book of a four-volume series, as she attempts to recount a complete history of the world. In this first tome, she covers humanity’s beginnings of civilization, as we changed our nomadic ways, on through the ancient world, up to Emperor Constantine and the fall of the great Roman Empire. Weighing in at 860 pages, including notes and bib THE HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: FROM THE EARLIEST ACCOUNTS TO THE FALL OF ROME BY SUSAN WISE BAUER: The History of the Ancient World is Susan Wise Bauer’s first book of a four-volume series, as she attempts to recount a complete history of the world. In this first tome, she covers humanity’s beginnings of civilization, as we changed our nomadic ways, on through the ancient world, up to Emperor Constantine and the fall of the great Roman Empire. Weighing in at 860 pages, including notes and bibliography, it’s the most detailed and complete history of the ancient world I have ever read. Bauer’s insight in bringing this lengthy but important time in history to the reader is through her system of not having a section of the book dedicated to each civilization or ruler, but in recounting a chronological history of the ancient world, taking a chapter with each civilization as they rise, prosper, and then fall. In a time when history is not just about dates, conquerors, kings, and emperors, but pulling back and looking at the different regions on a wider scale, this book is indispensable It is in this way that historians discover why certain things happen, and why certain people do the thing they do: because they are related and dependent on all events and happenings in that part of the world, and not just their particular civilization. Bauer does exactly this by telling everyone’s story concurrently with everyone else’s. It is a magnificent feat, not just from the reader’s standpoint in learning the history, but on an editorial scale also. In this way, the reader’s sees that history isn’t just about one group conquering another for personal gain (though this is certainly a part of it), but humanity’s striving for an evolution of improvement. Using obvious and clear chapter titles, along with a few sentences on what the chapter is about; navigating through this book is not a problem at all with these devices, as well as a lengthy and complete table of contents. The book is split up into five parts: The Edge of History, Firsts, Struggle, Empires, and Identity. In this way, Bauer is indicating the progression of humanity in the ancient world and making it clear what the reader should be taking from the book. Her only failing is in most of the book consisting of the history of the ancient western world. Leaving out the Americas – due to lack of historical evidence, I would presume – and leaving Africa for a later book; apart from the western world, Bauer also focuses on China and India, though not to the extent as with Western Europe and the Middle East. While I’m certain there was a lot more going on in India, China, and Asia for the most part, Bauer presents at best a survey of ancient times in this part of the world. Nevertheless, again she does an amazing job of covering each civilization in parallel, so that the reader knows what was happening in China, Asia, and Babylon during the rise of the Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt. Bauer even goes one step further with tables at the end of each chapter which cover the events in that chapter, as well as those in the previous chapter, listing them side by side with a timeline. The History of the Ancient World is a necessary encyclopedia for any amateur historian with an affection for the period, and with the countless maps and pictures throughout the book, it is also an ideal albeit lengthy book for those wishing to learn more about the ancient civilizations across the globe. Now it is a case of impatiently waiting for the next volume in the series which will cover the Middle Ages throughout the world. For more book reviews, and author interviews, go to BookBanter.

  9. 4 out of 5

    ❆ Crystal ❆

    4.5 Kudos to the author. This book is an amazing feat... I can only imagine what a difficult task this must have been to research and write. History can be such a tangled mess and Susan Bauer did such a fantastic job untangling and searching for the truth (or as close as we'll ever get to it). This book covers 3,800 BC to 312 AD following China, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, India, North Africa, Greece, Italy, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and toward the end of the book Great Britain, Scotland, and some Sca 4.5 Kudos to the author. This book is an amazing feat... I can only imagine what a difficult task this must have been to research and write. History can be such a tangled mess and Susan Bauer did such a fantastic job untangling and searching for the truth (or as close as we'll ever get to it). This book covers 3,800 BC to 312 AD following China, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, India, North Africa, Greece, Italy, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and toward the end of the book Great Britain, Scotland, and some Scandinavia. Some of the issues with early history is: oral history passed down most likely has errors, historical documents were destroyed/lost/damaged, and accounts written sometimes passed on accuracy in light of "looking good." Bauer was excellent in pointing out these factors. For example, there would be a battle and each side documented a victory, but there could really be only one victor... So, Bauer would use archeology to list what was most likely the truth she was also careful to state what both sides said. Theology and Mythology were also listed as part of this history... stating that it can't be excluded completely because, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." She also points out documents that were written well after the fact stating that is was an oral history for xxx years and then written down. This book was written in plain English with short chapters so that it didn't feel too heavy of a read. It is a long book and could be a bit dry at times, but well.... I'm not sure that could be avoided completely. Bauer also told a lot of personal stories which I loved! And, I must say that after reading, I'm happy to say that poison has lost it's flare as a tool for murder. I cannot believe how many people were poisoned in this book! It was a bit sad and depressing at times to see that history is full of corruption, deceit, murder, and unkindness. The grab for power... to take what your neighbor (family) had was all too common in every nation that I read about. I'm so happy I read this book and will read the next in the series as well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    Without a unifying theory or an overarching narrative, history is just one damn thing after another. The results are at once cursory and grim: battle, tyrant, slaughter, battle, tyrant, rise, fall, lather, rinse, repeat. Moreover, by attempting to cover 2,000 years of human history in 800 pages, the author maintains a very high altitude, largely rehashing things that I learned in junior high and high school. Overall, it was a readable but disappointing history of the ancient world.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sonny

    “Anthropologists can speculate about human behavior; archaeologists, about patterns of settlement; philosophers and theologians, about the motivations of “humanity” as an undifferentiated mass. But the historian’s task is different: to look for particular human lives that give flesh and spirit to abstract assertions about human behavior.” The History of the Ancient World is Susan Wise Bauer's first in a four-volume series, in which she tells the stories of mankind from Europe to North Africa, the “Anthropologists can speculate about human behavior; archaeologists, about patterns of settlement; philosophers and theologians, about the motivations of “humanity” as an undifferentiated mass. But the historian’s task is different: to look for particular human lives that give flesh and spirit to abstract assertions about human behavior.” The History of the Ancient World is Susan Wise Bauer's first in a four-volume series, in which she tells the stories of mankind from Europe to North Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East—in other words, a comprehensive history of the ancient world, except the Americas and Oceania. Bauer is a writer, educator, and historian; a friend of mine says Bauer is a “rock star in the homeschool world.” In the first volume, Bauer gives readers an overview of the ancient worlds of Sumer, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Egypt, India (Indus valley), China, Greece, and Rome. In this first volume, she covers the beginnings of civilization in the ancient world, ending with Emperor Constantine and the fall of the Roman Empire. Bauer’s focus is on how the various states rise, then prosper, and finally fall. This wide-angle approach shows the inter-connectedness of events and not just the local context, making the book an important resource. Drawing on epics, ancient historians, and various legal texts and private letters, she introduces individuals who helped build the ancient world. While some might object to her referencing of biblical texts, I believe this added to the overall understanding rather than diminish it. In the end, Bauer's stylish prose and her command of the material makes this a wonderful initial foray into the study of the ancient world. While the book is more of a survey than a detailed and complete history of the ancient world, it offers the most informative history of the ancient world I have read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    This is an excellent historical text. It provides some much needed narrative detail to the often dry and obfuscated facts regarding some of the earliest civilizations of mankind. I especially liked her descriptions of the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations, as they were done with a real human-touch, as opposed to the typically artifact-heavy archaeology-driven proto-histories I am used to. The one complaint I have about this book is that the author, probably a Christian herself, does not shy awa This is an excellent historical text. It provides some much needed narrative detail to the often dry and obfuscated facts regarding some of the earliest civilizations of mankind. I especially liked her descriptions of the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations, as they were done with a real human-touch, as opposed to the typically artifact-heavy archaeology-driven proto-histories I am used to. The one complaint I have about this book is that the author, probably a Christian herself, does not shy away from apologetics. She devotes far too much time and attention relaying the story of Noah and his flood, erroneously linking supposedly "world wide" "flood myths" to the minor flooding that is known to have taken place regionally in Sumer. She denies that this is the reason for the flood myth, as she is far too attached to the mythological and unsupportable idea that the Bible is actually right, and that there was a giant Deluge that swept away the world. Another symptom of this same religionist disease is her focus on the mythical figure of Abram. She tells his story with as much attention and sobriety as she uses to address figures like Sargon, though there is absolutely not one single shred of archaeological evidence to suggest that Abram/Abraham was a real person, or that his Biblical story was in any way based on fact. Again she uses the lame excuse that religious-apologist-historians always use, claiming that there is truth that can be distilled from ancient stories. While she deliberately examines the various myths about Gilgamesh and makes some assumptions about historicity versus later mythological convention in such a way that it seems plausible, when it comes to Abram and like figures from the Old Testament, even this psuedo-objectivity goes out the window. She breathlessly relates events from the Bible as if they are as provably factual as the macehead of the Scorpion King. Suffice it to say, they are not. It gets /really/ absurd when she starts speaking as if Abraham and his sons could be archaeologically traced back as the progenitors of the Arab and Jewish races. There is no evidence for this at all, and yet she pretends that it is quite obviously true that a single man birthed two great nations, and history recorded it without error. Overall it is a very wonderful book and I have greatly enjoyed it, but she should abandon the Christianist overtones. Without the nonsensical Biblical apologetics, this book would have earned 5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a 30,000 ft. view of ancient history. It reads quickly and the writing is clear and interesting. The main theme is the use of might to create empires. Though Ms. Bauer is a Christian, this is not an explicitly religious text at all. She maintains her "historical" voice by quoting other texts. I'm sure that, as with all historical books, some people could disagree with her conclusions or quibble with her methods, but this is intended as an introduction, and it serves that purpose without This is a 30,000 ft. view of ancient history. It reads quickly and the writing is clear and interesting. The main theme is the use of might to create empires. Though Ms. Bauer is a Christian, this is not an explicitly religious text at all. She maintains her "historical" voice by quoting other texts. I'm sure that, as with all historical books, some people could disagree with her conclusions or quibble with her methods, but this is intended as an introduction, and it serves that purpose without getting bogged down in academic controversies. Also, for those considering this as a high school history text (as I am), be aware that she does include quite a number of sordid details. Many of these details, naturally, have to do with the violence of war, problems of succession, or the debauchery of Roman emperors. But it's my opinion that, as written, they serve the purpose in illuminating the consequences of various worldviews, as least for a relatively mature teen, rather than merely titillating the reader. Also, though much of such a fast-paced book will inevitably be historical narrative, she does have a few re-occurring themes (such as the pros and cons of hereditary monarchy), with occasional summary paragraphs that tie up the progress of these themes as they progress. These checkpoints are not so condescendingly spoon-fed as in typical high school textbooks, but they do provide a nice break in the sheer march of facts. Also, the emphasis is definitely political history, which from what I gather is pretty unusual in textbooks these days. For an adult reader who is interested in history but needs to brush up on the progression of empires, this book will provide a quick review and handy jumping off point for further study.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    The History of the Ancient World was a well-written survey covering everything from the earliest written accounts of the ancient Sumerians to the pinnacle of the power of Rome. Susan Wise Bauer did a wonderful job of summarizing each period and people group of Asia and Europe, spreading memorable and sometimes humorous remarks throughout to keep the reading a little bit lighter in the midst of some very tragic events. The more I read, the more I was reminded of man's depravity. There are some ins The History of the Ancient World was a well-written survey covering everything from the earliest written accounts of the ancient Sumerians to the pinnacle of the power of Rome. Susan Wise Bauer did a wonderful job of summarizing each period and people group of Asia and Europe, spreading memorable and sometimes humorous remarks throughout to keep the reading a little bit lighter in the midst of some very tragic events. The more I read, the more I was reminded of man's depravity. There are some inspirations along the way, but the numerous accounts of power struggles, wars, assasinations and so on become a little wearisome after a while. Conquerors have left their marks all throughout the world and the wakes they left behind can still be felt today in some places. Despite the heaviness of our history, I'm excited now to dig into each historical period with a little more depth. I'm very interested in seeing how the stories of yesterday still impact our lives today. Thank you, Susan Wise Bauer, for cultivating the curiosity of an adult who never appreciated history as a younger student.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    The broad scope of this history by necessity makes this a difficult read at some points, not due to complexity of language or concept, but rather due to the challenge of following the changing mass of knowledge. It's a good introduction to a lot of history, is told very matter-of-factly, and connects the dots between cultures in some ways new to me. One of the most fascinating episodes dealt with the three great empires - Roman, Parthian and Han Chinese, all being in operation at the same time an The broad scope of this history by necessity makes this a difficult read at some points, not due to complexity of language or concept, but rather due to the challenge of following the changing mass of knowledge. It's a good introduction to a lot of history, is told very matter-of-factly, and connects the dots between cultures in some ways new to me. One of the most fascinating episodes dealt with the three great empires - Roman, Parthian and Han Chinese, all being in operation at the same time and spanning Spain to the Yellow Sea. Another, odd section of history is that of the Greek Bactrian kingdoms that evolved their way down into the Indus river valley and rulled areas of modern Pakistan, Afghanistan and India under Greek kings who were holdovers from the empire of Alexander long before and one of whom became a Buddhist... This is not the first history book to reach for, but if you need a broad refresher or want to expand the scope of your awareness in a survey-like fashion, it could be worth picking up.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Earlier this year, Susan Wise Bauer's remarkable The History of the Medieval World became the first (and still so far only) book in 2010 to earn a perfect score here at CCLaP; and this was also when I mentioned that it is in fact volume two of an ambitious series Bauer is in the middle of right now, chron (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.) Earlier this year, Susan Wise Bauer's remarkable The History of the Medieval World became the first (and still so far only) book in 2010 to earn a perfect score here at CCLaP; and this was also when I mentioned that it is in fact volume two of an ambitious series Bauer is in the middle of right now, chronicling in a straightforward yet truly global way the entire history of the human race, from its emergence as city-building agrarians around 10,000 BC to literally now, and how later in the year I would also be tackling book one of the series, which covers essentially the Sumerians of the "Fertile Crescent" (humanity's very first "civilized" society) to the fall of the Roman Empire around 400 AD. Well, I'm finally done with that first volume, and I can confidently state that it's just as good as the other one, and in fact would've gotten a perfect score as well except that it's a little older of a title (2007, making it ineligible for CCLaP's best-of lists at the end of the year), plus by its nature is simply not as interesting as the volume concerning the Middle Ages. (Turns out that between the Sumerians and the ancient Greeks lie roughly two thousand years of interchangeable Mesopotamian warrior societies we have largely forgotten by now, of which we know barely anything, making for not exactly the most scintillating reading.) Highly recommended as a two-book set, which in a tidy 1,500 pages tells the armchair historian just about everything they need to know about the first 11,000 years of recorded history, from the development of the first writing system to the first formal Crusade between Christians and Muslims; and needless to say that I'm highly looking forward to the third book of this ongoing series, whenever that may happen to be coming out. Out of 10: 9.7

  17. 5 out of 5

    Scott Gray

    In crafting a narrative history of the ancient world, Susan Bauer has done something that i personally found both novel and fascinating — using the written records of past civilizations as her foundation and baseline. In her introduction, Bauer talks about how the study of history has necessarily always broken down to a study of archaeology where the written record fails. Her book is thus a specific attempt to shape the historical narrative as it was told by the people who wrote it, combining fo In crafting a narrative history of the ancient world, Susan Bauer has done something that i personally found both novel and fascinating — using the written records of past civilizations as her foundation and baseline. In her introduction, Bauer talks about how the study of history has necessarily always broken down to a study of archaeology where the written record fails. Her book is thus a specific attempt to shape the historical narrative as it was told by the people who wrote it, combining formal histories, court documents, and other records, and looking for the shape of real history that lies beneath mythology and legend like a palimpsest. The result is a fascinating precis of the beginnings and evolution of western civilization, backed up by a hundred-odd pages of academic cross-references that speak to the thoroughness of Bauer’s approach. There are plenty of empty spaces in the narrative, specifically in those places where the written record fails and traditional historians need to fall back on the evidence of fossils and pottery shards to infer the culture that created them. Nonetheless, the overall story is a fascinating record of the past as referenced by those who witnessed it, and by those ancient historians who originally took on Bauer’s goal of sifting through even older accounts in an attempt to create a narrative of the past. (One addendum. I normally try to refrain from commenting on other people’s comments, but the number of 1- and 2-star Amazon reviews rejecting this book out of hand because of its methodology seem a little off base to me. Bauer explains fairly clearly what she’s doing and why in her introduction, and i don’t see the point in complaining that she’s managed to write the book she promises she’s going to write.)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Conquer other people any way you can before they conquer you. That includes your detractors in your own land. Try not to get poisoned, stabbed, or offed by your closest family member, spouse, or confidant. Act crazy and you're sure to meet this end faster than the others that have come before you. When in doubt kill them first. Rome eventually falls. The End. This is the only book I've read on ancient history that wasn't forced on me by an educational institution so I have no comparison, but it Conquer other people any way you can before they conquer you. That includes your detractors in your own land. Try not to get poisoned, stabbed, or offed by your closest family member, spouse, or confidant. Act crazy and you're sure to meet this end faster than the others that have come before you. When in doubt kill them first. Rome eventually falls. The End. This is the only book I've read on ancient history that wasn't forced on me by an educational institution so I have no comparison, but it was a well written summary. That's exactly what I was looking for and what I thought it would be. I suppose it deserves five stars based on presentation and writing, but I admit I was bored at times due to the tedious predictability and repetitiveness of the human race, which isn't the author's fault. I did enjoy the moments of incredible brutality. Not because I'm a sadist, but because many of those stories are unfathomable. I just can't believe that people did these things to other people. Sadly, I think many people today would not act any different with that much power if they thought they could get away with it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeni Enjaian

    This topic is a hard one to write about simply because the sources are extremely limited, especially the further back one goes. Bauer, in my opinion, successfully summarized what is known about ancient history without making declarations of fact where none exist. She acknowledges myths yet hints at the truth that most myths are based on. She also manages to stay fairly objective in her inclusion of biblical texts as authentic sources along with other sources like the Epic of Gilgamesh. I also co This topic is a hard one to write about simply because the sources are extremely limited, especially the further back one goes. Bauer, in my opinion, successfully summarized what is known about ancient history without making declarations of fact where none exist. She acknowledges myths yet hints at the truth that most myths are based on. She also manages to stay fairly objective in her inclusion of biblical texts as authentic sources along with other sources like the Epic of Gilgamesh. I also continue to be impressed with the seeming effortless of Bauer's prose. It's a pleasure rather than a chore to read. Her world history also is as broad as it could possibly be given the limited sources. I highly recommend this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Saju Pillai

    Excellent. Susan walks us through major civilizations from earliest Sumer (circa 3600 BC) till Constantine's victory parade as he claims Rome (312 AD). The Sumerians, Egyptians, Harappans, Xia, Akkadians, Mycenaeans, Assyrians, Shang, Trojans, Aryans, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Hans, Jin & Romans are all introduced and disposed off in an interweaving chronological fashion. Out of necessity, only major events are covered and Susan's aim is to provide breadth and not depth. She achieves this admirab Excellent. Susan walks us through major civilizations from earliest Sumer (circa 3600 BC) till Constantine's victory parade as he claims Rome (312 AD). The Sumerians, Egyptians, Harappans, Xia, Akkadians, Mycenaeans, Assyrians, Shang, Trojans, Aryans, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Hans, Jin & Romans are all introduced and disposed off in an interweaving chronological fashion. Out of necessity, only major events are covered and Susan's aim is to provide breadth and not depth. She achieves this admirably. Very easy to read and hard to put down. Every layman interested in ancient history must get themselves a copy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dunlavy Gray

    We found this book to be very readable and informative. Helpful in giving a context to the story of humankind, rather than merely a recitation of facts. Excellent reference book and an enjoyable read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Connor Pickett

    The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer was a fairly interesting book. It starts off with the first accounts that humans recorded - which were little clay tabs on traded products to signify that the original owner sent it - and ends with Rome falling after Constantine decided to create a new empire in the name of Christ. The first portion of the book focuses on Egypt and Mesopotamia, where the first trade and international communicatio The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer was a fairly interesting book. It starts off with the first accounts that humans recorded - which were little clay tabs on traded products to signify that the original owner sent it - and ends with Rome falling after Constantine decided to create a new empire in the name of Christ. The first portion of the book focuses on Egypt and Mesopotamia, where the first trade and international communications occurred. Bauer does a fantastic job of mentioning the different "Kings' Lists," which tells of all the rulers in the Mesopotamian dynasties, from the Assyrian Empire to the Babylonian Empire. She also visits the times when Egyptian pharaohs wanted to live forever and how that ultimately led to the construction of the pyramids. The different sections of the book help divide the firsts from the lasts, such as tyrants, natural disasters, and wars. A great example of how the ruling system worked was when Bauer mentioned the wars in Mesopotamia where usurpers advanced towards major cities and took them, then a decade or so later, they were defeated by a rising power in one of the current ruler's cities. It was a cycle seen in Egypt, China, and Europe too. The system was winner takes all, or die in honor trying. Sometimes, everything worked for rulers, like Hammurabi, while everything that could have gone wrong did for them, like rulers of the Xia Dynasty in China. The ancient world had no formal laws and no advanced technology to protect the existing countries from wars or natural disasters or tyrants. Trade could have gone well or terrible and advancements could have gone far or fizzled out in a matter of years. Bauer wonderfully illustrates the ancient world through rulers, disasters, trade, and inventions. Her writing style in this informational reading can be confusing at some points, but makes up for it later when everything comes together and the reader can see what the meaning of the passages were. I would recommend this book for anyone who truly has an interest in history and wants to read in-depth about certain topics about the ancient world. This is the first book in a series by Susan Wise Bauer, and I am strongly considering reading the next books.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andres

    Wow. Just...wow. As an aspiring history buff dreaming of one day graduating with a History major, I found in this book an example of what I have aspire for. Susan Wise Bauer does a tremendous job which my simple words will never be able to transmit. Really, this history has everything I wish someday to be able to write. comprehensive chapters which last the appropriate amount (15 pages tops), clear timelines to help you sort through the many kings and conquerors, maps detailing the world accordin Wow. Just...wow. As an aspiring history buff dreaming of one day graduating with a History major, I found in this book an example of what I have aspire for. Susan Wise Bauer does a tremendous job which my simple words will never be able to transmit. Really, this history has everything I wish someday to be able to write. comprehensive chapters which last the appropriate amount (15 pages tops), clear timelines to help you sort through the many kings and conquerors, maps detailing the world according to every era, plenty of sources and references, and the author's slight touch of humor here and there. This last fact I do wish to extend upon. Don't get me wrong, the whole book is not filled with jokes and cheap humor; but the occasional light comment on behalf of Susan helps the reader remember that he is actually reading the work of human being, unlike some other historical reads that seem to be just robotic descriptions worthy of a Wikipedia article. I highly recommend this book to everyone out there who wishes to understand us humans a bit more, and I say this is a must to all those who just love history. Susan Wise Bauer is now officially amongst my favorite non-fiction authors; not only that, but she has earned every bit of my respect! (Remember that this is just the first book of a whole series; the rest of which I hope will also be as filling to the mind as this one).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    I stopped reading this book when I realized it was going to take Genesis as accepted historical fact. Sorry, that's a deal-breaker. The prime directive of a historical text is to strive to be unbiased. If you're not even going to *try*, then neither am I. Go read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies instead. I stopped reading this book when I realized it was going to take Genesis as accepted historical fact. Sorry, that's a deal-breaker. The prime directive of a historical text is to strive to be unbiased. If you're not even going to *try*, then neither am I. Go read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies instead.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Corey Wozniak

    Short review: Bauer's style is extremely readable, even entertaining. This sweeping history of the ancient world is never dry or sterile bc it is filled with stories of fascinating characters and conquerors and kings. Wonderful experience, considering the ratio of new things learned/page. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ymI5Uv5... Longer review forthcoming! Short review: Bauer's style is extremely readable, even entertaining. This sweeping history of the ancient world is never dry or sterile bc it is filled with stories of fascinating characters and conquerors and kings. Wonderful experience, considering the ratio of new things learned/page. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ymI5Uv5... Longer review forthcoming!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve Galegor

    I have really enjoy her approach to history so far...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Seitler

    I picked this book to read for myself as we studied ancient history this year and I loved it. I found it to be a wonderful narrative that held my interest (and also made me laugh out loud.) I considered having my high school students read through this series with me, but I think there is some content in the book that makes it better suited to adults. I’m looking forward to diving in to the next two installments of this series next year!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tad Kilgore

    Fantastic survey.

  29. 4 out of 5

    stormin

    This was a fantastic account of the rise of ancient civilizations from about 3,000BC to the Fall of Rome. Susan Wise Bauer did a great job of telling the stories of different civilizations (Egypt, Mesopotomia, India, and China initially, with later forays into Greece and Rome) in parallel. It was really fascinating to see what was going on contemporaneously in such different empires, and the contrasts were really fascinating. To see, for example, the rigidity of the Western kings--and the result This was a fantastic account of the rise of ancient civilizations from about 3,000BC to the Fall of Rome. Susan Wise Bauer did a great job of telling the stories of different civilizations (Egypt, Mesopotomia, India, and China initially, with later forays into Greece and Rome) in parallel. It was really fascinating to see what was going on contemporaneously in such different empires, and the contrasts were really fascinating. To see, for example, the rigidity of the Western kings--and the resulting short dynasties--contrasted with the flexibility of Eastern emperors (who, for example, often moved their capitals around to follow the ebb and flow of geopolitics in their empires) was really interesting. She also wrote with a very wry sense of humor, as when she described the first evidence of sarcastic graffiti (scrawled on a squat, ugly temple by broken and unfinished the Meidum pyramid) or the groundskeeper who was promoted to be a scapegoat king (so that the real king could dodge an ominous prophecy) but, instead of being ceremonially murdered managed to reign for 24 years after the actual king choked to death on soup. Which probably means he was poisoned. The intersection with Biblical history was also interesting as well, with interesting perspectives on (for example) the renaming of Abram and Sarai in terms of their erstwhile connection to the moon god Sin of Ur. The fresh perspective on Moses's mother putting him in basket in the river as an explicit reference to Sargon's origin story (hoping that a sympathetic western Semitic princess in the Egyptian court might find him) was also an eye-opening theory. Along those lines, Bauer consistently wrote with a more sympathetic eye to the female characters of history than we usually see. Above all, my forays into ancient history continue to reinforce this one general conclusion: those folks were the same as our folks. I'm not sure if it's my own naivete or the way that history is taught in K-12, but I have had this notion that modern ideas are unique and distinct, but basically everything we think about today has been done before. Marx's "worker's unite" was presaged by the Peasant Revolt in 14th century England (not covered here) or the Yellow Turban Revolt from 1,000 years before that (which Bauer did cover). The idea of humanitarian leaders working to reform their laws for the better? You've got Urukagina of Lagash or Tiberius Gracchus's reforms. Totalitarianism? You don't need to wait for 20th century fascism, you had basically the same thing under (ironically) both Sparta and Athens. Anyway, it was a fantastic survey, and I'll just wrap up with one additional funny story: The ancient chronicles make it very clear that the Shang kings brought this rebellion on themselves. They abandoned wisdom, and this wisdom not military might as in the west, was the foundation of their power. The emperor Wu Yi, the fifth ruler to follow Wu Ding, showed the first signs of decay. His offenses, according to Sima Qian, were primarily against the gods. He made idols, called them heavenly gods, and played lots with them. When he won, he mocked the idols as lousy gamblers. This was a serious breach of his royal responsibilities.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Don

    I was looking for a broad book on world history, and this book delivered exactly that for ancient history. Coming in at close to 800 pages, this book can appear daunting, but Susan Wise Bauer's writing style keeps you interested throughout. And despite its length, and only covering up until 200AD or so, the book cannot spend too much time on any one period. This book is just enough to whet your appetite for further study in particular areas of interest. The author has made the deliberate decisio I was looking for a broad book on world history, and this book delivered exactly that for ancient history. Coming in at close to 800 pages, this book can appear daunting, but Susan Wise Bauer's writing style keeps you interested throughout. And despite its length, and only covering up until 200AD or so, the book cannot spend too much time on any one period. This book is just enough to whet your appetite for further study in particular areas of interest. The author has made the deliberate decision to focus on the history through the written record, rather than through archealogical studies. As such, it does not cover large portions of the world, such as the Americas, Australia, much of Africa, and parts of Asia simply because the civiliztions in those areas at the time were not writing anything down. Much of the book focuses on civilizations from the Middle East (Sumer, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc), Europe along the Mediterranean (Rome, Greece), and northern Africa (primarily Egypt). Every 3rd or 4th chapter we will get a look at the events happening in China or India, but we know a lot less about what was going on in those areas. The book covers events in strict chronological order, rather than focusing on the full history of one area then moving onto the next. This results in a lot of jumping around from one civilaztion to the next, but it worked for me as it prevented me from getting bogged down in any one story. It can be tough to keep up with all the names of key figures of the times, but this is to be expected when talking about such a broad topic. I did tend to get quite lost in the discussions of Assyria and Babylon, forgetting which ruler belonged to which empire. Upon reaching the end of the book (and the fall of Rome), I had a much better understanding of the shape of world for the first 4000 years or so of written human history. Susan Wise Bauer wrote an amazing history book that is easy to read, provides a lot of insightful analysis, and has some really interesting commentary scattered thoughout the notes. The story of humanity is both amazing and terrifying at the same time.

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