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Close Report a review At Kobo, we try to ensure that published reviews do not contain rude or profane language, spoilers, or any of our reviewer's personal information. Earlier this year, Susan Wise Bauer's remarkable The History of the Medieval World became the first and still so far only book in 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.
Earlier this year, Susan Wise Bauer's remarkable The History of the Medieval World became the first and still so far only book in 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, 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 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 , 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, pages tells the armchair historian just about everything they need to know about the first 11, 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.
View all 3 comments. Mar 19, Scott Gray rated it it was amazing. 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.
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. May 22, Stephen rated it really liked it. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. Jul 18, Jack rated it liked it Shelves: 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.
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.
Aug 25, Laura added it. This is a 30, ft. It reads quickly and the writing is clear and interesting. The main theme is the use of might to create empires. 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, ft.
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.
Mar 31, Jeni Enjaian rated it really liked it Shelves: 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.
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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. 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.
The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
Feb 06, Corey Landon Wozniak rated it really liked it. 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. Aug 01, Nicole Seitler rated it it was amazing.
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.
Jan 21, Nathaniel rated it really liked it Shelves: This was a fantastic account of the rise of ancient civilizations from about 3,BC 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,BC to the Fall of Rome. 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: I'm not sure if it's my own naivete or the way that history is taught in K, 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, 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. 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. Jun 02, Connor Pickett rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Anyone who loves history.
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.
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The first portion of the book focuses on Egypt and Mesopotamia, where the first trade and international communicatio The History of the Ancient World: 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. Apr 14, Don rated it it was amazing Shelves: I was looking for a broad book on world history, and this book delivered exactly that for ancient history. Coming in at close to 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 AD 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 I was looking for a broad book on world history, and this book delivered exactly that for ancient history. 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.
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 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.
Apr 04, Gary rated it it was amazing. The author picks a very good way of telling the story of the development of the old world civilizations: That way the listener gets a feel for what's happening through out the whole world at any one time period.
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At first, during the first half of the story I thought the author was misleading the listener by telling us about the myths and the superstitions that each of the early civilizations had as a foundation of thei The author picks a very good way of telling the story of the development of the old world civilizations: At first, during the first half of the story I thought the author was misleading the listener by telling us about the myths and the superstitions that each of the early civilizations had as a foundation of their history and acting as if they were true or at least metaphorically true.
Finally, I started to realize that was a great way of telling the story. How each civilization thought of themselves and why is just as important as some of the actual facts of history. Another thing that had bothered me was the author made Israel and Judah as major characters within the story especially before the Hellenic period.
I wrongly thought why dwell on such unimportant players. Finally, I realized that history sometimes needs to be understood from what is important today, and that the author's approach was a more than valid approach. Besides, for the first time I started to put together what I and II Kings and Ezra in the bible really mean in terms of history. Who among us doesn't love the Hittites? Any book that devotes two or so hours about their proper place in history deserves special mention.
I don't think I've read another world history book that ties the multiple civilizations together as seamlessly and was able to relate the within story for each civilization with the between as well as this book does. I'll get the other two books in this series when Audible offers one of their two for one deals.
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This book does a great job at getting to the essential points of the old world history while keeping the listener always entertained and waiting for the story to unfold. Jul 27, Andres rated it it was amazing. 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.
The History of the Ancient World : Susan Wise Bauer :
Really, this history has everything I wish someday to be able to write. 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. Jul 05, Steve Hemmeke rated it really liked it. I wrapped this book up last night - no small feat at pages. Bauer does a pretty decent job reviewing a lot of information - from the beginning of time to Constantine, covering China, India, Egpyt, Rome and everyone in between with a written history in that time.
She makes a valiant attempt to keep it from being encyclopedic, and sometimes succeeds. It is lively at points, with wry quips here and there. Sadly, some of these have a jaded feminist edge to them, but they don't ruin the flow. A gr I wrapped this book up last night - no small feat at pages. A grand review like this really impresses on one that the more things change the more they stay the same. History is one big arena of power struggle among men with power.
Expanding your personal or national territory and influence is a constant human desire. Bauer does well in concisely connecting big picture events to each other, even when a century or four lie between them. This history was one of military and political high points, just barely touching on the history of ideas, which was disappointing. Jesus gets about half a page; His Gnostic revisionists get a whole page; Buddha gets three.
By contrast, Greek thought and history get dozens. Not tht the Greek history is bad. It's very well done. But it could have stood for more interaction of Greek with Jewish ideas, instead of the minutae of Indian and Chinese history, in my view. Sep 05, Sean rated it really liked it. Susan Wise Bauer should perhaps be considered a modern historian, in that she writes readable historical narrative that you can easily consume in bite-sized pieces.
That's not to say that her work is frivolous or lacking in authority. Her facts are solid and sources properly cited. It's clear that this book is meant to present historical facts and not meant merely to entertain. Having said that, there is just enough of a hint of charm and humor to Bauer's writing that the stories presented come t Susan Wise Bauer should perhaps be considered a modern historian, in that she writes readable historical narrative that you can easily consume in bite-sized pieces. Having said that, there is just enough of a hint of charm and humor to Bauer's writing that the stories presented come to life through her words and become far more approachable than they otherwise would be.
I'm a fan of ancient history, but I'm not sure I've found another book writing about the Sumerians and Assyrians that didn't make me fight to stay awake through the endless lists of kings. Bauer somehow gets us through these historical periods by telling stories, rather than by reciting facts. Okay, I take back what I said about other books--Herodotus is the other writer that tells stories in a way that makes history fun to read.
Throw in a nice dose of Roman history and there are enough great stories in this book to make it a bit of a historical page-tuner. Nov 11, Paul Krepps rated it really liked it. Overall the book was informative, although I had this nagging feeling that something was amiss. Not factually, as I assume the content was well researched. But about two thirds of the way through I put my finger on the issue.
Obviously when writing a history of such a broad time period as that encompassed in this volume, the author must pick and choose when it comes to what to include and what to leave out. With this in mind, the book would have been better titled "A Political and Military Histo Overall the book was informative, although I had this nagging feeling that something was amiss.
If one's goal is to learn about the significant advances in art, architecture, science and philosophy in the ancient world, this would not be the best source. For what it is, though, the book is engaging and educational. Oct 11, Pat rated it it was amazing. This is a comprehensive book of the history of the world up to the fall of Rome. It merges both east and west though the Americas are not included. It is brief but detailed.
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The little details are what make history fascinating to me. We all know that Marc Antony was Caeser's right hand man and that he took up with Cleopatra after Caeser's death, but did we know that Cleopatra sailed into Cilicia Antony's post after the triumvirate was split , in a gilded barge dressed as Venus laying under a ca This is a comprehensive book of the history of the world up to the fall of Rome.
We all know that Marc Antony was Caeser's right hand man and that he took up with Cleopatra after Caeser's death, but did we know that Cleopatra sailed into Cilicia Antony's post after the triumvirate was split , in a gilded barge dressed as Venus laying under a canopy of cloth of gold, fanned by young beautiful boys?