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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,253 ratings  ·  232 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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4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,253 ratings  ·  232 reviews

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Ana O
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mythology

Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats before it was cool. Men wore as much make up as women, which is awesome, and something I fully support.

Ramesses II had over 100 children, Hatshepsut was a badass, Akhenaten was a revolutionary and Nefertiti was fabulous.

King Tut, however, will always be my favorite. I'm 100% sure that we were a married couple in our past lives.


Dear Doctor Who, would you kindly lend me your TARDIS? I'll bring it back, I promise.
Sep 03, 2011 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", 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-turner. Toby Wilkinson does chronicle pharaonic Egypt chronologically from pre-dynastic period to annexation into the Roman empire, a f
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Nov 07, 2011 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
Sep 18, 2011 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
Mar 19, 2011 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
James F
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient, near, east, egypt, history
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
The very first thing you have to know about this book is that it mimics Ancient Egypt by being mostly centered around the king and his (sometimes hers) glory. It gives readers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put themselves in ancient Egyptian’s shoes and imagine how commoners must have lived with kings so distant, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing into mighty, glorious, god-like nothing, leaving a legacy of shattered dreams and unfulfilled desires to overtake gods. I presume, entitli ...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.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good narrative of ancient Egyptian history. Gives a mainly political and economic overview of the period from the first king Narmer and the unification of the two lands to the fall of the last queen Cleopatra ( with a sketchy coverage of the predynastic period).

The author has a good narrative style that flows through the various dynasties without getting bogged down, and their socioeconomic, religious and foreign policies and how they influenced and changed Egypt. While it doesn't go deep
Sabrina Kammer
Aug 05, 2015 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.

Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and somewhat detailed look at Ancient Egypt. I knew more about Egypt of the Ptolemies so I learned quite a bit about the Old and Middle Kingdoms. I realize this is more a 'popular' history, but that's what I was looking for.
Jul 16, 2011 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
I will admit I speed-read a lot of this, looking for key words and stopping and reading in detail every now and then. It was just too much book, and the style did not gel with me very well. Still, a fascinating topic, and I have much to think on, re: my fascination with Ancient Egyptian culture. Full review later, probably not for a couple of weeks tbh.
May 30, 2011 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
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, history
Like a lot of people, ancient Egypt has always had a fascination for me, and being a history buff, I've picked up a decent amount of knowledge on the subject over the years. But, I've never had any one great source for what is quite a lot of history, and Toby Wilkinson's book serves the purpose very well.

One advantage of it is that instead of just being Dynastic Egypt, the text runs all the way from what we know of pre-sedentary societies in the area (all-new to me), to the death of Cleopatra, a
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little over two weeks, and I’ve covered a little under 3000 years of history. Seems like a fair trade to me.

I enjoyed Wilkinson’s history of Egypt. I think my rating more has to do with a list of minor cons that added up for me, but overall it should be understood that the book is well written and worth most people’s time. Covering 3000 years of history in a single volume would be a difficult balancing act, and Wilkinson plays quite the acrobat here. In terms of “here is what happened at a gi
Mrs. Bunny
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Brushing up my Egyptian History - check!
Egypt - here I come!

This book is very comprehensive and really goes detailed into each of the dynasties, their socio-economic, foreign, religious policies that influences modern day society and societal structure & norms. It's super slow and one needs to be patient with it.
John Bohnert
I learned a great deal about ancient Egypt.
I've long been fascinated and have watched countless TV programs dealing with ancient Egypt.
Sadly, I've never visited this fascinating land.
Blake Charlton
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
however old and fascinating you imagine ancient egypt was, it will turn out to be older and more fascinating.
Douglas Hackney
Sep 19, 2011 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
May 18, 2015 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
Jun 03, 2016 added it
Shelves: ancient-history
I really enjoyed this book,and was sorry to get to the end!If like me,you like Ancient History
then I highly recommend it.It flows with ease through the many highs and lows the great
Dynasties went through,and does not get bogged down with facts and figures the way that some
History books can.At no time did I want to take a break from it,it felt like an exciting novel
at times.You can not be anything but impressed by these amazing if also flawed people's
and what they acheived.A fantastic read,now
Feb 16, 2013 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.
It's very well written with a superb narrative style and from an academic perspective its predominantly spot on. It tends to gloss over some of the debates which are still ongoing but only to maintain a cohesive narrative.
Alexander Seifert
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book that provides a survey-level analysis of the entire breadth of ancient Egyptian history. Covering something like 3000 years, the book traces the foundations of Egyptian culture and the development of Egyptian religion and government. While the book doesn't provide an exhaustive analysis of any specific period of time, it does delve deeper into the more important episodes and leaders in Egyptian history (like Ramsesses II, Thutmose III, and Amenhotep III). Ahkenaten receives a l ...more
Matthew Peck
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you’re looking for a general one-shot summary of Ancient Egypt’s titular rise and fall - perhaps, like me, you need to fill in some gaps in your knowledge of world history - then this is your book. The book spans the three thousand years from the earliest rulers (there really was a Scorpion King) to the reign of Cleopatra, and details the empire in all of its strangeness and drama. Professional Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson isn’t a terribly distinctive writer, and you could have a dangerous dri ...more
Lais Fl
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
This is a really good summary of Ancient Egypt’s history for non historians, ideal if you want to have a fairly complete and interesting insight into this ancient civilization. The only criticism I have is that the text lacks some cross references with the photos - presented in three short sections of colored photo pages - and with the maps. That is, I would have liked to, as I read the book, have a reference to the page in which this or that monument or artifact is shown in a photo. As well as ...more
Sean DeLauder
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps most staggering about this book is the recurrent shocks to my understanding of the human timeline. The audiobook is a bit over 20 hours. We don't even begin to discuss more familiar "ancient" civilizations like Greece, Macedonia, and eventually Rome, until we're more than 19 hours in. We are still, at present day, separated by less time to the birth of Jesus than the construction of the great Egyptian pyramids (e.g., ~2500 BCE ----- 0 ---- 20xx CE).

It's a fabulous work discussing the man
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, history
This is a sweeping history of Egypt from 5000 BCE to the death of Cleopatra in 30 BCE. At times I felt overwhelmed by the level of detail and the steady parade of pharaoh after pharaoh. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal about Egyptian history. Some of my takeaways include understanding the scope of the building that went on, including temples that put Disney World to shame. I was also struck by the short lives of most of even the richest people. It seemed that few of the pharaohs lasted more ...more
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Dr Toby Wilkinson joined the International Strategy Office in July 2011, working with the Pro Vice Chancellor (Jennifer Barnes) to support the schools, faculties and departments in their international engagements, and to develop the University's international strategy, particularly with regard to research collaborations and relationships with the EU, US, India and China. Prior to this, Dr Wilkinso ...more
“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.” 3 likes
“According to royal doctrine, the king’s role as defender of Egypt (and the whole of creation) involved the corresponding defeat of Egypt’s neighbors (who stood for chaos). To instill and foster a sense of national identity, it suited the ruling elite—as leaders have discovered throughout history—to cast all foreigners as the enemy. An ivory label from the tomb of Narmer shows a Palestinian dignitary stooping in homage before the Egyptian king. At the same time, in the real world, Egypt and Palestine were busy engaging in trade. The xenophobic ideology masked the practical reality.” 0 likes
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