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Publisher's Summary

Founded by Alexander the Great and built by self-styled Greek pharaohs, the city of Alexandria at its height dwarfed both Athens and Rome. It was the marvel of its age, legendary for its vast palaces, safe harbors, and magnificent lighthouse. But it was most famous for the astonishing intellectual efflorescence it fostered and the library it produced. If the European Renaissance was the "rebirth" of Western culture, then Alexandria, Egypt, was its birthplace. It was here mankind first discovered that the earth was not flat, originated atomic theory, invented geometry, systematized grammar, translated the Old Testament into Greek, built the steam engine, and passed their discoveries on to future generations via the written word. Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Jewish scholars, Greek philosophers, and devout early Christians all play a part in the rise and fall of the city that stood "at the conjunction of the whole world". Sparkling with fresh insights into science, philosophy, culture, and invention, this is an irresistible, edifying delight.
©2006 Justin Pollard and Howard Reid (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"A nourishing account." (Publishers Weekly)
"Classical history buffs will savor this survey." (Booklist)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Jeffrey on 10-02-08

A good listen

I would call this book a sort of "missing link." Not in the regard of new information or discovery but in the sense that most people are taught history in a sort of huge bulleted list. The way I was taught history, it was like reading a paper that has no transition sentences and therefore the relevance of each event was not adequately portrayed. In other words, I knew something about Alexandria, something about Alexander the great's importance to the Roman empire, and something about the library and the lighthouse. Also, with a background in science, the stories of archimedes and the like were briefly told to me. However this book is a good explanation of the actual story and importance of the history of this pivotal city. I especially enjoyed learning its role in the rise and characterization of christianity.

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40 of 40 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Tad Davis on 06-28-11


I'd read a little bit about Alexandria (mostly in Stacy Schiff's book on Cleopatra), but I never dreamed its history was so intimately connected with such vast stretches of the intellectual, political, and religious history of the ancient world. Pollard and Reid spin a fascinating yarn that unites Alexander the Great, the Septuagint, maps of the world, clocks and odometers, Cleopatra, the steam engine, animatronics, and the brutal killing of Hypatia in a single overarching narrative. And when I mention those items of particular interest (to me), I'm only scratching the surface. A brilliant history with an unusual approach, and (as usual) impeccable narration from Simon Vance.

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24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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