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Customer reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
18
A History of Ancient Egypt
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on June 4, 2015
While I'm not through the whole book yet, the information is presented in a very concise and not overly exhaustive manner while still being thorough. The writing is expertly composed so that it is anything but a bore to read, despite being an unapologetic history book.
1 helpful vote
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on May 10, 2015
A good summary of the periods, pharaohs, high lights of the ancient Egyptian world.
1 helpful vote
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on April 9, 2010
If you are involved in the study of ancient Egypt or you just want to know more about the Pharaos, this is the book to go for!
1 helpful vote
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on April 6, 2006
A History of Ancient Egypt, a translation from the original French, is an excellent and readable introduction to Egyptian History. It provides an overview of the major political and social events in Egypt beginning with a brief survey of prehistory and ending with the conquest by Alexander the Great. The book covers the old, middle, and new kingdoms as well as the intermediate periods and ends with two chapters on the Nubian/Saite and Persian/Greek periods. It also includes a chapter on the "invasion" of the Hyksos as well as chapter describing the religious changes made by Akhenaten.

The book's great strength is its readability and continuity. While other histories of Egypt often get bogged down in archeological details, Grimal's work connects the dots in a smooth and engaging narrative style. It may be that he occasionally glosses the fine points to provide continuity, but having read more detailed texts (Oxford History of Ancient Egypt), I believe his book provides a clearer picture for the beginner.

This is not to say that the book lacks accuracy but scholars of Egyptian history will no doubt have their difficulties with some of Grimal's details. The book was first published in 1988 and, as such, is slightly out of date. Grimal also tends to use Greek names for most pharaohs as well many place names ie. Cheops instead of Khufu for the builder of the great pyramid. This can be a little confusing to the inexperienced reader if they have previously encountered other variants.

While the book covers the major political events in ancient Egypt, the inclusion of chapters explaining the Egyptian system of religious beliefs, funerary practices and a long description of the temple complexes at Karnak provide much needed background. The plates (all black and white) in the book are adequate, although often the maps lack detail. For the interested reader I would recommend "Le Description de L'Egypte", put out by Benedikt Taschen Verlag. This book, a beautiful collection of paintings, architectural drawings and maps, produced by a team commissioned by Napoleon, fills in many of the visual details missing in Grimal's work.

I would strongly recommend "A History of Ancient Egypt" to the casual reader, interested in Egyptian history, who does not want to be swamped with details. For the more scholarly it includes a brief glossary, a chronology of dynasties, an extensive bibliography, annotated suggestions for further reading and a fairly detailed index. Because of this it might also be useful as an introductory text in Egyptology, but given its age and narrative style, it will likely not be the first choice of experienced Egyptologists.
21 helpful votes
22 helpful votes
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on December 10, 2006
Seeking a solid overview of Ancient Egyptian history, I chose this book on the strong recommendations of Amazon readers. I was not disappointed. While the book is a bit dated (the English edition came out in 1992), it was more than adequte. Grimal presents a detailed history of Egypt from predynastic times through the conquest of Alexander, focusing on relgion, economics and society as well as political history.

The chapters on the Old and New Kingdom were particularly strong - the interrelationship of politics and religion were very clearly written. The chaptes on the first and second intermediate periods and the Middle Kingdom were more diffucult for me to follow, although that may be more a function of my lack of familiarity than the fault of the author. All in all, an excellent introduction, certainly accessable for the lay reader.
5 helpful votes
6 helpful votes
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on January 4, 2004
I would recommend Nicolas Grimal's 1988 work on Ancient Egypt to both the professional Egyptologist and the average reader. I personally enjoyed his book because of his clear and concise prose. Grimal's book covers Egypt's Ancient History from the PreDynastic period until 333 BC when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. Grimal never tries to hide gaps in Egyptologist's knowledge of certain periods of Egypt's History--especially the serious difficulties in distinguishing numerous Libyan era Pharaohs who used similiar prenomens/royal names such as Usermaatre Setepenre Osorkon II and III and Hedjkheperre Setepenre Takelot I and II--and smoothly recounts the political, cultural and economic history of Ancient Egypt within a coherent sequence and well supported Chronology. Grimal's book holds up very well for the Old, Middle, New Kingdom and post-664 BC Egypt. His careful treatment of the literature and culture of the First and Second Intermediate Periods is particularly commendable. However, his study of the Third Intermediate Period Era (TIPE) does not contain an update of the most significant archaeological discoveries and theories which have surfaced from 1989 until 2005. In this brief period, Egyptologist's understanding of the TIPE have increased exponentially.

Since 1988, a new Dynasty 22 Tanite king--Sheshonq IV who intervened between Sheshonq III and Pami--has been discovered. Pami's Highest date is now his 7th and Final Year, rather than his 6th Year, as an Annal document from Heliopolis which records his Yearly donations to the local Gods of this city, attests. (Source: 1998 BIFAO article by M. Gabolde) Most Egyptologists today accept the evidence from David Aston's seminal JEA 75 (1989) pp.139-153 paper that Takelot II ruled Egypt concurrently with two Tanite Dynasty 22 kings--Osorkon II and Sheshonq III. Takelot II controlled Upper Egypt where he and his son, the High Priest Osorkon B, are well attested while the 22nd Dynasty Pharaohs held Lower Egypt. Takelot II did not succeed Osorkon II at Tanis (Sheshonq III did), and is now believed to have died around the 22nd Year of Sheshonq III as the Chronicle of Prince Osorkon implies. (ie: Year 25 of Takelot II=Year 22 of Sheshonq III) Aston's hypothesis has now been accepted by most Egyptologists such as Aidan Dodson, MA Leahy, Jansen-Winkeln, Rolf Krauss and J. Von Beckerath--the latter in his 1997 German language book, Chronology of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The tomb of a certain Hedjkheperre Setepenre Takelot in the Tanite Royal Necropolis and a Year 9 Bubastis stela have now been attributed to Takelot I, rather than Takelot II by all Egyptologists, including K.A. Kitchen himself in his 3rd edition (1996) book on the Third Intermediate Period. The confusion in establishing the identities of these 2 distinct kings was caused by the fact that both rulers employed the same prenomen--Hedjkheperre Setepenre. Finally, a stela dating to Takelot III's Year 13 was found in February 2005 at Dakhla by American archaeologists.

Grimal notes the Libyan chaos of the final years of the 22nd Dynasty which occured in Lower Egypt. By the time of the Nubian king Piye's Year 20 conquest of Egypt, both Takelot III and his poorly known brother Rudamun (at 2-3 Years) were dead, as Piye's Victory stela shows since their Kingdom had fragmented into several city states headed by local kings such as Nimlot of Hermopolis and Peftjaubast of Herakleopolis. Meanwhile, the death of Shoshenq V led to the collapse of the 22nd Dyansty in Lower Egypt as numerous local kings appeared in its wake from Osorkon IV at Tanis and Bubastis, Iuput II at Leontopolis and Tefnakht of Sais--the most powerful Egyptian ruler who posed a threat to Nubian control over Egypt.

All in all, Grimal's book is a worthy successor to Alan Gardiner's invaluable 1961 'Egypt of the Pharaohs' work, and makes an important contribution to our understanding of the many different eras of Ancient Egypt. There are few other Egyptological works that have the breath, depth and quality of Nicolas Grimal's study which takes up more than 400 pages before you even reach the Bibliography. Professor Grimal is a master in his field at the elite University of Paris, Sorbonne. You definitely cannot go wrong with this book.
11 helpful votes
12 helpful votes
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on August 18, 2001
I have mixed feelings about this work. Firstly, it's a reprint of the original copyrighted in 1988. Consequently, the plates are of poor quality but except for the maps - you really don't need them; there are better sources.
The author has an unfortunate habit of mixing the AE and Grecian pharonic names willy-nilly. This will confuse all but the experts who won't be reading this work anyway since despite what the flyleaf says - this is not a very scholarly work; and the authors assumes too much on the part of his reader. I reccomend that the reader have by his/her side Clayton's excellant Chronicle of the Pharaohs when reading this work to clear up the inevitable confusion. To make matters worse, the author leaves out sub-heads which would serve as much needed guideposts.
My other complaint is that the authors translations of some the pharonic names are not completely 'accurate' - a minor point however.
I reccomend this work for the bookshelves of the beginner and intermediate student of AE history despite all but in conjunction with - not as a substitute for - Breasted's seminal (if dated) work. It is not an egyptologist's vade mecum by any stretch.
5 helpful votes
6 helpful votes
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on April 21, 1999
While a little dry, this work does manage to span the whole of Egyptian history--Archaic period to Graeco-Roman times--which is a feat in itself, especially when all possible facts are squeezed in wherever possible. While this last factor does become a little overwhelming in places, it still shows why "A History of Ancient Egypt" finds a place in many of the bibliographies of its successors. The chapters in the new Kingdom--particularly the XVIIIth Dynasty--are a wonderful source of knowledge pertaining to the pharaohs within. The plates are fine, although some are a bit grainy. For those of you who wonder, I make a habit of commenting on the quality of the plates because they make up part of any book's price. What few faults this book has are mostly in readability, not scholarly details, so nevermind the one or two fuzzy plates and indulge. While not the first thing I would recomend, it beats Kent Week's take on KV5 without trying and has no such petty and careless mistakes as miscounting the number of Akhenaten and Nefertiti's daughters (six, not five, Kent).
13 helpful votes
14 helpful votes
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on November 5, 2008
It's jammed to the gills with information (with a heavy emphasis on pharaonic building projects and dynastic politics; enough about workers and workers' villages to be tantalizing; I wish there were more). I'm not competent to assess how far out of date it is with regard to the Third Intermediate Period, as one reader has charged above. (Most general readers won't care about the Third Intermediate Period one way or the other.) It's been commended for its lucidity by several readers here; but I thought Grimal had an annoying habit of changing the subject without sufficient warning; and the exposition is some times less than completely clear (in part from a penchant of the author for cramming every sentence with information, much of it tangential to the main point). Most infuriating of all was the lack of a single good map of all important Egyptian sites (from Lower Egypt to upper, and on into Nubia for that matter). I had to go to Cyril Aldred's book on Ancient Egypt for an adequate map. Despite these minor flaws, I recommend this book as an excellent survey for an interested non-specialist, like me.
1 helpful vote
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2002
This is one of the textbooks we used in a class at Columbia University. It is rather older than I'd ideally like an introductory textbook to be, but until I see a better and more accessible book this may have to do. I think Grimal (and Shaw) do a good job of interweaving economics, culture, and political history together; a rather difficult thing to do at times and there are moments of confusion in the text. However, many other books on Egyptian history focus on one particular issue or use one historical approach and those are just not appropriate for introductory texts in either the classroom or for the layperson. I think that if a teacher were to use other information in lecture or assignments this particular textbook is just fine for the college level.
17 helpful votes
18 helpful votes
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