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The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,018 ratings  ·  103 reviews

In this landmark work, one of the world’s most renowned Egyptologists tells the epic story of this great civilization, from its birth as the first nation-state to its final absorption into the Roman Empire—three thousand years of wild drama, bold spectacle, and unforgettable characters.

Award-winning scholar Toby Wilkinson captures not only the lavi
Hardcover, 611 pages
Published March 15th 2011 by Random House (first published August 2nd 2010)
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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
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 3 of 5 stars
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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
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
James F
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
Douglas Hackney
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
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
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.
Mahmoud Ashour
“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
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
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

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
Mrs. Bunny
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
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
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
Trenton Hayes
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
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
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.
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
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
E. Kahn
An adequate but undistinguished history of Ancient Egypt.

I felt the author tried to cover too much ground (the book could have ended at the fall of the New Kingdom without suffering much) without going into sufficient depth. I understand parts of the historical record are pretty sketchy, particularly for the earliest dynasties, but the author simply glosses over many details which would have added to the value of the work. There was too much emphasis on monument-building at the expense of trade
very comprehensive but the constant projection of politically correct views upon a past we will never fully comprehend depreciates the quality of the historical analysis.
The book was certainly written to educate with a touch of bias. I wish the book provided references outside of the authors findings. There were times that the author infers things that left doubt. That's not an awful thing. I would advise the reader to do more research in those areas. The introductory lesson to each dynasty was interesting to say the least. This book made me think about and question things I've learned in the past. Reading about the different dynasties was fascinating. There wer ...more
The book was certainly written to educate with a touch of bias. I wish the book provided references outside of the authors findings. There were times that the author infers things that left doubt. That's not an awful thing. I would advise the reader to do more research in those areas. The introductory lesson to each dynasty was interesting to say the least. This book made me think about and question things I've learned in the past. Reading about the different dynasties was fascinating. There wer ...more
I think pretty much every kid goes through a stage where they are a bit obsessed with ancient Egypt - in my case I remember wanting to change my name to Cleopatra (a totally appropriate moniker for an Australian seven-year-old in the 80s). There is something dizzying about the fact that the time period separating our lives and Cleopatra's is less that that separating her and the earliest pharaohs. Wilkinson 's book covers the entire 3000+ years of the ancient Egyptian civilisation and as such th ...more
Brandon Pilcher
If you're looking for a comprehensive chronicling of ancient Egypt's political developments, beginning with the Predynastic period and ending in the Ptolemaic, I would highly recommend this, but this isn't really for those more interested in Egypt from a cultural perspective. Wilkinson does an excellent job relating to us the political evolution, conflicts, and other struggles faced by the Egyptian state, but he doesn't go into nearly as much depth about the Egyptians' daily life (not that the l ...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.
More about Toby A.H. Wilkinson...
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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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