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The History of the Ancient World

From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
Written by: Susan Wise Bauer
Narrated by: John Lee
Length: 26 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 53.70
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Publisher's Summary

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. This 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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2007 Susan Wise Bauer (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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entertaining history

This is one of the most accessible, comfortable history books I've ever read. I've read the book multiple times, and the audiobook is my go to when I've run out of other material. history told as a story, with a focus in the individuals involved rather than dull, sweeping strokes.

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love history. heres a great starting point.

little overwhelming at points have to re listen to a few chapters. i believe the book comes with documents i just dont know how too access them.

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  • Ellen S. Wilds
  • Silver Spring, MD USA
  • 2014-04-25

An Historic Achievement

If you could sum up The History of the Ancient World in three words, what would they be?

Colourful, In-Depth, Informative

Who was your favorite character and why?

Considering this book covers a vast portion of early human history it is impossible to assign particular value to a single character.

Which scene was your favorite?

Picking just one episode is difficult, but the most memorable to me was the exchange between King Croesus of Lydia and King Cyrus of Persia on the night the Persians looted the fabled wealth of the Lydians. Noting that the defeated monarch was quiet as his city burned, Cyrus asked how he felt about losing his wealth in this manner. "It is not my wealth they are stealing," Croesus replied. "It is yours." Valuable insight into the nature of conquest even today.

Any additional comments?

Although my field is 19th century Victoriana, I have an interest in many periods of history, in particular the Aegean Bronze Age and the early Celts in Europe. This book blends ancient historical accounts, myths, legends, religious texts to weave a tapestry of early human history, including civilizations as diverse as Mesopotamia, India, China and Europe. It is a massive undertaking.

I accept that accuracy is not always possible when the only texts available are those that have been translated, interpreted, and even deified. While experts may disagree on the finer points, the overall effort is worthy of credit. To keep all these many threads separate and clear is a mighty undertaking and I applaud the author for the attempt.

No historical account can be perfect as new discoveries come to light all the time, from archeological digs and manuscript finds to revisions of classic literature. If we waited for historians to agree on the details, no history would ever be written. And that would be a great loss. This is a fine historical overview and what it lacks in depth is more than made up for in breadth.

121 of 127 people found this review helpful

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  • dan
  • saint louis, MO, United States
  • 2015-06-21

Great review of Ancient World History needs maps

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.

113 of 122 people found this review helpful

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  • serine
  • 2016-01-23

Fast paced history

Fast paced history of the ancient world. Wile reading, I could not help but visualize the earlier humans marking their territory as they competed for power and resources, spread out from every corner of Earth to build the cities and civilizations we see today. It's always a good idea to remember from where and from whom we came. This book, though long, will take you on an extremely compact tour from the first kings of whom we are aware through the fall of Rome. It covers how power and land were gained, how laws were written and followed (or not followed), and how ideals were born or killed in different regions of our globe.

Since this book provides a history for such a long stretch of time, at no time does it go into great detail of any particular period or king. The book is already longer than most books. If Wise Bauer were to go into more detail, the book would simply be another book. Rather, this book gives the reader a mere glimpse into each time period as it races along. I made of note of the time periods and leaders I would like to read more about later.

At times the author, like all authors before her, had to construct the story from sources that are difficult to verify or are included in religious texts that might be unreliable in providing an accurate history. In those cases, she did a great job and informing the reader about the speculative nature of the narrative. Excellent writing. Excellent timeline. Excellent history.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Troy
  • 2014-04-28

A Fantastic Overview!

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.

66 of 72 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Seccombe
  • Canton OH
  • 2016-01-10

Entertaining history lesson with dry telling.

I enjoyed this brief history. My only complaint is that the voice of the author is completely lost with the choice of narrator. I can hear the levity in the words, but the dry presentation of this material causes a loss of the authors attempt to make the story engaging. In fact some of her hilarious editorial comments are completely lost.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Carpenter
  • 2015-04-09

Overall good

This was an incredible journey through the ancient World bouncing seamlessly from one end of it to the other and everything in between. My only real suggestion for improvement would be in the delivery. The narrator failed to pause when something momentous was to happen like the death of a ruler. He just blew through it like any of the rest of the facts. It is a tone, rate of speech and emphasis thing. To be fair, maybe that is the point. With so many leaders being poisoned, hacked to death, back stabbed, suicidal, etc. maybe it is better to just plow through.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Dan
  • Arlington, TX, United States
  • 2015-05-09

Disappointing

Perhaps reading this would have been a better experience. It was hard (for me) to get a decent grasp of where we were in the overall storytelling. It just jumped around too much for me. Perhaps some transitional thoughts would have pulled things together...like "Meanwhile, in Persia....." or something.

52 of 60 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 2016-08-22

A Sermon on World History

Any additional comments?

I wanted to like this book. I really tried. I love history. If you want a lot of history; Bauer has provided it herein. Starting with the beginning of the recorded events of humanity much like your High School and College courses likely did. Unfortunately, it drags. It really, really drags. Not a single character stands out as interesting. In the preface it is pointed out that historians, unlike archaeologists, need to hitch their version of events to the stories of the people who did interesting things and not just lists of facts and dates. Then the book goes on to be lists of names, dates & facts for thousands of years. Lists of Kings and their offspring are batched with tiny banal factoids about their reigns are followed by more lists of Kings and factoids. Narrator John Lee has an amazing voice but unfortunately it does not fit well with this material. He sounds like a Minister delivering a veeery loong Sermon and it begins to grate on the nerves. He would do better narrating Epics & Biblical novels. Bauer knows a lot of history and Lee has a booming voice and clearly a lot of work went into the material but in this format it just doesn't play well.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • K. Doerr
  • 2015-10-19

A twenty six hour sketch

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Most folks my age (mid fifties) who grew up in the States took their 'ancient history' class when they didn't talk about China or the Middle East (aside from Israel) at all. If I had a friend who never took the time to fix that blind spot in their education, I might recommend this book.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The ending was the Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon's book on that one subject is five times longer than this entire work. Like so much of this book, the ending seemed rushed.

What about John Lee’s performance did you like?

The tone of his voice.

Could you see The History of the Ancient World being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

This is a good question. The book *would* make an interesting BBC/PBS series. That said, I have to point out that a person usually looks for more depth from a book, than a television series provides.

Any additional comments?

What the author is attempting to do here is very ambitious, but I don't think it succeeds. I'm not sure anyone could have done any better in 26 hours. It is an enormous span of time and geography.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • christopher
  • 2014-04-10

A tour de force, almost

A remarkable piece of work which gives an extraordinary overview and manages give a taste of the subject matter without getting lost in the details. The last 400 years were a bit rushed but I don't think it was necessary to do that bit. The author could comfortably stopped with the effective establishment of the Roman Empire. Pace was generally speaking good - there were few places where I just wanted to get on with it. I have come away having learned a great deal and feel that an important contribution has been made to my already 67 year old education. Then also I have to say that while I found the reader's delivery irritating on occasion, his pronunciation of those middle eastern and Chinese names with I believe perfect consistency was amazing and, perhaps surprisingly, made its own independent contribution to my enjoyment of the book.
So why "almost" ? Alright, I bought into the premise that while we have little in the way of historical documentation surviving from the three or four thousand years BC we do have myths and it is possible that within those myths there may lurk the kernel of the truth so why not let's pretend that they are actual history. So when we got to talking about David and his achievements, I could not help but recall a recent BBC documentary which argued with some force that the almost total lack of archaeological evidence for David's architectural accomplishments stongly suggests that the Biblical David is a construct designed with political intentions and with little real history behind it. Not that I believe everything that is put in front of me, but The History does at some level purport to be an academic work. The uncritical acceptance of the Biblical version of David suddenly made me a whole lot less inclined to accept myth as the basis for history, even with tongue in cheek.'
Still, I doubt if there are many works around where the author demonstrates such a grasp of her subject matter, such an ability to put it into context and such a fund of well-selected material to illustrate her work..

59 of 74 people found this review helpful