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Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  16 reviews
From 1827 Henry Rawlinson, fearless soldier, sportsman and imperial adventurer of the first rank, spent twenty-five years in India, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan in the service of the East India Company. During this time he survived the dangers of disease and warfare, including the disastrous First Anglo-Afghan War. A gifted linguist, fascinated by history and exploration, he ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published October 4th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published December 13th 2003)
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Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating and engrossing read. I've read a lot about ancient Mesopotamia but before reading this book I knew little of the incredible story behind the translation of cuneiform writing. It's amazing to think that only two hundred years ago almost nothing was known about the civilisations of Mesopotamia other than what was written in the Old Testament. While at times I yearned for more detail about the actual process of translation, I think it's better for the general reader that Adkin ...more
Jul 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An irritating read that I had to push through to the end. The subject is fascinating and could make for top-quality reading: Henry Rawlinson's discovery of cuneiform and ancient Babylon, true Indiana Jones type stuff. The problem is that the author doesn't really know what kind of information to supply about the discovery. Exactly the wrong kinds of background information are supplied: lengthy play-by-play summaries of diaries and letter exchanges, and irritatingly spotty passages about other re ...more
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People whose interest in the subject matter will reward their plow through the book.
I found this a difficult read. The material was very interesting and Rawlinson a very interesting character: the intrepid, multi-talented British explorer, soldier and statesman of the type that kept the British Empire going for a long time. Readers interested in the politics of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia and the surrounding areas will find the history of interest. But I thought that there was a narrative level missing, some way of more easily navigating all of the detail. Great credit t ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-finished
Abandoned on page 112 of 374. Just really dull. It’s all long quotes from sources, no real explanation and nothing that brings anything to life. Chapter 4 on Cuneiform was better and it’s possible that the book improves as more is discussed about the decipherment. However I cannot bear the thought of reading anymore to find out.
Thomas Womack
This is an odd book, in that the underlying tale of the decipherment of cuneiform, the decryption of the Mesopotamian languages, and the discovery that the various Assyrian empires mentioned in the Bible were real places with their own recorded histories, is rather lost in the biography of an admittedly impressive character of Imperial Britain.
Robin Kuritzky
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
A detailed and very readable account of one of the great men of the East India Company who led an astounding life of bravery, audacity & scholarship and was the key figure in the deciphering of cuneiform and the languages in which it was written- Assyrian, Babylonian, Elamite and even old Persian. ...more
James Wheat
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookshelf
Interesting, but presented as a factual stepping stone account of what happened without an overarching narrative thread, and not enough elucidation about the actual process of translation.
This book is subtitled ``Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon'', but there is a lot more Rawlinson and far too less on cuneiform or the ancient languages in question. Having read an account of Champollion's decipherment of Egyptian Hieroglyphs by the same author, I had expected something in the same vein which would describe the process of decipherment and its results in more detail.

As far as a biography of Rawlinson, I felt as another reviewer mentioned there wasn't much of a narr
Jan 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, really interesting book on the discoveries that we now take for granted, of the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations, their importance & relevance to us today, and of the discoverers thereof, mainly Henry Rawlinson of the East India Company. ...more
Gets off to a sluggish start, but picks up steam in the second half with the introduction of Rawlinson's rival Hincks.
Aug 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Henry Rawlinson, who combined scholarship with adventure and exploration, to make a significant contribution to the understanding of early languages.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wish I could have been in or seen those times in history, the awe of those sites.
Lili Kyurkchiyska
Горещо препоръчвам за хора, които тепърва навлизат в тематиката, тъй като е написана достъпно и то на базата на архивен материал. Полезна е и с това, че дава основна представа за епохата.
Apr 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Rawlinson was a major contributor to deciphering cuneiform, a set of related forms of writing used to record Sumerian, Akkadian, Elamite, and Persian. Some priority disputes with Edward Hinks
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