The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Setting out to encapsulate thousands of years of foggy, fuzzy human history into a relatable, relevant and cohesive narrative is no simple task.
Susan Wise Bauer accomplishes her goal with ease and simplicity, parsing mythology, conflicting records into a rough stab at what actually happened is a juggling act, and the author is up to the challenge.
I learned a lot from the book, which provided some illuminating insights about human nature and its tendency to organize, unite and divide over the eons. Bauer also lends a feminist perspective to many well-worn stories, offering insight that sheds new interpretations on the boy's club of history.
John Lee's narration in the Audible edition lends a sense of importance and authority to the prose, granting it something of a real-life "Game of Thrones" feel.
A couple significant flaws stifle Bauer's work. Her attention to the Chinese empires seems uninspired and obligatory, and there is no mention whatsoever of what was going on in Africa or the Americas during the rise and falls of the Western empires on which she spends most of her focus. "The ancient world" didn't only exist in Eurasia. A simple retitling to something like "The History of the Western World" would have fixed the issue.
As a whole, the book thrives. The writing is solid and lively, the sourcing is commendable and the momentum rarely wanes. Bauer's book is an empiric conquest worthy of Alexander.
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