Book Review: The History of the Ancient World

My review of The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer

Completed September, 2010

This book took me quite a while to get through, but reading it was most definitely worth the time spent. Bauer is skilled at turning the facts of history into a compelling story. It is very easy to get bogged down in ancient history, with the rises and falls of kings and empires that seem to rarely learn from each other but rather get stuck on repeat. Truly there is nothing new under the sun. But this book and the characters and events in it held my interest so well that I am excited to continue delving into this era in more detail. A love for history has been born!

The one thing that amazed me the most as I read this is that the human race has come as far as we have. With all of the greed, corruption, fighting, and disease, it seems that we should have become extinct centuries ago. Growing up in a time where the world is mostly at peace, it is hard for me to fathom the life most ancients considered normal. Life was so uncertain and unjust, and yet the human race somehow found reason to continue, to hope.

The book stops short of covering the entire decline of the Roman Empire – it leaves off with Constantine as emperor and the empire’s borders being threatened by both the reemerged Persians in the east and the Goths in the north. At this point, the empire has been weakened by inner power struggles and restructuring, and is now split in two. So I guess this is the beginning of the end, but I will have to read the next volume to see how things play out from here!

I highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in history but finds regular history texts a bit dry and uncompelling. In my opinion, history is best told as a story, and Bauer is a top-notch story teller. Her insight and humor keep the pages turning, and her casual style keeps even a novice such as myself from feeling overwhelmed. This book is a great starting point for someone looking to begin a study of the history they never learned in school.

5/5 stars, highly recommended.

2 CommentsLeave a comment »
  • March 2, 2011 Reply
    Devin said:

    What is the youngest age group you believe could read this profitably?

    • March 2, 2011 Reply
      Virtual Pilgrim said:

      Probably 9th grade and up. Another thing I should mention is that it is a purely political history, so in order to get a feel for what life would have been like for the average person living in those times it would need to be supplemented.

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