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

Susan Wise Bauer
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A lively and engaging narrative history showing the common threads in the cultures that gave birth to our own.

This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history.

Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This old-fashioned narrative history employs the methods of “history from beneath”—literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts—to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.

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)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001PNYJ1C
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,882 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 118 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Political history of the Ancient World at its best June 23, 2007
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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369 of 407 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Pretty Good, But Very Limited, History April 17, 2007
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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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
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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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Readable History--highly recommended!! March 29, 2007
My sons and I have read and enjoyed Bauer's Story of the World series, so when I saw that this book was coming out I pre-ordered it. I thought it might be over our heads but we have enjoyed it immensely. The 11 yo snagged it and read 18 chapters the first day! I am not a history buff but I homeschool my kids so I am always on the lookout for good books. I found The History of the Ancient World to be much more readable, enjoyable, and cohesive than the high school and college history texts we have used previously. This book could be used to homeschool high school, but you don't have to be a homeschooler to enjoy it. I think anyone with an interest in ancient history would enjoy this book. The plethora of maps and timelines really make it easy to see connections. Highly recommended!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid foundation for ancient history buffs
Covering human history from Gilgamesh to Constantine, Susan Wise Bauer does an excellent job of drawing parallels between Mesopotamia, China, India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John A. Schwartz
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done
Very informative, well written and great reference and foot notes
Published 1 month ago by DJR
5.0 out of 5 stars bought it for my high school child as a supplement ...
bought it for my high school child as a supplement to her school work, but i found to be enjoying it on my own. Read more
Published 1 month ago by LASH
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Elias G. Ghosn
3.0 out of 5 stars Tutankhamen son of Akhenaten
Yes, I agree with other reviews that the text has a christian bias, although I don't think it is so bad that the critical reader cannot make up his/her own mind. Read more
Published 2 months ago by E. Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good book and easy to read about the ancient times
Published 2 months ago by Hameed Ali Hassan
2.0 out of 5 stars I could kick myself
I bought this on a whim. The author seemed vaguely familiar but I couldn't place her. I could after I started reading. Read more
Published 2 months ago by N. Perz
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by lina daugeliene
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read and very informative history!
I've read three of Susan Bauer's histories and enjoyed all three. They have a very easy to read, engaging writing style. Read more
Published 3 months ago by William E. Liberatore
1.0 out of 5 stars Susan Wise Bauer
I wish I had read this author's wikipage before choosing this audiobook on Audible. In short the title should read: The History of the Ancient World: According to the Old... Read more
Published 3 months ago by E. Smith
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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 History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (2010), is the second in a four-volume series providing a narrative world history. Look for the first volume, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, as well!

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

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#66 in Books > History
#66 in Books > History


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