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

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  1,014 ratings  ·  134 reviews

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 b
Kindle Edition, 896 pages
Published (first published 2007)
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I'm about halfway through this book, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. In a style similar to her history books for school-age children, the author presents short episodes of history, always formed as narratives based around human interactions and personalities, and jumping between centers of civilization in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and the Mediterranean. Personalities arise from the mists of history, even from the evidence of fragmentary clay records and broken and buried monuments. Patte ...more
Alex Telander
THE HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: FROM THE EARLIEST ACCOUNTS TO THE FALL OF ROME BY SUSAN WISE BAUER: The History of the Ancient World is Susan Wise Bauer’s first book of a four-volume series, as she attempts to recount a complete history of the world. In this first tome, she covers humanity’s beginnings of civilization, as we changed our nomadic ways, on through the ancient world, up to Emperor Constantine and the fall of the great Roman Empire. Weighing in at 860 pages, including notes and bib ...more
This book changed my perspective on humanity. Who we are. What we've done. And the fact that there's nothing new under the sun. It was especially interesting for me, as a Christian, to see how secular history overlaps and influences the Biblical stories that shape my faith. A must read....can't wait for volume 2.


February 2010: Picking up to read this again since I enjoyed it so much the first time....
The History of the Ancient World was a well-written survey covering everything from the earliest written accounts of the ancient Sumerians to the pinnacle of the power of Rome. Susan Wise Bauer did a wonderful job of summarizing each period and people group of Asia and Europe, spreading memorable and sometimes humorous remarks throughout to keep the reading a little bit lighter in the midst of some very tragic events.

The more I read, the more I was reminded of man's depravity. There are some ins
This is a 30,000 ft. view of ancient history. It reads quickly and the writing is clear and interesting. The main theme is the use of might to create empires.

Though Ms. Bauer is a Christian, this is not an explicitly religious text at all. She maintains her "historical" voice by quoting other texts. I'm sure that, as with all historical books, some people could disagree with her conclusions or quibble with her methods, but this is intended as an introduction, and it serves that purpose without
Scott Gray
In crafting a narrative history of the ancient world, Susan Bauer has done something that i personally found both novel and fascinating —using the written records of past civilizations as her foundation and baseline. In her introduction, Bauer talks about how the study of history has necessarily always broken down to a study of archaeology where the written record fails. Her book is thus a specific attempt to shape the historical narrative as it was told by the people who wrote it, combining for ...more
This is an excellent historical text. It provides some much needed narrative detail to the often dry and obfuscated facts regarding some of the earliest civilizations of mankind. I especially liked her descriptions of the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations, as they were done with a real human-touch, as opposed to the typically artifact-heavy archaeology-driven proto-histories I am used to.

The one complaint I have about this book is that the author, probably a Christian herself, does not shy awa
Alex Nelson
Although an impressive scope, the approach I feel was flawed.

First, the author takes a "big person" historiographical approach. This seems terribly cartoonish...

Next, the history seems questionable. Take the exodus, for example. Now, there is no archaelogical evidence for the Hebrew exodus from Egypt, there is no empirical evidence supporting it...the only document mentioning the exodus is the Torah, written some 500+ years after the event. (Imagine how accurate a description one would have of s
Connor Pickett
Jun 27, 2014 Connor Pickett rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves history
The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer was a fairly interesting book. It starts off with the first accounts that humans recorded - which were little clay tabs on traded products to signify that the original owner sent it - and ends with Rome falling after Constantine decided to create a new empire in the name of Christ.

The first portion of the book focuses on Egypt and Mesopotamia, where the first trade and international communicatio
Steve Hemmeke
I wrapped this book up last night - no small feat at 777 pages. Bauer does a pretty decent job reviewing a lot of information - from the beginning of time to Constantine, covering China, India, Egpyt, Rome and everyone in between with a written history in that time. She makes a valiant attempt to keep it from being encyclopedic, and sometimes succeeds. It is lively at points, with wry quips here and there. Sadly, some of these have a jaded feminist edge to them, but they don't ruin the flow.

A gr
I was looking for a broad book on world history, and this book delivered exactly that for ancient history. Coming in at close to 800 pages, this book can appear daunting, but Susan Wise Bauer's writing style keeps you interested throughout. And despite its length, and only covering up until 200AD or so, the book cannot spend too much time on any one period. This book is just enough to whet your appetite for further study in particular areas of interest.

The author has made the deliberate decision
As an aspiring history buff dreaming of one day graduating with a History major, I found in this book an example of what I have aspire for. Susan Wise Bauer does a tremendous job which my simple words will never be able to transmit. Really, this history has everything I wish someday to be able to write. comprehensive chapters which last the appropriate amount (15 pages tops), clear timelines to help you sort through the many kings and conquerors, maps detailing the world accordin
Conquer other people any way you can before they conquer you. That includes your detractors in your own land. Try not to get poisoned, stabbed, or offed by your closest family member, spouse, or confidant. Act crazy and you're sure to meet this end faster than the others that have come before you. When in doubt kill them first. Rome eventually falls. The End.

This is the only book I've read on ancient history that wasn't forced on me by an educational institution so I have no comparison, but it
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Earlier this year, Susan Wise Bauer's remarkable The History of the Medieval World became the first (and still so far only) book in 2010 to earn a perfect score here at CCLaP; and this was also when I mentioned that it is in fact volume two of an ambitious series Bauer is in the middle of right now, chron
The broad scope of this history by necessity makes this a difficult read at some points, not due to complexity of language or concept, but rather due to the challenge of following the changing mass of knowledge. It's a good introduction to a lot of history, is told very matter-of-factly, and connects the dots between cultures in some ways new to me.

One of the most fascinating episodes dealt with the three great empires - Roman, Parthian and Han Chinese, all being in operation at the same time an
Jeni Enjaian
This topic is a hard one to write about simply because the sources are extremely limited, especially the further back one goes. Bauer, in my opinion, successfully summarized what is known about ancient history without making declarations of fact where none exist. She acknowledges myths yet hints at the truth that most myths are based on. She also manages to stay fairly objective in her inclusion of biblical texts as authentic sources along with other sources like the Epic of Gilgamesh. I also co ...more
This is a comprehensive book of the history of the world up to the fall of Rome. It merges both east and west though the Americas are not included. It is brief but detailed. The little details are what make history fascinating to me. We all know that Marc Antony was Caeser's right hand man and that he took up with Cleopatra after Caeser's death, but did we know that Cleopatra sailed into Cilicia (Antony's post after the triumvirate was split), in a gilded barge dressed as Venus laying under a ca ...more
Unlike most of the things Susan Wise Bauer has written, I hated this. Well, I hated what I read of it. Maybe it gets better, I don't know. Whatever. Don't tell me how it ends or I'll never pick it up again.

My issue with it was its departure from a scholarly writing style. There were too many cute jokes. I like my history dry. Like, bone dry. An ancient pile of saw dust left in the sun should seem boggy by comparison. Your mileage may vary. If you like your history with some yuks then give it a
Without a unifying theory or an overarching narrative, history is just one damn thing after another. The results are at once cursory and grim: battle, tyrant, slaughter, battle, tyrant, rise, fall, lather, rinse, repeat. Moreover, by attempting to cover 2,000 years of human history in 800 pages, the author maintains a very high altitude, largely rehashing things that I learned in junior high and high school.

Overall, it was a readable but disappointing history of the ancient world.
Cooper Renner
I didn't actually read all of this book. After about 500 pages I found the reading too 'modern'--i.e. about 2500 years ago--and I started losing interest. This is a narrative history, with a strong focus on kings and prominent figures rather than on sociology and daily life. The sweep is so broad that there has to be oversimplification, but it's an interesting survey with lots of reference to sources.
Bauer's research into early antiquity is fascinating. I loved the first half of this book, which brought to light the dynastic histories of Mesopotamia and early Egypt. However, the scope of this book is too ambitious.

It is almost impossible to write a comprehensive history of the ancient world from the time of Alexander to the rise of Constantine in a scant ~300 pages. Bauer simply does not have enough room to cover anything in detail. Two pages to Marcus Aurelius. One short chapter to the ent
Dec 02, 2008 Jorgina marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Though I do not agree with her homeschool philosophy, I do like reading her history books.
Steve Galegor
I have really enjoy her approach to history so far...
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. It took me a long time to finish it because I only listened to it a chapter at a time here and there when I was by myself (which isn't often with four kids). I first came to love Susan Wise Bauer's writing about history in her series for children called The Story of the World, which I cannot recommend enough to anyone with kids. (My 16 year-old son insists that listening to this series as a kid made his AP world history class this year much easier and ...more
Published by W. W. Norton in 2007

Susan Wise Bauer is well-known in the home school community for her well-written histories. I am not a home school parent but I do recommend this book for history buffs who would like a long-term general overview of history.

Bauer mines lots of types of sources to build a view of the earliest cities and their beliefs. Bauer's history focuses on political leaders and religious/philosophical beliefs of different civilizations. One thing that I really like was her ab
A chronological telling of the first civilizations.

The book is mainly based in the records that our ancestors left. The written records, stories, legends and myths. The author resorts to archeological findings and results, only when the lack of information is needed to compose a particular piece or fact.

Thus, the book is focused mainly in the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese civilizations. From the Sumerians to the mighty Roman world conquering plots, and extravagant emperors. T
Troy Rodgers
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, ...more
As with all her other books I have read so far, Susan Wise Bauer has impressed me and provided me with another volume I will read again and again. This large volume recounts the history of the world from the beginning of recorded deeds to AD 312. In response to some of the criticisms I have read, this book is hardly an exhaustive resource (obviously, I would unprofessionally add); however, Bauer's research has made it possible for the lay person or student to read a chronological volume presenti ...more
A keeper. Bauer's light narrative touch sets this apart from other scholarly undertakings of similar scope, making it an engaging read from start to finish. The effortless delivery is never short on detail or insight, however - she delivers exactly the right amount on every event across several thousand years. What makes this indispensable is its organization into concise, topical chapters ("The first monotheism", "the rise of cities") that serve as as guideposts to the conceptual arc of ancient ...more
I had to read this massive book in ten days, and as a result, whined inwardly at times, "Do we really need to know ALL these details?" But the beauty of being older, and no longer feeling put-upon by historical education as I most often did as a student, is that I knew I'd cross the finish line feeling vastly enriched by this undertaking. Susan Wise Bauer provides an absolutely exhaustive historical survey of cultures, dynasties, rulers, and historic events from 2000 BC up until the advent of Co ...more
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From the author's website:

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; the first volume, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, was published in 2007. Her previous books include th
More about Susan Wise Bauer...
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

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