The third volume of Will Durant's Pulitzer Prize-winning series, Caesar and Christ chronicles the history of Roman civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325. In this masterful work, listeners will learn about:
The Etruscan civilization of ancient Italy The birth of the Roman Republic and the beginnings of Roman law The great reigns of Caesar and Antony The people of Rome - the artisans, tradesmen, and scientists The places of Rome's great empire The beginnings of Christianity and its growth The rise of Constantine and the fall of the empire
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Will (and Ariel) Durant’s 11 volume History of Civilization is an attempt to understand our current political, economic and social system in light of what came before and the progression of events that led us to where we are today. This is volume 3 of that set.
Mr Durant’s writing is bright, sprightly and full of the irony of human existence. This book covers the entire history of Rome from its founding through its fall as well as the birth and early years of Christianity. It includes a synopsis of the New Testament by summarizing the life of Jesus and the actions of the Apostles after his crucifixion and goes a good way to explain the rise and triumph of Christianity over the Pagan religions and of Rome itself. The book also includes a chapter covering the reasons for the fall of Rome to those it considered to be barbarians and the list of reasons given cannot help but give pause to anyone surveying our current politics.
The book is quite old (copyrighted 1942) and thus does not contain some information which has been found since the writing of the book, but it is still a wonderful description of the period, the people, their philosophies, religions, arts, writers, politics and history. The book is comprehensive enough to cover all relevant events during the 1000 plus years but sometimes veers off onto subjects that the reader may find to be of less interest. While I personally could have skipped some of the sections covering individual Stoic and Epicurean philosophers as well as the section of Roman music, the book is so varied and covers so much that readers will almost certainly find whatever information they may be looking for in it regardless of whether or not that particular information is normally included in other histories of Rome.
The book covers a broad range of subjects concerning ancient Rome although none are covered in extraordinary depth and the reader may want to pick up separate books covering specific areas of interest to find out more about them. As examples the Punic Wars and the Roman Civil War are covered briefly enough to understand their significance to Rome but the reader may want more information about them than is provided here.
One drawback of the Audible version of this book is that it does not include downloads of the maps and photos that are in the print version and thus the listener will be missing the ability to actually see some of the items of art that are being described. That is not a problem particular to this book but is a general problem with spoken books and I found myself taking out the print version (I have the entire set of The History of Civilization in print format) and inspecting the photos of the statues and pottery that Mr Durant describes in the book and the ability to do that was a big help.
The book is narrated by Grover Gardner and it is hard to see how a better narrator could have been selected. Mr Gardner’s voice is perfectly suited to this kind of book and it was a pleasure to listen to him. With the exception of what seemed to me to be a couple of misspoken dates during the narration Mr Gardner did a flawless job and adds immensely to the enjoyment of the book. I will be keeping my eyes open for any remaining volumes of the 11 volume history should they become available on Audible and now expect to pick up the next volume (The Age of Faith) in its Audible version.
A superb book by a superb narrator for anyone interested in the rise and fall of Rome and the rise of Christianity.
Going against the grain of other reviewers, I struggled to finish this long and very, very detailed book. I had hoped, incorrectly, that Mr. Durant would discuss the relationship of Rome to christianity, the decline of one, the rise of the other. Perhaps I misunderstood the whole series. Instead he spends only the briefest of times on multiple topics, everything you would want to know [or perhaps not, as with me] on Rome's philosophers, historians, poets, builders, rulers, artwork, building supplies, or, with christianity, not only Jesus [briefly] but all of the noncanonical gospels and gnostic works that arose after his death and were ultimately declared heretical. The difficulty was that the narrative, the GREATNESS of Rome, became lost in the mind numbing recitation of this philosopher, how he influenced that philosopher, or artwork, or life and routine in the daily life of a Roman, etc. I guess if you really, really want to know the details of ancient Rome, this book is for you, but I found myself, uncharacteristically, fast forwarding just to get through it. I waited, and waited, and waited for the book to discuss Christianity, which he only does in about hour 30 of a 36 hour book..He then goes out of his way to provide an explanation of Jesus, his miracles and influence that is everything but divine, or rather, leaving no possibility that these could have occurred, and that everything Jesus did can explained away "rationally". To be clear, I do not criticize Mr. Durant for not believing in the divinity of Jesus, but he doesn't even leave open the possibility that there can be a "nonscientific" explanation for what Jesus said and did, and his ( Durant's) brief exploration of Jesus provides no basis or explanation for an influence which remains with us 2000 years later. If Jesus was that ordinary, it is highly unlikely we would still be talking about him today, but if you read only Mr. Durant, you wouldn't know that.
Again he draws little relationship between Christianity and the Roman Empire. Others have praised it, I found it, in the end, tedious.
Grover Gardner is the best - no criticism of him. I would otherwise have turned it off in and around hour 20.