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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.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful
I really like this series. See my review of the first in the series. I have both read and listened to this series before, and for volume one and two I liked them just as much the third time. This volume is interesting, but covers subjects (Caesar and Christ) that have been covered elsewhere. Thus this volume, for many, will be more of a rehash than any of the other volumes. Nevertheless this is just jam packed with details about Roma and early Christianity. The author is a bit less funny about Christianity than he is about other religions and spend more time on imperial Rome than on republican Rome, but this is not too surprising. I still learned more my third time through than I get from most books.
I highly recommend this volume and the series.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful