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The History of the Ancient World

From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
Narrated by: John Lee
Length: 26 hrs and 20 mins
Categories: History, Ancient
4.5 out of 5 stars (70 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A lively and engaging narrative history showing the common threads in the cultures that gave birth to our own.

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 human history. This narrative history employs the methods of "history from beneath" - literature, epic traditions, private letters, and accounts - to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2007 Susan Wise Bauer (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • PAS
  • 18-03-2019

Absorbing, never-dull narration of our history

Riveting collation and delightful telling of the history of the world. The performance of the narrator - with his articulation, fluency and faultless pronunciation (of some truly gnarly foreign names) - is worth the price alone. The text is made interesting by it's lens: examining archeological and literary sources, adding well founded cultural contexts and delivering it all with a sprightly licence to color in the gaps, the end result is a rich, chronological panorama of peoples, nations and empires. It does unfortunately (perhaps necessarily) depict much of the ugly details of the violence, murders, treachery and war which stain the majority of our history, so be warned. Religion, politics and key personalities are also in the mix, adding depth and showing some of the things which have shaped our race. Personally, I found human corruption to be the major character in the story, which ends up feeling like a rather sobering indictment on our days and ways. But if you're wanting a snapshot of history, look no further. This audiobook had me spellbound in its 'pages' from start to end.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Ben
  • 16-01-2016

Detailed without the drudgery of many texts

Great narrator. I'll be looking for more of his.
Insightful and articulately written. Very pleased.
I have now bought others in the series and anticipate listening to those.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ed
  • 15-07-2019

Great listening

A comprehensive and very readable history. Fascinating anecdotes with a terrific reader. Loved it looking for to the rest of series

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great Historical Narrative

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to anyone seeking knowledge about early High Civilisation and Empire.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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GREAT OVERVIEW

I found this book both interesting and informative. Definitely a must for those who are looking for an overview before delving into some more specific areas of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or Chinese history .

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

My headline for this review is a summary of this book. It’s thorough in one regard for sure. As thorough as it can be in trying to cover thousands of years of human history in just a bit over 26 hours based on the few scraps of writing we have discovered. The problem is it’s just a long story of war and battle which continues to this day. What does that say about humans and our propensity to destroy each other? Sadly, a lot. In all these thousands of years of “civilisation” we have learned precious little. I persisted to the end because I always do but this was hard going and trying to retain much of the ceaseless descriptions of war and the (mostly) men who waged them is quite difficult. Might be better to read this (making use of the maps etc which, though provided with the audio version, are quite useless when you’re listening while driving!) and use it as an undoubtedly invaluable study guide rather than an entertaining listen on the way to and from work!

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I liked it, but it's definitely not my favourite.

A well researched, and beautifully written book with an excellent narrator. I found it hard to get into though; it's certainly structured in a different way. Bauer focuses on ancient Rome, China, India and Persia, and the people who ruled these areas. I prefer my other history books, but I'm a medieval fan. I definitely suggest giving this a listen, if you love ancient civilisations. The details are amazing!

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  • FrX
  • 13-04-2018

Outdated

Mainstream nonsense furthering the dogma of the still prevailing paradigm of the church of world power brokers.
How long before this generation of brainwashed geniuses step aside and allow truth to emerge?

0 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • serine
  • 23-01-2016

Fast paced history

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 gained, how laws were written and followed (or not followed), and how ideals were born or killed in different regions of our globe.

Since this book provides a history for such a long stretch of time, at no time does it go into great detail of any particular period or king. The book is already longer than most books. If Wise Bauer were to go into more detail, the book would simply be another book. Rather, this book gives the reader a mere glimpse into each time period as it races along. I made of note of the time periods and leaders I would like to read more about later.

At times the author, like all authors before her, had to construct the story from sources that are difficult to verify or are included in religious texts that might be unreliable in providing an accurate history. In those cases, she did a great job and informing the reader about the speculative nature of the narrative. Excellent writing. Excellent timeline. Excellent history.

33 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Ellen S. Wilds
  • 25-04-2014

An Historic Achievement

If you could sum up The History of the Ancient World in three words, what would they be?

Colourful, In-Depth, Informative

Who was your favorite character and why?

Considering this book covers a vast portion of early human history it is impossible to assign particular value to a single character.

Which scene was your favorite?

Picking just one episode is difficult, but the most memorable to me was the exchange between King Croesus of Lydia and King Cyrus of Persia on the night the Persians looted the fabled wealth of the Lydians. Noting that the defeated monarch was quiet as his city burned, Cyrus asked how he felt about losing his wealth in this manner. "It is not my wealth they are stealing," Croesus replied. "It is yours." Valuable insight into the nature of conquest even today.

Any additional comments?

Although my field is 19th century Victoriana, I have an interest in many periods of history, in particular the Aegean Bronze Age and the early Celts in Europe. This book blends ancient historical accounts, myths, legends, religious texts to weave a tapestry of early human history, including civilizations as diverse as Mesopotamia, India, China and Europe. It is a massive undertaking.

I accept that accuracy is not always possible when the only texts available are those that have been translated, interpreted, and even deified. While experts may disagree on the finer points, the overall effort is worthy of credit. To keep all these many threads separate and clear is a mighty undertaking and I applaud the author for the attempt.

No historical account can be perfect as new discoveries come to light all the time, from archeological digs and manuscript finds to revisions of classic literature. If we waited for historians to agree on the details, no history would ever be written. And that would be a great loss. This is a fine historical overview and what it lacks in depth is more than made up for in breadth.

156 of 163 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • J. Carpenter
  • 09-04-2015

Overall good

This was an incredible journey through the ancient World bouncing seamlessly from one end of it to the other and everything in between. My only real suggestion for improvement would be in the delivery. The narrator failed to pause when something momentous was to happen like the death of a ruler. He just blew through it like any of the rest of the facts. It is a tone, rate of speech and emphasis thing. To be fair, maybe that is the point. With so many leaders being poisoned, hacked to death, back stabbed, suicidal, etc. maybe it is better to just plow through.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • dan
  • 21-06-2015

Great review of Ancient World History needs maps

An Excellent Ancient History Review but would be better with Outline. maps and illustrations in PDF to accompany the great lecture and make it easier to follow and understand.

128 of 139 people found this review helpful

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  • Troy
  • 28-04-2014

A Fantastic Overview!

I find that in my studies of history, comprehensive and sweeping overviews are invaluable, both to help keep people and events in perspective, and to give me an idea of where I might want to dig deeper later on. I've gone through a number of such overviews over the years, though not one as ambitious as this one. From the mists of legend through to the fall of Rome as the title suggests, Bauer weaves together all of the broad strokes of human history in this time period. For the earlier accounts, history is extrapolated from mythology and archaeology, translating symbolism into human events. Another high point of praise is that most overviews like this will pick a single nation or perhaps a hemisphere. This covers East and West, putting the rise and fall of various dynasties on a timeline that allows the reader to compare and contrast in an way that I've not seen with such effectiveness. Bauer has similar titles for Medieval and Renaissance history, and I'm looking forward to connecting those stories as one larger tapestry.

70 of 76 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Seccombe
  • 10-01-2016

Entertaining history lesson with dry telling.

I enjoyed this brief history. My only complaint is that the voice of the author is completely lost with the choice of narrator. I can hear the levity in the words, but the dry presentation of this material causes a loss of the authors attempt to make the story engaging. In fact some of her hilarious editorial comments are completely lost.

36 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris Hendriks
  • 03-02-2016

Bloodshed

More than a little I'm disappointed for there is no attention for anything else then lust for power, no culture, no daily life, no architecture, no emerging of social phenomena, etc, only war between and within royal families, emperors, generals ...

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 22-08-2016

A Sermon on World History

Any additional comments?

I wanted to like this book. I really tried. I love history. If you want a lot of history; Bauer has provided it herein. Starting with the beginning of the recorded events of humanity much like your High School and College courses likely did. Unfortunately, it drags. It really, really drags. Not a single character stands out as interesting. In the preface it is pointed out that historians, unlike archaeologists, need to hitch their version of events to the stories of the people who did interesting things and not just lists of facts and dates. Then the book goes on to be lists of names, dates & facts for thousands of years. Lists of Kings and their offspring are batched with tiny banal factoids about their reigns are followed by more lists of Kings and factoids. Narrator John Lee has an amazing voice but unfortunately it does not fit well with this material. He sounds like a Minister delivering a veeery loong Sermon and it begins to grate on the nerves. He would do better narrating Epics & Biblical novels. Bauer knows a lot of history and Lee has a booming voice and clearly a lot of work went into the material but in this format it just doesn't play well.

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Dan
  • 09-05-2015

Disappointing

Perhaps reading this would have been a better experience. It was hard (for me) to get a decent grasp of where we were in the overall storytelling. It just jumped around too much for me. Perhaps some transitional thoughts would have pulled things together...like "Meanwhile, in Persia....." or something.

66 of 75 people found this review helpful

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  • K. Doerr
  • 19-10-2015

A twenty six hour sketch

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Most folks my age (mid fifties) who grew up in the States took their 'ancient history' class when they didn't talk about China or the Middle East (aside from Israel) at all. If I had a friend who never took the time to fix that blind spot in their education, I might recommend this book.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The ending was the Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon's book on that one subject is five times longer than this entire work. Like so much of this book, the ending seemed rushed.

What about John Lee’s performance did you like?

The tone of his voice.

Could you see The History of the Ancient World being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

This is a good question. The book *would* make an interesting BBC/PBS series. That said, I have to point out that a person usually looks for more depth from a book, than a television series provides.

Any additional comments?

What the author is attempting to do here is very ambitious, but I don't think it succeeds. I'm not sure anyone could have done any better in 26 hours. It is an enormous span of time and geography.

33 of 38 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-02-2018

interesting not riveting

narrator excellent but author relies too much on Suetonius who was great Roman gossip but certainly not a historian



21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Clementi
  • 26-12-2015

More fairy tale than history...

I don't know much about Susan Wise Bauer I must admit and this was my first 'experience' with her writing. And experience it was!

Before I begin to destroy the book (!), I suppose it is only fair to say that much of Ancient History, by whomsoever dares to write it, is conjecture. Until you get to about 1500 BCE, there are snippets here and there which can be substatiated reasonably well, after 1500 BCE it improves but not significantly so until we get to around 1200 BCE.

However, that being said, any author who wishes seriously to be taken as a historian, really CANNOT swing between history which uses as its source, archaeological finds and proven, documented transcriptions or transliterations of tablets, or pieces of tablets, and 'history' which uses as its source, The Bible (with no other sourcing whatsoever!). It is absurd! She attempts, for example, to 'prove' parts of her 'history' by citing what the Old Testament has to say in Genesis! I mean, truly, it is utterly absurd! Don't get me wrong, there ARE undoubtedly proven events which happened (and are well-sourced geographically, archeologically and historically) which are also mentioned in The Bible, but it is totally unacceptable to try to pass of vague Biblical references as hard-edged history.

She also notes that she is using BC and AD as she objects to the use of BCE and CE as they seem, to her, to be somewhat pointless (she makes a fair point that BOTH go from the date of Christ and so what is the point of using BCE or CE) but, on the other hand, as a historian myself (a real one!), I have always used BCE and CE as they are commonly internationally recognized and do not rely on 'dog latin' as AD, for example, does. She also claims her history is not just written from a Judeo-Christian standpoint - I take serious issue with this as someone NOT remotely schooled in the Judeo-Christian ethos of the West (which nearly all educative systems DO use to be fair, even in a completely non-religious sense). From my perspective, she writes ENTIRELY from a Judeo-Christian standpoint, as her bizarre willingness to accept Biblical stories as historical fact without question (she literally quotes them and then goes on to say things such as "of course, Abraham would have taken this route because of ... insert totally pointless and implausible reason here" (OK, I'm paraphrasing a bit!)

I do not know what her historical background is but the frustration of dealing with her determination to take The Bible as 'fact' sent me running to Google to find out. It seems she is not a historian at all really! But, hey, she does have some post-graduate qualifications from a theological college! So there you go, all is revealed!

On the other hand, I am not too sure how one goes about writing this tome of an epic in one book (or even three as she does!) as so much of this period really IS based on historians building up pictures of things based on tiny bits of broken tablets and so, to be fair, she isn't necessarily any more useless than some of the others.

But what REALLY annoys me, is that she does not make clear which bits are FACT and which bits are FAIRY TALE. If you are a historian with a reasonable knowledge of this era then you will spot them instantly, they stick out not so much as a sore thumb but more of a dislocated hand!!

I love John Lee's narration, he is one of my favorite readers. Even if he does have the slightly odd habit of sometimes pronouncing really common words wierdly (eg pronouncing primer (as in a Latin primer) as "primmer" (like a prim old lady!)! But he makes the best of this sometimes ridiculous book.

If you want a gentle romp through this period of Ancient History and can stomach The Bible standing in for history (I can't!), then you will love it. If, like me, you know something of this period and like proper sources, you will hate it.

As they say, you pays your money, you takes your choice.

325 of 374 people found this review helpful

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  • Kdl
  • 01-02-2015

Fascinating insight

An excellent book. I listen to it over and over again. We live in a complicated world yet the seeds were sown thousands of years ago. This book explains how great empires were born and evolved and eventually began to fall apart. Fully recommend it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • swheelie
  • 06-10-2015

Well written and engaging

Covers a huge range of ancient history, linking events across Europe and Asia as they happen. The really ancient Mesopotamia is a bit dull and repetitive as the sources are fairly sketchy and generally describe incessant territorial struggles for dominance. Later events, where there is potentially much richer history to detail, suffer from being slightly rushed in places with massive issues omitted or glossed over. But what this book does do better than any other I've come across is to provide context, especially in a geopolitical sense. And it introduced me to lots of interesting topics that I intend to learn more about later. All in all I found the book very illuminating and interesting.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • CP
  • 04-12-2014

Great read for fans of history

If you could sum up The History of the Ancient World in three words, what would they be?

Engaging, fascinating, long.

What other book might you compare The History of the Ancient World to, and why?

Honestly, I have not quite read a book like it. It takes history, which is often bloody and confusing and made it accessible without sacrificing quality.

What does John Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

How to pronounce most of the names! They are quite complex and I would not have been able to manage otherwise.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I liked the mentions of women, and how their history was more than likely written by someone who had not bothered to check with them if it was actually correct.

Any additional comments?

Really good read for fans of history. I particularly liked the inclusion of China and India, usually books like this are painfully European-centric. I also enjoyed the discussion on the history of writing.

Be warned this book is not really one for fans of social history, and the lives of everyday people. It concerns itself with rulers, wars and conquerers and their fights and deaths. Some mention is made of culture and traditions but the focus is elsewhere.

20 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Rasmus Jensen
  • 03-05-2017

Great book and great narrator

The book is quite thorough and exciting. It's a pleasant blend of historical analysis of legends and other dubious accounts and then the use of more traditional source material. Meanwhile the narrator reads at a good pace and with excellent control of his tone of voice.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 19-03-2015

Informative, witty and fascinating

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey through the ages, especially the earlier accounts. Would recommend this book to those with a fascination for ancient societies

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. Robert Caister
  • 24-02-2015

Excellent. Very enjoyable and very well read.

A great place to start you historical journey and equally a very rewarding read for people who already have a solid grasp of the past.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-05-2018

Terrible naration.

The naration is so bad I could't get past first 15 minutes. The narator is changing the tempo of his speech in totaly unnatural way. It reminded me of syntetic voices from 10 years ago.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason M Eshelby
  • 28-12-2014

tedious list of kings

art, science, agriculture and architecture do not apparently play any part in ancient history. this was nothing more than list of kings whom the author appears to be in thrall. the author clearly belongs that sad group who think kings are special beings. given how poor the writing is, the reading was surprisingly good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful