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The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome Kindle Edition

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Length: 896 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bauer (author of the four-volume The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child) guides readers on a fast-paced yet thorough tour of the ancient worlds of Sumer, Egypt, India, China, Greece, Mesopotamia and Rome. Drawing on epics, legal texts, private letters and court histories, she introduces individuals who lived through the famines, plagues, floods, wars and empire building of the ancient world: the marvelous array of characters includes Gilgamesh, Sumer's first epic hero; Yü, the founder of the Xia dynasty in China; and Tiglath-Pileser III, who restored the Assyrian empire's fortunes. Because Bauer covers so much time and territory, she focuses on the Western cultures with which she seems most comfortable; the chapters on Asia and India are the least developed. In addition, some of her assertions—for instance, that the biblical book of Joshua is the clearest guide we possess to the establishment of an Israelite kingdom in Canaan—contradict general scholarly opinion or are simply wrong. However, Bauer's elegant prose and her command of much of the material makes this a wonderful starting point for the study of the ancient world. 80 maps. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Bauer's annals, which span the millennia between the traces of Sumer and the Roman emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity in 312 CE, are an attractive introduction to a subject vast in time and geography. She writes briskly and interpretively, and is attuned throughout to the challenge of rulers: appearing to the ruled as legitimate holders of power. This sensibility makes her narratives acutely interesting, as Bauer pierces the biases inherent in most ancient sources to discern the sincerity or the cynicism with which power seekers pursued their goals. Above, approval of the divine was invaluable; on Earth, a loyal army was indispensable. Acquiring both enabled lawgivers to make their writ stick, and Bauer's chronicles exhibit the interaction of priestly, military, and legal powers as empires and dynasties wax and wane. This endows continuity to her accounts of polities as disparate as the Harappan civilization of the Indus River or the states that emerged from misty prehistory along the Yellow and Yangtze rivers to form China. Nonacademic and sometimes colloquial in composition, Bauer's survey will spark the imagination. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 16769 KB
  • Print Length: 896 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 17, 2007)
  • Publication Date: March 17, 2007
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001PNYJ1C
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,914 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Susan was born in 1968, grew up in Virginia, and was educated at home by pioneering parents, back when home education was still unheard of. She worked as a professional musician, wore a costume at Colonial Williamsburg, toured with a travelling drama group, galloped racehorses at a Virginia racetrack, taught horseback riding, worked in radio and newspaper ad sales, learned enough Korean to teach a Korean four-year-old Sunday school, and served as librarian and reading tutor for the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Center in Williamsburg, Virginia.

In her less haphazard adult life, she earned an M.A., M.Div., and Ph.D. She has taught at the College of William & Mary in Virginia for the last sixteen years. Susan is married and the mother of four.

Susan's most recent book for Norton, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory (2015), guides us back to the original texts that have changed the way we think about our world, our cosmos, and ourselves.!

Her previous book, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (2003), is a guide to reading the classic works of fiction, poetry, history, autobiography, and drama. Norton also published The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (with co-author Jessie Wise); originally published in 1999, this bestselling guide to education in the classical tradition was revised and updated in 2004 and again in 2009.

For Peace Hill Press, Susan has written a four-volume world history series for children, The Story of the World, for Peace Hill Press. Volume 1, Ancient Times, was published in 2002 (revised edition 2006); Volume 2, The Middle Ages, in 2003 (revised edition 2007); and Volume 3, Early Modern Times, in 2004. The final volume, The Modern Age, was published in 2006. She has also written a best-selling elementary writing program, Writing With Ease.

Susan is also the author of The Art of the Public Grovel (Princeton University Press) and many articles and reviews. Visit her blog at

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#44 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 134 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on June 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If political history is the narrative of political (and so often military) events and leaders, this is certainly a political history. It has got the advantage of presenting not only Mesopotamia and Egypt plus Greece and Rome, but also China and India,showing the progress of each part of the Ancient World in paralell. It is concise, interesting and highly readable.

Of course, the author's approach implies choosing a somehow narrow scope: no social or economic history is included, although some religious flavour is, for she masterly uses the myths of each civilization as clues to understand its politics. Taking that into account, I would reccomend also to read (as a complement to this book) "The History of Government. Volume I. Ancient Monarchies and Empires" by S.E. Finer, "Life after Death. A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion" by Alan F. Segal and "Gem in the Lotus.The Seeding of Indian Civilisation" by Abraham Eraly, to mention but a few.
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400 of 439 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gunther on April 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Following up on the success of her children's homeschool history series, Susan Wise Bauer offers this large-scale (750 pages) introduction to ancient history for adults. Bauer, a "print historian" for whom the written record is paramount, tells the story of five ancient civilizations - Egypt, Mesopotamia/the Middle East, Greece/Rome, India, and China - that have left us the most extensive written records. Her narrative focuses entirely on political history: kingdoms, empires, and their rulers; this writer will have no truck with artists, poets, philosophers, architects, or mathematicians; much less with archaeology, anthropology, sociology, or any other of the numerous disciplines that have revolutionized the study of history in the last 50 years.

Rulers and Empires is her only story, but she tells it well; the book is a pleasant read, and the author deserves full credit both for the huge effort involved in producing such a volume, and for the accuracy (the undoubted product of years of sleepless nights spent digesting hundreds of primary reference works) of her narrative. I liked the book, and enjoyed reading it. But it is very limited. There is a kind of imbalance, and tunnel-vision, that becomes more apparent the more one reflects on it. This is a book that has no fewer than eight index entries on Merodach-baladan, an obscure 8th century BC king of Babylon, but not one word on Euclid, and only two sentences on the Parthenon!

To sum up, Bauer's volume, while competently written, perversely omits nearly all of the artistic and intellectual achievements of the ancient world, that alone make that world truly great and worthy of study.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Shawn M. Ritchie on July 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This may be the finest general introduction to Ancient History for the non-specialist I've yet read. Ms Bauer impresses out of the gate by declaring that she will a) focus on personalities and their roles in ancient cultures and b) disregard any civilization's story from the pre-literate era. These are two EXCELLENT decisions for the writer of a general, introductory history to stick with, regardless of how much they may upset the modern specialists out there.

In choosing to simply accept that the vast majority of our available records cover the rulers of the ancient era at the expense of almost any documentation on the lives of the common man, Bauer weaves a narrative that covers that which we reasonably know in a lively, fast-moving fashion, pulling off the tricky feat of acknowledging the gaps in the historical record without getting bogged down in them. The primary movers of the ancient era come alive as the author takes us on a trip through the Sumerian List of Kings, the Bible as a historical document, the disappointing dearth of records of ancient Indian civilizations, and the wealth of Greek and Roman sources. The small, manageable chapters each cover a logically broken-up chunk of a given region's history, with helpful charts at the end of each showing the overlap in events between the current chapter's region and the same timeframe for the previous chapter's region.

Ms Bauer's style of writing is also commendable. She has a lively sense of phrasing that keeps the reader moving through the centuries at a fast clip. Some of her footnotes are actually chuckle-worthy, which helps to break up the overall slog of warfare, drought, famine, enslavement, et al.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Vermonter on September 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
While this is a very readable and fascinating history of the early ancient world, it is the footnotes
that make this so enjoyable. Ms. Bauer lets her personality and wit shine, unlike most historians who cloak their
humanness in dry academic language. To give a taste of what I mean:

Page 269: We learn the entomology of the word "Nimrod" from a king's name in Gen. 10:10 to a term for a failed and ineffectual
person via Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

Page 308: Describing the seduction of an ancient Indian Queen Mother..."When she was a young girl another wise man cornered her
on a boat....and "prevailed over" her, after promising her that she would still be a virgin afterwards, a useful pick-up line unfortunately
available only to magicians.(The queen mother also adds, apropos of nothing, "Till then my body had emitted a revolting odor of fish, but the sage dispelled it and endowed me with a fragrance that I now have- a detail which we should perhaps leave unexplored.)"

Page 246: A long footnote begins "You might wonder why" and then gives a very complicated genealogy of King Tut's family. It then adds."Or you
may not have wondered at all."

I hope this gives a flavor of this unique and comprehensive history. I love overviews which I can then follow up in depth with the events that
interest me the most.
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Topic From this Discussion
For what age group is this book intended?
This is a narrative history (strong storyline) intended for a general adult readership. Any high school student who's a good reader can use it, though.

No discussion questions, but every chapter has maps and timelines.

Mar 7, 2007 by Susan Wise Bauer |  See all 6 posts
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