While I have read a reasonable amount about Roman history (the rule of the Emperors from Augustus through Claudius, the three Punic Wars and, more specifically, Hannibal’s invasion of Rome and the subsequent Roman invasion of North Africa to destroy Carthage) I had never read a real history of the rise of Rome. Since I was preparing to (finally) read Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire I thought it was time to learn how the Roman Empire came to be before I read how it ceased to be. I bought this book for that specific purpose.
Mr Everitt has written a wonderful and enjoyable history of Rome from its beginning (actually from the fall of Troy) through the beginning of the civil wars at the time of Pompey, Julius Caesar and Octavian. While I was looking forward to reading this I was also somewhat apprehensive because I remembered how dull Roman history classes were when I was in school. I worried about a book made up of dates and events, especially since I would be listening, not actually reading, but I should not have worried. Mr Everitt has built this book around the individuals and events that constitute Roman history rather than a series of dates and that decision worked really well. Had High School history been presented like this I might have paid more attention.
Mr Everitt has broken down the story of the rise of Rome into 3 separate sections – Myth (starting from the fall of Troy and Romulus and Remus), historic legends and known historic facts and the whole fits together seamlessly into a very interesting story. There was much about Roman history that I never knew – Alexander The Great’s plans to “teach” the upstart Romans a lesson by invading, how Rome grew from a small settlement into the global superpower of the time, how the Romans held Italy together as subject peoples in spite of their being outnumbered and much else. I had read a good deal about the Punic Wars but never knew, until I read this book, why Rome forced Carthage into the third war.
The narration is very well done and the book very enjoyable. While it is not a “heavy” history it is also complete enough to not be “light” reading. I feel comfortable recommending this book to anyone with an interest in this period of time.
The title of this book - Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs – led me to think it was about the various temples constructed in Egypt, how they were built, how they were used, how the pyramids were built, what current scholarship believed to be the purpose of the various interior spaces and, perhaps, a description of Jean Francois Champollion's successful efforts to decipher the hieroglyphs. Instead what I found was an overview of the thirty or so Egyptian dynasties and, along with that, a brief history of Egypt.
I don't want to be misunderstood. The information provided is interesting and well presented. The overview of the Egyptian dynasties was informative and Ms Mertz's explanation of what is known and, perhaps more importantly, what is not known and why it is not know, was very helpful to me as a casual reader. I found the competing ideas as to what happened and why to be of great interest. Still, the book did not address those questions which the title led me to believe were the contents of the book.
Ms Raver's narration is superb and the content both interesting and, at times, witty. However, after finishing the book, I am left with almost all of the questions I had when I bought the book – what does current scholarship say about the interior rooms of the pyramids? How were the tombs discovered? What is the history of the archeological efforts in Egypt? How were the hieroglyphs deciphered (yes, I know about the Rosetta Stone, but it would have been nice to have some information on the effort and process itself)? Who were the main Egyptians involved in the design and building of the pyramids? What processes were used in the construction? What efforts were made to protect those buried from tomb robbers? Why did those efforts fail so badly? And many more.
Given that this book did not cover what the title implied I felt compelled to give it no more than 3 stars. However the narration was so good that I decided that 3 12/ stars would be better. Since I cannot give it what I would like I settled on 4 stars. This is, I fear, too much.
This is not an easy listen, even if you are familiar with Aristotle and some of the main 'players.' It commands your full attention and is worth it! An excellent synthesis and interpretation of the interplay between spirit and reason from antiquity on. I keep recommending this book to my friends so I'll have people to discuss it with--it's that good.