Ancient Civilizations are simply fascinating. Some, such as the Roman Empire, achieved heights that we have arguably yet to reach. All without the internet, modern plumbing and medicine.
This list of short book reviews covers the Ancient Aztecs, Eyptians, Incas and more. From the earliest communities to an examination of ancient black races, be fascinated.
7 Ancient Civilizations – short book reviews
1. The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic – Mike Duncan
The Roman Empire has long been an inspiration for our society. Many European countries still use parts of their law, the Roman Law. But the Roman Empire was the beginning of a lot more than law. Many social and political movements, like periodical elections, free speech and many others have their roots in the Roman times. The Storm before the Storms doesn’t only cover how the Roman Republic influenced the world, but also the early years, before Julius Caesar or Augustus, that many historians only mention in passing. Mike Duncan talks about the beginning of the Roman Republic, before the First Triumvirate. He covers the military changes that lead to the territory extension and the struggles Rome had with the new territories through to the falling of this great Republic. It is a well-documented book and Duncan explains every change with great clarity.
2. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States – James C. Scott
How did society as think of it appear? And why did humans exchange the freedom of hunting and gathering for the seemingly more convenient crop growing and livestock husbandry? These are the questions James C. Scott tries to answer in Against The Grain. He argues that if humans didn’t establish communities and didn’t give up the nomadic lifestyle, they wouldn’t have faced so many epidemics and violent disputes over land and money. His view is simple: barbarians led a better life because they weren’t tied down to the land and didn’t face the same social struggles. Against the Grain is not really historical facts book, but more a sociology discussion. It follows humans as they became the citizens we now know. This book will make you see the world from a new perspective, and leave you wondering what if, just a little.
3. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome – Susan Wise Bauer
If you want to know what happened in the wider world, until the fall of the Roman Republic, this is the book for you. Susan Wise Bauer talks about what happened to people during specific periods of time. She focuses on individuals rather than on political systems, even though she doesn’t exclude them from the book. The History of the Ancient World is a fast paced book and easy to read. It also has maps to help you place the first civilizations not only in time, but also in locality. If you want to know more generally about the history of the world and about the first civilizations, this is a good introductory book to read.
4. From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of the Ancient Black Races Including the Black Hebrews – Rudolph R. Windsor
Rudolph R. Windsor writes a detailed history of the black races, starting in Mesopotamia. It focuses on how powerful the black people were before the invasion of Islam and other European conquerors. Their culture was unique, diverse and thriving until they were invaded and forced to bow to new leaders who didn’t understand them. The author uses a lot of historical sources, including the Bible, to explain how people of color lived during those times. From Babylon to Timbuktu is a book everyone should read, not only those interested in race studies. It is a rare insight into the rise and fall of the black peoples.
5. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilization from 3000 BC to Cleopatra – Toby Wilkinson
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt focuses on the often violent and colorful history of this empire. From the first people who found a fertile, god blesses place and settled, to the civil war, the age of the kingdom, the military movements to the invasion. This book takes you on a journey with the people who left behind the pyramids. Toby Wilkinson focuses primarily on how the society developed. He reviews how people perceived religion and their different gods as well as the politics which divided the kingdom several times. If you are not an history buff and all you know about Egypt is from movies and documentaries, you will enjoy this book because it is well written, and easy to read.
6. The Last Days of the Incas – Kim MacQuarrie
The Last Days of the Incas is a beautiful historical nonfiction book that focuses on the Spanish conquest of Incas and Peru written in a fictional style. Even though it seems more like a story than a history book, the author doesn’t overlook the political struggle, the bloody transfer to the new regime or the suffering of the Incas. The story of the Spanish conquest is well known. It spells out the historical details of how the wealth–hungry Spanish took the power from Atahualpa and Huascar. The consequent destruction of the local culture and agricultural systems, which are often left out of the movies and documentaries, are well described in this amazing book.
7. Aztec: A Captivating Guide to Aztec History and the Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, and Tlacopan – Capitivating History Series
Aztec is about the fascinating history of the Mesoamerican civilization. It covers the history of the Aztecs from the first tribes who settled there, to the fall of Tenochtitlan. The book talks about the unique culture and religion as well as trading and political systems. You will read about the famous Aztec kings and how they ruled. We loved the guide to the city of Tenochtitlan, as re-imagined by historians, because there are no physical remains of this amazing and developed city. It also includes a chapter of recipes and also rites and rituals explained. You will get the full Aztec experience with this book.
We love reading history books at WhyToRead.com and we hope you have enjoyed these reviews of books on ancient civilizations as much as we did.