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The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilisation from 3000 BC to Cleopatra

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,228 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
Toby Wilkinson combines grand narrative sweep with detailed knowledge of hieroglyphs and the iconography of power, to reveal ancient Egypt in all its complexity. We see the relentless propaganda, the cut-throat politics, the brutality and repression that lay behind the appearance of unchanging monarchy.
Hardcover, 646 pages
Published August 2nd 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Nov 07, 2011 Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont rated it really liked it
At the end of this week I’m leaving on a long planned trip to Egypt, one that will take me from the Great Pyramid at Giza in the north to the temple of Abu Simbel in the south, from Lower Egypt to Upper Egypt. And just to confuse you the former is the north and the latter the south! It’s the ancient Egyptian view of the world, you see, all upside down.

A lot of my extramural reading for the past while has been dedicated to books with an Egyptian theme, including Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Qua
Oct 03, 2011 Terence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs (esp. Egyptian)
Recommended to Terence by: New Book shelf at library
By its nature The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt skips over a lot of history but as an introduction to the five-millennia-long history of Egypt - up to the Roman conquest in 31 BC - Toby Wilkinson's effort excels. If you want to know the details of a particular era, the book's near-80 pages of notes and bibliography provide a rich vein to mine.

While I am familiar with the general outline of Egyptian history, every section had something new to say to me that enriched my understanding or revealed
Feb 10, 2012 Iset rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in ancient Egypt
I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. My professor may have derisively called it "popular history" when I proposed choosing it for my required book review for his post-graduate degree course, and forced me to choose something else, but I still love this book.

From first picking it up, it became hard every time I had to put it down. The combination of fluid, easy writing and the fact that this book is packed to the rafters with interesting, engaging material meant it quickly became a page-tur
Sabrina Kammer
Oct 15, 2015 Sabrina Kammer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Das Buch hat mich ziemlich lange begleitet - was aber nicht heisst, dass es schlecht ist. Ich finde es sogar sehr gut.

Schon seit Jahren interessiere ich mich für Ägypten und war daher sehr gespannt, was mich für Informationen erwarten. Und die Informationen sind sehr umfangreich - von der Entstehung des alten Ägyptens bis zu seinem Untergang (wie der Buchtitel schon sagt).
Man wird durch die verschiedenen Dynastien geführt, was in ihnen passiert ist und wie sich Ägypten an sich entwickelt hat.

James F
Feb 04, 2015 James F rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ancient, near, east, egypt
Despite its length, and the claims on the jacket flap, this book is definitely a popularization and not (as I had hoped it might be) a more up to date replacement for the earlier standard histories, such as the one author book by Nicolas Grimal or the collaborative Oxford history edited by Ian Shaw.

The sketchy and vague coverage of the predynastic and early dynastic period was particularly disappointing, since this is the area the author is an expert on, and perhaps the one where the most excit
Jul 16, 2011 Starling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I read this in a library copy. I was rather surprised to see it there. Frankly books about ancient history written for the general reader have been out of favor for a couple of decades, except for American history.

This is a full scale history of Ancient Egypt, starting very early in pre-history and going to the death of Cleopatra. I'm not sure when the last book of this type was written, but I think it might have been before World War I (and that is WW I and not WW II). A lot has changed in what
Nov 03, 2011 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
Nothing makes you feel quite so insignificant, but a fleeting spec of dirt upon the vast plane of time, as a wonderfully gripping survey of ancient Egyptian History, 3000 through 30 BC. Indeed, the span of the entire history of the United States fits into one succinct chapter of Wilkinson's narrative. If you think that sounds negative, don't. This book gave me that complete "high" from the sheer magnitude of history I haven't felt since nerdy high school days. The inevitability that the closer y ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
I have neglected Ancient Egypt in my previous perusals of the ancient world but this book has sparked a bit more interest in this civilization. This book is well written in an style which holds my interest. The author does a good job of giving a lively history of the gift of the Nile from neolithic times until the fall of Cleopatra and Anthony at Actium. Even if you aren't into Egyptian history like me this book is worth your time.
Apr 08, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Very good one-volume overview of Ancient Egyptian history, in contrast to multivolume works, or watered-down picture books.

Covers some 4970 years, from unification of Upper/Lower Egypt to fall of Cleopatra. Does good job of incorporating some new conjectures as well as recent archaeological discoveries. Does tend to focus on dynastic elements a bit much, but does cover a lot of ground and does so very well, so some things may be excused. It may well be all that we know about some eras. Author ch
Apr 18, 2014 Madhav rated it really liked it
The Rise & Fall of Ancient Egypt is the definitive overview of Pharanoic Egypt.It distills over 2000 years of Egyptian history in a single highly readable volume.It is wonderful reference book on one of the most fascinating ancient culture of all time.
Douglas Hackney
Sep 19, 2011 Douglas Hackney rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
In the future, when someone uses the phrase, "monumental effort," I will think of this book.

Mr. Wilkinson has not only attempted, but delivered, a summary history of the Egyptian civilization, from conception to Cleopatra.

Aside from the scope of the work, coupled with actually having achieved it, the most remarkable thing about this book is that Mr. Wilkinson was able to craft such an accessible work.

Even when faced with source material that was both sparse, thousands of years old and almost
Mrs. Bunny
Jul 22, 2014 Mrs. Bunny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: egypt, history
Huge, fascinating, and well written. I personally found it lagged a little during the Libyan and Kushite chapters, but overall it was remarkably well done, and at certain points I would even call it a page turner. Wilkinson does have a very realistic view of the Ancient Egyptians, and doesn't hesitate to call a spade a spade- or a Pharaoh a totalitarian tyrant. He spells out the entire history of Ancient Egypt beautifully, however, and really gives you a sense of context for all of the rulers an ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Chris marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book, but... meh. It just wasn't engaging. The author is clearly VERY knowledgeable, his writing isn't too dense or anything, but...

I think 3 millennia is simply too much for one book to cover without reading badly. I'm not giving it a star rating, because I don't feel I got far enough into it to really judge it.
Dec 29, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The history of a Civilisation from 3000BC to Cleopatra
Toby Wilkinson
Read in laborious Paperback at 646 pages with Index, biblio, maps, Timeline of major events, etc.

In 2014 I read through the Oxford History of Ancient Egypt by Shaw as a group read, I'd suggest this book over Shaw's work. While they both give detailed information and cover the same time period I think Wilkinson has a stronger narrative voice which makes for a much more enriching experience. Sha
Mahmoud Ashour
Jun 21, 2014 Mahmoud Ashour rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."Cicero

"The study of ancient Egyptian civilization," Wilkinson writes, "exposes the devices by which people have been organized, cajoled, dominated, and subjugated down to the present day."

The writer who is although a researcher and a doctor in Egyptology has done a monumental effort in condensing 3000 years in about half a thousand pages.

I found many interesting parts in the book that resonates to 2010s history o
May 30, 2011 Monica rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable and through romp through the entire history of ancient Egypt, and I could not help but pause at several points along the way to think about the strong continuity shown in this history between ancient and modern events. The author himself marvels at it from time to time, using the famous French phrase "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" (The more things change the more they stay the same) to describe his own feelings.

Given current events in Egypt, I found much in this long bu
Chris Ryan
Nov 15, 2011 Chris Ryan rated it really liked it
I'd been looking for a good and comprehensive history of ancient Egypt on and off for some years, ever since I was fascinated as a child. A few years ago I spent half a day in the Egyptian Art department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and my interested was rekindled. I stumbled upon this book recently on a trip to San Francisco, at City Lights Books. The book more than satisfied my curiosity, and at long last the history has come into focus for me.

I have several minor critici
Carol Smith
[Book 4 of my 2013 goal to read 26 history books in historical sequence]

3 1/2 stars.

Comprehensive and capable but ultimately less than inspiring. It held my interest but failed to deliver a broader message. The legacy of Ancient Egypt is wrapped up in a quickie three-page epilogue that emphasizes Pharaonic contributions to pop culture. Surely there are greater lessons to be drawn from three millennia of despotic history?

Perhaps I was spoiled by having just finished Babylon: Mesopotamia and the
Jan Derksen
Aug 09, 2012 Jan Derksen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

In deze meesterlijk geschiedenis van het oude Egypte vertelt Toby Wilkinson het verhaal van een van de grootste beschavingen die ooit hebben bestaan. De geschiedenis van het oude Egypte en de uitzonderlijke beschaving die gedurende drieduizend jaar bloeide langs de oevers van de Nijl, lijkt een spektakelstuk vol bijzondere gebeurtenissen: de bouw van de piramides, de verovering van Nubia, de kracht en schoonheid van Nefertiti, de invasie van Alexander de Grote en Cleopatras fatale relatie met R

Jun 09, 2015 Lucas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first three hundred pages are a marvel, a fascinating, entirely readable exploration of ancient Egyptian society. A pity that it descends in to the 'this happened and then this happened and then this happened' style that is the epitome of lazy histories. Like so many historians greater and lesser than he, Wilkinson gets lots in the details as the historical record becomes more clear in more modern times. (Only in a book on ancient Egypt is modern 800 BC...) Still, worth a read, especially if ...more
John Carter McKnight
Feb 08, 2016 John Carter McKnight rated it really liked it
This book came close to a 5-star rating: it's one of the very best large-scope histories of the ancient world that I've read. Wilkinson is a clear, engaging writer with an eye for evocative detail. He's done something no other ancient history writer I've read has managed to do: give me a comprehensive picture of who the power players were at various points in history. I've never been able to line up the ancient empires with each other very effectively, as most books are either too insular about ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Zaid added it
This story is a great novel written by Toby A.H. Wilkinson. IT is a story studded with extraordinary achievements and historic moments, from the building of the pyramids and the conquest of Nubia, through Akhenaten's religious revolution, the power and beauty of Nefertiti, the glory of Tutankhamun's burial chamber, and the ruthlessness of Ramesses, to Alexander the Great's invasion, and Cleopatra's fatal entanglement with Rome. Ancient egypt has been misunderstood since Herodotus put pen to papy ...more
Joon Ho
Jul 14, 2014 Joon Ho rated it really liked it
This is an excellent introduction to the long and rich history of Pharoanic Egypt. Interested readers can easily use this book as starting points to explore in further depth different periods and aspects of Egyptian history.
As a chronological summary of Ancient Egyptian history it necessarily glossess over details. Even so I began to tire on the continuous stream of Pharoahs, civil wars and megalomaniac projects halfway through the book. One can't help but to think how nasty, brutish and short l
Jan 10, 2016 T.J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A comprehensive, encyclopedic compendium of Egyptian history, from Narmer, the first pharaoh, to Cleopatra, the last.

I had started reading a book on Hatshepsut, the “female king” of Egypt, when about half way through I realized that I just didn’t know enough about Egypt itself, beyond what I probably knew in third grade: pyramids, the Sphinx, and mummies.

One of the things that the book makes abundantly clear is just how long time is. The pharaonic state, as originally conceived, lasted for three
Herman Gigglethorpe
Aug 19, 2015 Herman Gigglethorpe rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book, and I don't know how much I'll retain from it, but it is an interesting and well-documented read, so four stars it gets.

Whatever the book's faults may be, lack of ambition is not one of them. Even stopping at the Battle of Actium, Egyptian history is longer than that of most nations surviving today. To paraphrase another reviewer here, Egypt has a way of making you think that 800 BC is no longer "ancient". However, the focus is so broad that many important
Trenton Hayes
Jun 23, 2014 Trenton Hayes rated it really liked it
Ancient Egypt is one of those ubiquitous and ill-known things with veneer of false familiarity. I read a bit of history, and for me, Egypt was King Tut, The old, Middle and New Kingdoms, and Cleopatra and the Egypt that comes down through the Greek and Roman Classics--Egypt the decadent; Egypt as Caesar's granary.

I had no idea.

When Cleopatra took her own life in 30-something BC, she stood at the end of a 3100 year tradition. So as much time and cultural distance separated Cleopatra from the firs
Apr 02, 2015 Will rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exhaustive history of ancient Egypt's dynasties, rulers, politics, and culture, delivered in as reader-friendly a way as a compendium of that knowledge can be.

Wilkinson's prose makes this book far more tolerable than it has any reason to be - I'm interested but not an academic by any means on ancient Egypt, and there is just SO much information, including multiple rulers with the same name, multiple variations on the same name base, multiple locations that get renamed in the span of the book
As soon as I got this book I knew this was going to take awhile to read, I have decided to go through it slowly so I can understand it. Although I know alot about ancient Egyptian history it is a lot to take in. I wouldn't recommend this to someone who doesn't already have a basic understanding

I do intend to finish this book at some point, it's just a lot to take in
Apr 23, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
This is a very readable overview of ancient Egyptian history, from the beginnings of civilization on to the death of Cleopatra (so it covers more than the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom eras.)

Wilkinson writes in a very accessible style. The book's start is a little dry, because of the lack of written sources, but soon the rulers of Egypt become real people and one gets a sense of both their personalities and the challenges they faced.

Wilkinson challenges some old ideas about ancient Eg
Aug 02, 2015 Rage rated it really liked it
I've been reading this very slowly over several years (my copy is in someone else's house). finishing it feels like quite a victory! I find Ancient Egypt fascinating and this was recommended as a good broad introduction to a lot of history. I agree with and second that recommendation. I'm sure that much had to be described briefly, or basically glossed over, but as an introduction and an overview, it's excellent. It's written by someone who has an obvious passion for Egypt and history, which giv ...more
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Wilkinson was born in 1969. He read Egyptology at Downing College, University of Cambridge. He graduated with a first class Bachelor of Arts and was awarded the Thomas Mulvey Egyptology Prize. He completed his PhD at Christ's College, Cambridge in 1993.
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“Throughout history, megalomaniacs and tyrants have used such epithets—“father of the nation,” “dear leader”—but the terms usually have a hollow ring. Modern experience suggests that the titles are more about brainwashing and subjugation than the expression of popular acclaim. And yet, when it comes to ancient Egypt, scholars still balk at such an interpretation.” 2 likes
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