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I find that in my studies of history, comprehensive and sweeping overviews are invaluable, both to help keep people and events in perspective, and to give me an idea of where I might want to dig deeper later on. I've gone through a number of such overviews over the years, though not one as ambitious as this one. From the mists of legend through to the fall of Rome as the title suggests, Bauer weaves together all of the broad strokes of human history in this time period. For the earlier accounts, history is extrapolated from mythology and archaeology, translating symbolism into human events. Another high point of praise is that most overviews like this will pick a single nation or perhaps a hemisphere. This covers East and West, putting the rise and fall of various dynasties on a timeline that allows the reader to compare and contrast in an way that I've not seen with such effectiveness. Bauer has similar titles for Medieval and Renaissance history, and I'm looking forward to connecting those stories as one larger tapestry.
56 of 60 people found this review helpful
An Excellent Ancient History Review but would be better with Outline. maps and illustrations in PDF to accompany the great lecture and make it easier to follow and understand.
72 of 78 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up The History of the Ancient World in three words, what would they be?
Engaging, fascinating, long.
What other book might you compare The History of the Ancient World to, and why?
Honestly, I have not quite read a book like it. It takes history, which is often bloody and confusing and made it accessible without sacrificing quality.
What does John Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
How to pronounce most of the names! They are quite complex and I would not have been able to manage otherwise.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
I liked the mentions of women, and how their history was more than likely written by someone who had not bothered to check with them if it was actually correct.
Any additional comments?
Really good read for fans of history. I particularly liked the inclusion of China and India, usually books like this are painfully European-centric. I also enjoyed the discussion on the history of writing.
Be warned this book is not really one for fans of social history, and the lives of everyday people. It concerns itself with rulers, wars and conquerers and their fights and deaths. Some mention is made of culture and traditions but the focus is elsewhere.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
I don't know much about Susan Wise Bauer I must admit and this was my first 'experience' with her writing. And experience it was!
Before I begin to destroy the book (!), I suppose it is only fair to say that much of Ancient History, by whomsoever dares to write it, is conjecture. Until you get to about 1500 BCE, there are snippets here and there which can be substatiated reasonably well, after 1500 BCE it improves but not significantly so until we get to around 1200 BCE.
However, that being said, any author who wishes seriously to be taken as a historian, really CANNOT swing between history which uses as its source, archaeological finds and proven, documented transcriptions or transliterations of tablets, or pieces of tablets, and 'history' which uses as its source, The Bible (with no other sourcing whatsoever!). It is absurd! She attempts, for example, to 'prove' parts of her 'history' by citing what the Old Testament has to say in Genesis! I mean, truly, it is utterly absurd! Don't get me wrong, there ARE undoubtedly proven events which happened (and are well-sourced geographically, archeologically and historically) which are also mentioned in The Bible, but it is totally unacceptable to try to pass of vague Biblical references as hard-edged history.
She also notes that she is using BC and AD as she objects to the use of BCE and CE as they seem, to her, to be somewhat pointless (she makes a fair point that BOTH go from the date of Christ and so what is the point of using BCE or CE) but, on the other hand, as a historian myself (a real one!), I have always used BCE and CE as they are commonly internationally recognized and do not rely on 'dog latin' as AD, for example, does. She also claims her history is not just written from a Judeo-Christian standpoint - I take serious issue with this as someone NOT remotely schooled in the Judeo-Christian ethos of the West (which nearly all educative systems DO use to be fair, even in a completely non-religious sense). From my perspective, she writes ENTIRELY from a Judeo-Christian standpoint, as her bizarre willingness to accept Biblical stories as historical fact without question (she literally quotes them and then goes on to say things such as "of course, Abraham would have taken this route because of ... insert totally pointless and implausible reason here" (OK, I'm paraphrasing a bit!)
I do not know what her historical background is but the frustration of dealing with her determination to take The Bible as 'fact' sent me running to Google to find out. It seems she is not a historian at all really! But, hey, she does have some post-graduate qualifications from a theological college! So there you go, all is revealed!
On the other hand, I am not too sure how one goes about writing this tome of an epic in one book (or even three as she does!) as so much of this period really IS based on historians building up pictures of things based on tiny bits of broken tablets and so, to be fair, she isn't necessarily any more useless than some of the others.
But what REALLY annoys me, is that she does not make clear which bits are FACT and which bits are FAIRY TALE. If you are a historian with a reasonable knowledge of this era then you will spot them instantly, they stick out not so much as a sore thumb but more of a dislocated hand!!
I love John Lee's narration, he is one of my favorite readers. Even if he does have the slightly odd habit of sometimes pronouncing really common words wierdly (eg pronouncing primer (as in a Latin primer) as "primmer" (like a prim old lady!)! But he makes the best of this sometimes ridiculous book.
If you want a gentle romp through this period of Ancient History and can stomach The Bible standing in for history (I can't!), then you will love it. If, like me, you know something of this period and like proper sources, you will hate it.
As they say, you pays your money, you takes your choice.
17 of 22 people found this review helpful
I found this book both interesting and informative. Definitely a must for those who are looking for an overview before delving into some more specific areas of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or Chinese history .
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Great narrator. I'll be looking for more of his.
Insightful and articulately written. Very pleased.
I have now bought others in the series and anticipate listening to those.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful