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Ancient Worlds: The Search for the Origins of Western Civilization (Allen Lane History) [Hardcover]

Richard Miles
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Oct 2010 Allen Lane History

THE BOOK OF THE MAJOR BBC2 SERIES

Across the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Nile Delta, awe-inspiring, monstrous ruins are scattered across the landscape - vast palaces, temples, fortresses, shattered statues of ancient gods, carvings praising the eternal power of long-forgotten dynasties.These ruins - the remainder of thousands of years of human civilization - are both inspirational in their grandeur, and terrible in that their once teeming centres of population were all ultimately destroyed and abandoned.

In this major new book, Richard Miles recreates these extraordinary cities, ranging from the Euphrates to the Roman Empire, to understand the roots of human civilization. His challenge is to make us understand that the cities which define culture, religion and economic success and which are humanity's greatest invention, have always had a cruel edge to them, building systems that have provided both amazing opportunities and back-breaking hardship.

Miles is above all fascinated by the compromises that make the city work - the mixture of coercion and desire, ceremony and justice, the great public and private spaces created and recreated across the ancient world that defined the focus and meaning of human civilization.

This exhilarating, beautifully illustrated book is both a pleasure to read and a challenge to us all to think about our past - and about the present.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st Edition edition (28 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071399794X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997941
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 19.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 351,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

[for Carthage Must Be Destroyed]: Richard Miles tells this story with tremendous élan, combining the best of modern scholarship with narrative pace and energy. It is a superb achievement, a model for all such endeavours. He is even better on the little-known background to this tale (Peter Jones The Telegraph)

[for Carthage Must Be Destroyed]: Miles ... has written an epic and fascinating new history of the city ... [and] performed a splendid feat of resurrectionism (Tom Holland The Spectator)

About the Author

Richard Miles is the author of Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization. He teaches classics at the University of Sydney and was previously a Newton Trust Lecturer in the Faculty of Classics and Fellow and Director of Studies at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. He has written widely on Punic, Roman and Vandal North Africa and has directed archaeological excavations in Carthage and Rome.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'C' word 22 Mar 2011
By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It really didn't surprise me when, just before the television series was broadcast, I caught Richard Miles on Radio 4 being forced to defend the use of the word "civilisation". It has become a dirty word amongst modern liberals, redolent in their minds of imperialism, colonialism and every other "ism" under the sun. Miles is of course simply using the word with its actual meaning, namely a society which lives in cities. In his introduction he notes: "In the modern West we have lost confidence in the idea of civilisation. Embarrassed by its chauvinistic and elitist connotations, we have increasingly taken refuge in less loaded terms such as 'culture' to explain our origins. [...] Our discomfort with this idea has made us consign civilisation to the museum display case, but in this book the idea of civilisation will be rescued from its enforced retirement."

The text of this book appears to be just a simple transcript of the narrative of the television series, so at times it perhaps reads slightly oddly; personally I have perhaps benefited from having seen the series beforehand, as I can hear Miles' voice and delivery in my head as I read. In covering five thousand years of civilisation beginning from the earliest Mesopotamian cities to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire it is of necessity something of a whistle-stop tour, but Miles always writes entertainingly with enthusiasm and with wit.

Overall I would probably recommend the television series over the book as I enjoyed Miles' presentation. Congratulations to the BBC for having, just for once in recent times, produced a documentary series not dumbed down and wrecked by overpowering visuals and music and condescending voice-overs but instead allowing an intelligent narrative to the fore.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and informative introduction. 13 Jan 2011
By Glasgow Dreamer TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a lovely book; heavy, well put together, with clear and easily legible print on bright white glossy pages, and absolutely chock full of fantastic photographs, maps and other illustrations.

It's also very well written and informative, and as a companion piece to the recent BBC TV series of the same name, it is certainly a valuable reference work. As a number of ancient civilisations are covered, the individual chapters, while informative, are not overburdened with detail. This is in some ways an advantage, as a casual reader (like myself) may quickly discover that he/she does not know as much as he/she may have thought. While much of the content will be familiar, I was surprised at how much of this was new to me.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this book as an excellent introduction to a fascinating subject, whether or not you have seen the accompanying TV series.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Christopher Meadows VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
This is a well written, accessible text covering a broad overview of ancient history in the western world, particularly focused on the growth and spread of urban centres and culture, or `civilisation'. The author approaches the subject with evident enthusiasm, presenting the reader with broad strokes covering the cultures of the earliest ancient cities and civilisations, including Tyre, Carthage, Greece, the conquests of Alexander, and the rise of Rome and its change of politics.

A large part of the text centres around different governmental styles, including coverage of the earliest `strong-man' governments, Egypt's Pharaohs, through the Greek experiments with democracy, Alexander's unique style of leadership, and the Republic and Empires of Rome; each is approached in enough detail to make it interesting, whilst not leaving the reader bogged down in minutiae.

The text is bracketed by both informative maps and wonderfully done photographs - every other page seems to contain a wonderful image of some sort, all of which are a pleasure to look at, and help provide a little more context to the surrounding text. The images also make the book a pleasure to flick through; it's fairly large, but no doubt would look good on the coffee table.

As above, the content made for a fascinating read, and as a primer for all the periods covered, it works very well; it would have been nice to have gone into the topics covered in more detail, but I suspect this would need an entire library!

As a starter on what we now call `civilisation', and its political and socio-cultural growth in the western world, this is an excellent text, and a very pleasant read, and well recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable, beautiful book 26 Jan 2012
By bomble TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am so glad I have the hardback edition of this book because, despite it being well enough written to have held my interest from cover to cover, it is also totally suitable as a coffee-table book to dip into and enjoy for its fantastic photographs and illustrations. I missed the TV series but often books that accompany them can be a bit lack-lustre. This stands out in my view as a very worthy introduction to the history and geography of the ancient world and as it was a spin-off from a TV series then I shall keep an eye out for the re-runs.

I can't comment on the validity of the research or material but it all seems consistent and plausible to me. Enthusiasm leaps out of the page and you get the feeling that if all history books were this appealing we'd have a much better educated populace!

Excellent.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank You
I could not put this book down. I have read many books on the Ancient World, but this one is so well framed.
Published 11 months ago by nazanine moshiri
2.0 out of 5 stars Probably a Good Book but not on Kindle
Buyer beware; I was not, which is my fault. In the Kindle edition you get only the text and barely intelligible maps, no, in fact, unintelligible maps, and no photographs. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sam M Bennett
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, cursory in some areas and needing more maps but still...
The book concerns itself with a selection of events over some six millennia around the areas of modern day Iran, Israel, Egypt, Greece and Italy with limited attention being paid... Read more
Published 16 months ago by G. Wake
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, just not very exciting
I have to admit that I was a little but disappointed with the book. It's well produced, and there are lots of nice pictures, but it sort of felt rather ordinary and just a little... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Dr. J. S. Bray
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read
Easy to read and absorbing. On the Kindle edition the maps are not very good. A good follow up to the TV Series
Published 18 months ago by Phone user 1
4.0 out of 5 stars A sweep through history
Miles chooses to take Uruk as his starting point rather than earlier candidates such as Jericho, Jarmo or Ҫatal Hüyük and makes a distinction between culture and... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Francis Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars Who Are You to Wrangle With Kings?
Before I bought this book I forgotten that I had watched the BBC series on which it based. It's better to watch the series (available on DVD), but the book works just as well by... Read more
Published on 18 Jun 2012 by Honrus Publicus
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing
This is the second book of Richard's I have. Compared to the other I found this a little disappointing. Read more
Published on 3 Jun 2012 by Micheal Wiley
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for the book shelf....
Very interesting, well written account of our earliest civilisations. Not too many photographs, but those in the book are beautiful. Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2012 by L. mckay
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic history of the urban origins of the modern world
This is a rigorous account of the rise from 6ooo years ago of the first cities and the roots of ancient civilization,where humans begin to cooperate,live and work together in... Read more
Published on 14 Nov 2011 by technoguy
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