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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,763 Ratings  ·  191 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 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
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Iset
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
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Terence
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
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Hadrian
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
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Netta
Jan 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
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
kaśyap
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
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James F
Feb 04, 2015 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
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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.

Seh
...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.
Betsy
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.
Kathleen
Aug 21, 2011 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
Starling
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
...more
Rindis
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, kindle
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
...more
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.
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
Jayeeta
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.
Monica
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
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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
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Lucas
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
DJ
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
...more
Chris
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.
Madhav
Oct 16, 2013 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.
Betsy
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, 2017
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
Renae Pérez
I really enjoyed this comprehensive history of Ancient Egypt. Wilkinson does a good job of covering everything important in an interesting way, and though I don't have much authority to say so, I felt that this was a fairly unbiased account.

As someone whose knowledge of Ancient Egypt has been gleaned from lowkey wikipedia searches and various historical novels, I felt this was good for my "knowledge level" so to speak. It also helped me get a better sense of certain events in chronological conte
...more
Trenton Hayes
Jun 14, 2014 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
...more
Jan Derksen
Aug 09, 2012 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

...more
Mahmoud Ashour
Jul 13, 2013 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
...more
Ryan
Oct 16, 2015 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
...more
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
...more
Chris Ryan
Nov 15, 2011 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
...more
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15102542
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
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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
“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.” 1 likes
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