I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
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.
This is a side of scholarship you rarely hear about, the study of those who are studying the histories and putting them together. I find a book like this to be invaluable to any level of historical curiosity because it paints a completely new understanding of how our knowledge of history is informed. What we know, what we think we know, and how we got to either of those types of conclusions is now completely under the microscope for us. From this we get new answers, and thusly, new questions. It makes the study of history that much richer, especially for those of us who don't have much insight into the world of the historian. This book is probably a bit much for the generally curious, but for the most scholarly-oriented, this one's a winner.
Exactly as my title announces, there is less history to be had in this work than there is literary extrapolation. Some of it is very much historical, as this extrapolation comes from earlier tribes and traditions, keeping in mind there are hundreds of years between the Trojan War and Homer's Iliad. If you're looking for pure history, you won't find it here. There is history to be had, but it's more breakdown of the characters and themes that make The Iliad the great work that it is. As a literary analysis, this book is a home run. Having read both prose and poetic verse translations of the classic epic, this book operates more like a college thesis on Homer's tale. For the scholastically-inclined, this isn't a bad thing. I might even suggest that for those who couldn't finish The Iliad (you know who you are), this book might be the catalyst for higher appreciation that's needed.