When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
In his newest book on the ancient Aegean Professor Eric H Cline, Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages at the George Washington University in Washington DC, USA, transports Everyman in his time machine to the lands surrounding the Ancient Aegean and Mediterranean Seas during the Late Bronze Age.
Once again this active digger and the winner of three “Best Popular Book on Archaeology” Awards (2000, 2009 and 2011) brings archaeology to the public. In “1177 BC. The Year Civilization Collapsed,” he starts off with the enigmatic ‘Sea Peoples’ of which the Philistines of Canaan was part. He recasts them into victims instead of presenting them as the conquerors who overrun the Ancient Aegean and Near East. Sketching a truly and surprisingly situation of flourishing cosmopolitan trade routes and political interaction between important Late Bronze cities, he gives a fresh and important look at this important era. The traditional stance that describes that the ‘Sea Peoples’ invaded and overrun the Ancient Mediterranean and Aegean lands, through conquest and due to their advanced technologies - especially the use of iron is seriously challenged in this book.
Cline spins a web which not only illuminates the mysterious late Bronze Age, but at the same time serves his argument. What I liked most about his book, was how he applied the past and what we learned from it on today. I never thought one could learn much about economy and its pitfalls from the Ancient World. Cline has proved it possible.
The book is the first book in a new series, ‘Turning Points in Ancient History” by Princeton University Press. It consists out of five chapters, each highlighting something that is significant to the Sea Peoples and the year 1177 BC. In the final chapter Cline pulls the strings together in a convincing crescendo.
I wish Audible had a PDF file with the maps and illustrations that you find in the hard copy available. If you use Whispersync, it will probably not matter or if you have bought the hard copy. That said the Audible version of the book is much cheaper than the written word, probably because it comes without illustrations and endnotes.
A last thing, I enjoyed Andy Caploe’s reading of the book. He actually brought some life in hard facts. His pronunciation was generally good.
I cannot say if this book will earn prof. Cline his fourth “Best Popular Book on Archaeology” award, but it definitely could.
The 'Joy of Ancient History' is a fruit salad of the best lectures from a vast array of courses on Ancient History by 'The Great Courses.' As an anthology it gives you a taste of everything, without expecting you to finish every fruit. Unfortunately this collection also suffers the shortcomings of anthologies in general. While a tremendous job was done to try and establish cohesion it didn't always work. Listening to the lectures I couldn't help to sometime wish that I could hear a previous lecture just to get into the picture. It spans a vast array of subjects, times and topics. That said, I am grateful for listening to it, because I was introduced to the Terracotta Army, and Prof. J Rufus Ferus' biographical sketches on Julius Caesar (from 'Famous Romans') and Solon (from 'Famous Greeks') made two figures I found boring come alive. Prof. Glen S Holland's lecture on 'Mesopotamian Creation Stories' (from 'Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World') was very interesting. The lost civilisation of the Amazons introduced by Prof. Edwin Barnhart was absolutely fascinating.
You will have difficulty in not gaining something you never knew from these lectures. 36 of the best lectures by professors of the Great Courses is not something you should just pass by. While I didn't like one or two lectures and I felt it sometimes suffered continuity, I thought the choices was generally excellent, intriguing, gripping and awe-inspiring. A must have for anyone interested in some or other aspect of ancient history.
I was pleasantly surprised to come across this Audible Inc. production of Prof. Peter Brown's newest book "Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD. Brown, the author of the best biography of Augustine of Hippo, is a careful meticulous and and well-respected historian of the late Roman Empire. He writes with authority.
In "Through the Eye of the Needle" Brown uses different sources (artefacts, catacombs, archaeological insights, written texts etc.) to reconstruct what has traditionally been seen as the time of the Roman Empire's decline. Already in the awkward dates that he uses in the sub-title of his book 350-550 AD and not for instance 324 (when Constantine was became emperor over the whole Roman Empire), Brown distances himself from traditional top-down historiography that focus important persons and places. While using important figures, like Maxentius, Augustine and others, he aims to document and interpret the way the not-so-important people of the late Western Roman Empire understood wealth.
He uses wealth at the key to sketch a different but more believable picture of late Roman Empire and its different churches' rise to prominence in its society. I found his take on the Pelagian controversy very interesting and enlightening.
Fleet Cooper did a fair job in reading the book. I am not sure if it is Brown's writing style or Cooper's way of reading, but it felt that some sentences were often to long and Cooper would break for breath making it difficult to comprehend a whole idea as a thought unit. That said, Cooper's pronunciation of foreign languages and the general ease of his reading made it pleasant to listen to.
Not everybody would like this book. At times it is very technical and might even be too thorough to some people's taste. It is an academic work and probably a trendsetter that cannot be ignored by historians reflecting on this part of history in future. Yet it might not be to the taste of someone who wants a light read.
It comes highly recommended. I hope Audible will see their way open to publish more of Prof. Brown's books in audio format.