This is a broad, sweeping history from the foundation of Alexandria, to the invasion of Islam. It gives a good picture of the thinking of the hellenized world. I did not realize how much like them we are.
That the ancient world could have known so much and then have it forgotton, not to be rediscovered for a thousand years, is a sad and uncomforting thought.
If you want to know more about this incredible place and time for all of the above subjects as well as an interesting interplay of Judaism, Christianity, and Paganism, this is a great one-stop source. I learned much about the great minds of the past and the context of their discoveries.
This book tied together lots of history for me, including how Greece, Rome and Christianity fit together. I didn't realize how much of "Greek" history was Alexandrian and I was shocked by the number of great thinkers that came through this city.
Can you call an audiobook a "page turner?" Well, maybe not, but the authors are such masters of their subject and display such eloquence and insight that I found myself saying, "Wow, that was interesting! What's next?" This is not your average dry and dusty history book, that much is for sure.
Well, to be fair, history did give them a wonderful cast to work with. Alexander the Great, Ptolemy Soter, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Aristarchus, Eratosthenes, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Claudius Ptolemy, Philo, Caligula, Caracala, Hypatia of Alexandria and many, many more. From the story of Alexander himself laying out the streets ca 300 BCE to the final dousing of the candle of knowledge before plunging in to the dark ages ca 600 CE, this is the story of a city like no other before or since. It was born from a vision, lived and flourished, and then like all good things, it died, the victim of its own brash nature and (in my opinion) the ultimately destructive forces of greed and revealed religions. But along the way, Alexandria taught us how to think.
This is a great read. The reader doesn't get in the way of the text, which is the third best thing you can say about a narrator.
I thought I knew a little bit about Alexandria, but this book showed me how little I actually knew!
The history of this city and the people who made it what it became is well worth your credit! I had no idea how much this city and the (famous) people who lived there shaped the western world for centuries. I was so surprised by the discoveries that we had been taught only arrived in the Enlightenment that actually were "old news" in Alexandria. You'll be surprised by the familiar names of so many inventors, philosophers, rulers, and others who are wrapped up closely in the history of this city. This is not "dry" history; the authors do a good job of keeping us interested - mostly because it really was not a boring or "dry" topic! (...and besides, Simon Vance has never disappointed me.)
Side note: This city was so far ahead of it's time - if only the discoveries of this culture had not been buried for centuries... It leaves you wondering where we might be today....
The story of Alexandria is far larger and richer than I had imagined. This book could have gone on for 22 hours and still not felt too long or too detailed. Well told, complete with the back stories and sidebars, the personalities and history.
It is interesting to hear how even in 177AD was talking about how low brow (intellectually) Christianity was. How it seemed to seek out those least disposed to reasoning, something we see today with the Republican party and the religious "Right".
If we could only learn from history, maybe we wouldn't have to destroy our country like the Romans and Christians destroyed Alexandria.
I'm extremely torn on this book; probably more so than any of the dozen or so history titles I've listened to on audible so far.
On one hand, it is extremely imformative. Note that this book is really about the academics/scholars/scientists that were from Alexandria, or those who studied/lived there for a time. It's less about the city itself and it's history, although that of course works its way into Reid and Pollard's narrative...especially and the beginning and the end of the book.
There's some great stuff in here....Reid and Pollard argue that Archimedes may have lived in Alexandria; discuss the important Alexandrian Jewish community and its impact on early Christianity; flesh out the geographer Ptolemy; and discuss Celsus, an early critic of Christianity and its origins. Among other topics.
That said, I feel like this book would work better in print form, as the voiceover can drag on and there isn't the kind of narrative that makes a history book work in audio format.
This is just a terrific listen. I'm afraid I'm only echoing the earlier reviews, but that's because I agree with them totally. If all books of history were written like this kids would be lining up to read (or listen to) them. Pollard and Reid make every chapter fascinating. I cussed out loud when my iPod died in the middle of it. I recommend this to anyone who likes history. Plus, Simon Vance reads in his irresistable manner. Five starts all the way down the line. Rick
The lives of so many wonderful geniuses living in a city which for al practical purposes was a gigantic university campus; and the first one at that.
The overall plan Ptolemy I Soter had for his city and the wonderful but sad life of Hypatia.
I've already heard some. He is a skilled reader, albeit quite at a loss when it comes to pronouncing certain household ancient names like Archimedes. He should have been thoroughly coached on this.
Hypatia's death and the rule of Ptolemy IV. It was painful to see such an extraordinary project go to waste because of mere sloth and ineptitude.
Mr Vance needs coaching when it comes to pronouncing standard ancient Greek names.
The book tells a very interesting history of Alexandria. The range of subjects covered as well as the time period spanned makes it good for someone looking for an introduction into to the Hellenistic world. Unfortunately, the descriptions given of many episodes in the history of science are somewhat reductive. For example, the authors speak of the world's first "university" in Alexandria. There was no such thing. Universities are institution with medieval origins, and saying that there was a university in ancient world is a simplification of what a university is, and what was going on in Alexandria. There are many similar examples where the authors project episodes and events into a modern context and thereby simplify many of the complexities of history. For example, the steam engine as developed in 18th century Europe was a very different machine that what Hero invented, and reducing it to a single element to find the commonality between collapses the intervening innovations into a triviality. The worst example of this, to finish off, is the authors' use of the word "science" in an unproblematic way to describe activities in the ancient world. Using the word gives the impression that these activities separated by 2000 years are somehow the same, when in fact there are many differences between the two. Explaining what these differences are would have served the listeners better than to constantly talk about "science" in the ancient world. "Philosophy" would have been a much better word to use. Finally, there are sometime serious errors of fact. The most glaring is the authors' claim that people thought the earth was flat from after antiquity to the time of Columbus. This is simply not true, and basic fact checking would have caught such massive errors.