The History of Ancient Egypt : The Great Courses: Ancient History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Bob Brier
  • Series: The Great Courses: Ancient History
  • 24 hrs and 25 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Ancient Egyptian civilization is so grand our minds sometimes have difficulty adjusting to it. It lasted 3,000 years, longer than any other on the planet. Its Great Pyramid of Cheops was the tallest building in the world until well into the 19th century and remains the only Ancient Wonder still standing. And it was the most technologically advanced of the ancient civilizations, with the medical knowledge that made Egyptian physicians the most famous in the world.
Yet even after deciphering its hieroglyphs, and marveling at its scarabs, mummies, obelisks, and sphinxes, Egyptian civilization remains one of history's most mysterious, as "other" as it is extraordinary. This chronological survey presents the complete history of ancient Egypt's three great Kingdoms: the Old Kingdom, when the pyramids were built and Egypt became a nation under the supreme rule of the pharaoh and the rules of Egyptian art were established; the Middle Kingdom, when Egypt was a nation fighting to restore its greatness; and the New Kingdom, when all the names we know today-Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen, Ramses the Great, Cleopatra, and others-first appeared. Professor Brier's 48 lectures glisten with the kind of vivid anecdotes and human glimpses that make this ancient world breathe again.
"The fun of history is in the details," he notes. "Knowing that Ramses the Great was crippled by arthritis for the last decade of his long life makes us more sympathetic to the boastful monarch who fathered more than 100 children. If we understand what it was like to be a miner sent to the turquoise mines in the Sinai mountains in the summer, we will feel a kinship with our long-dead counterparts."

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Incomprehensibly complete

I once had the opportunity to listen to this series, and I did so twice. Now the opportunity to own it on Audible has put tears in my eyes, literally tears in my eyes. This series won't make you an Egyptologist, but you will know so much by the end of it that the uninitiated might mistake you for one. I once visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a friend and when we hit the Egypt section I turned into a tour guide. After explaining how the Temple of Dendur ended up in New York, I turned and drew her attention to the interesting art style of the Amarna panels, and at this point she stopped me and asked, "How do you know all this?" This is how I know all this. I once held a group of people around a campfire in Eastern Washington spellbound for an hour as spoke on what we owed to the Egyptians, the basic ways of thinking and acting that we owe to them. I'm serious... spellbound (it helped that everyone was a bit intoxicated.)

This series will make you interesting. They might as well stick a guarantee on it.

Just to give you an idea... there's a half hour on mummified animals. Mummified ANIMALS. There's already about two solid hours on human mummies, but Brier feels that to be complete you need to know about the animals as well. If you are thinking, "How am I going to get through thirty minutes on dried up animals, let alone 24 solid hours on Egypt?" let me assure you, it will be over before you know it and before you want it to be. I've listened to a lot of Teaching Company lectures in my time, and while they never have anyone truly boring you often are reminded that these people are all university professors. But Brier's delivery is almost mesmerizing, his enthusiasm for the subject positively boyish. This series will never require your patience.

There may be special interest to those with an interest in Biblical history, whether you are Christian or otherwise. Whenever you reach a point where Biblical history intersects with Egyptian, Brier will stop and discuss it. There are several lectures devoted exclusively to the topic. I'll lay it out: Brier is a historian and therefore does not regard the Bible stories as literal truths, but he treats them with true sympathy and interest. His conclusions really surprised me, especially regarding the Exodus. His speculations on Joseph are perhaps more of a stretch.

The one rather slight downside to the whole series is that Brier has some rather fanciful theories about the life and times... and death... of Tutankhamen, a lot of which have been, if I'm not mistaken, disproven in the years since this first came out and which anyway were never taken seriously in mainstream Egyptology. Speculating about the Bible is one thing, but Brier doesn't pretend it's anything but speculation. His Tutankhamen material is, despite disclaimers, told with the passion of a true believer, which makes it slightly tragic when you discover afterwards that some of the basic facts just aren't there. It makes for an interesting listen, at least.

Overall, this is a MUST PURCHASE. Everyone needs a pair of really good shoes, a couple of good jackets, and a lecture series on Ancient Egypt. Do not hesitate.
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- Nassir

Well spoken and informative introduction

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I have been an audible customer for many years now with over 1000 books in my library but this is my first review. I write it because of another review of this book that I found to be completely off the mark. This course is an introduction and as such, it is basic history and background. With over 2,500 years worth of history to cover, it would be impossible to go into much detail. Having said this, Dr. Brier does an excellent job of making the history and culture come alive. His knowledge of,and passion for, the subject come through in vivid detail. The course touches on history, religion, culture and legacy of the oldest and longest lasting civilization on the planet, not an easy task for a single course.
The review which prompted this response stated that Dr. Brier seemed to talk down to his audience and pushed forward his own opinions too much. He did, but with reason. Dr. Brier is famous as the PBS star who's films have educated an entire generation about the wonders of Egypt. He is the world's foremost expert on the process of making mummies and is the only one in modern times to successfully reproduce an authentic mummified body. There is no one who better combines the expertise, knowledge, experience and showmanship then Dr. Brier. For basic overview and general knowledge this course is excellent, informative and enjoyable. If you desire more in depth knowledge, then a more specific title would be more valuable to you. If you like mummies, this course has more specific information then any other I have found.


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- Patralis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses