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

(The History of the World #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  3,288 ratings  ·  333 reviews
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 both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about hu
Hardcover, 896 pages
Published March 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company
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4.08  · 
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 ·  3,288 ratings  ·  333 reviews

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I feel like I was listening to this book for so long that NOT listening to it feels strange. The end just kind of came out of nowhere... One minute I'm listening to the fall of Rome, and the next Audible is hoping that I enjoyed the program.

Did I enjoy it? Mostly. I liked the subtle humor that made these historical figures personable and relatable (relatively speaking). It served to make this a bit less like a 26 hour stint in Professor Binns' class - though for much of it, it is simply a recap
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-history
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 Nelson
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fast paced history of the ancient world. Wile reading, I could not help but visualize the earlier humans marking their territory as they competed for power and resources, spread out from every corner of Earth to build the cities and civilizations we see today. It's always a good idea to remember from where and from whom we came. This book, though long, will take you on an extremely compact tour from the first kings of whom we are aware through the fall of Rome. It covers how power and land were ...more
Omar Ali
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you already know all about Tiglath Pilesar the third and the problems of Assyrian imperialism then this may not be the book for you. It is a very quick (and therefore necessarily superficial) overview of the history of all major Eurasian civilizations from 3000 BC to 300 AD. It helps you to put all of them in place parallel to each other and to get a nodding acquaintance with all of the actors. It is strictly narrative history, focused on rulers and popular stories about is also a b ...more
Mar 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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....
Alex Telander
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
❆ Crystal ❆
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 Kudos to the author. This book is an amazing feat... I can only imagine what a difficult task this must have been to research and write. History can be such a tangled mess and Susan Bauer did such a fantastic job untangling and searching for the truth (or as close as we'll ever get to it). This book covers 3,800 BC to 312 AD following China, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, India, North Africa, Greece, Italy, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and toward the end of the book Great Britain, Scotland, and some Sca ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jason Pettus
May 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(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
Scott Gray
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 fo ...more
May 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, history
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
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1-classics
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
Saju  Pillai
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it

Susan walks us through major civilizations from earliest Sumer (circa 3600 BC) till Constantine's victory parade as he claims Rome (312 AD). The Sumerians, Egyptians, Harappans, Xia, Akkadians, Mycenaeans, Assyrians, Shang, Trojans, Aryans, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Hans, Jin & Romans are all introduced and disposed off in an interweaving chronological fashion. Out of necessity, only major events are covered and Susan's aim is to provide breadth and not depth. She achieves this adm
Aug 25, 2010 added it
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
Jeni Enjaian
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Corey Wozniak
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Short review: Bauer's style is extremely readable, even entertaining. This sweeping history of the ancient world is never dry or sterile bc it is filled with stories of fascinating characters and conquerors and kings. Wonderful experience, considering the ratio of new things learned/page.

Longer review forthcoming!

Steve Galegor
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have really enjoy her approach to history so far...
Nicole Seitler
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book to read for myself as we studied ancient history this year and I loved it. I found it to be a wonderful narrative that held my interest (and also made me laugh out loud.) I considered having my high school students read through this series with me, but I think there is some content in the book that makes it better suited to adults. I’m looking forward to diving in to the next two installments of this series next year!
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was a fantastic account of the rise of ancient civilizations from about 3,000BC to the Fall of Rome. Susan Wise Bauer did a great job of telling the stories of different civilizations (Egypt, Mesopotomia, India, and China initially, with later forays into Greece and Rome) in parallel. It was really fascinating to see what was going on contemporaneously in such different empires, and the contrasts were really fascinating. To see, for example, the rigidity of the Western kings--and the result ...more
Connor Pickett
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The author picks a very good way of telling the story of the development of the old world civilizations: chronologically and within each major civilization as the time line proceeds. That way the listener gets a feel for what's happening through out the whole world at any one time period.

At first, during the first half of the story I thought the author was misleading the listener by telling us about the myths and the superstitions that each of the early civilizations had as a foundation of thei
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Jan 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
A high level history of the ancient world, gleamed from unreliable sources which I have no confidence in.

I'm not a history buff. I learned about this in school and it didn't stick and I wanted a refresher before heading out to a trip to Italy so that I have context for the stuff I saw. I expected something high level, but I didn't expect the sources to be so sketchy.

The author immediately speaks about how she won't be using hard evidence to tell the story, instead relying on written texts which
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Steve Hemmeke
Jul 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Susan Wise Bauer should perhaps be considered a modern historian, in that she writes readable historical narrative that you can easily consume in bite-sized pieces. That's not to say that her work is frivolous or lacking in authority. Her facts are solid and sources properly cited. It's clear that this book is meant to present historical facts and not meant merely to entertain.

Having said that, there is just enough of a hint of charm and humor to Bauer's writing that the stories presented come t
Paul Krepps
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall the book was informative, although I had this nagging feeling that something was amiss. Not factually, as I assume the content was well researched. But about two thirds of the way through I put my finger on the issue. Obviously when writing a history of such a broad time period as that encompassed in this volume, the author must pick and choose when it comes to what to include and what to leave out. With this in mind, the book would have been better titled "A Political and Military Histo ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Page Number Update 2 17 Jan 20, 2016 10:47PM  

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From the author's website:

Susan’s newest book for Norton, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory, was published in May 2015. The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople (2013), is the third in a multi-volume series providing a narrative world history; the first volume, The History

Other books in the series

The History of the World (3 books)
  • The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade
  • The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople
“Civilization began in the Fertile Crescent, not because it was an Edenic place overflowing with natural resources, but because it was so hostile to settlement that a village of any size needed careful management to survive.” 2 likes
“In fact, far from being phonetic, hieroglyphs were designed to be indecipherable unless you possessed the key to their meaning. The Egyptian priests, who were guardians of this information, patrolled the borders of their knowledge in order to keep this tool in their own hands. Ever since, the mastery of writing and reading has been an act of power” 1 likes
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