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Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon (Text Only)

Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon (Text Only) [Kindle Edition]

Lesley Adkins
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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How 19th-century soldier, adventurer and scholar Henry Rawlinson deciphered cuneiform, the world’s earliest writing, and rediscovered Iraq's ancient civilisations.

This is the exciting, true adventure story of Henry Rawlinson, a fearless soldier, sportsman and explorer. From 1827 he spent twenty-five years in India, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. A brilliant linguist, fascinated by history, he became obsessed with cuneiform, the world’s earliest writing. An immense inscription on a sheer rock face at Bisitun in Iran was the key to understanding the many cuneiform scripts and languages, and only Rawlinson had the skills to achieve the perilous ascent and copy the monument.

In her gripping account, Lesley Adkins relates how Rawlinson triumphed in deciphering the lost languages of Persia and Babylonia, overcoming his bitter rival, Edward Hincks. While Rawlinson was based at Baghdad, incredible palaces with whole libraries of cuneiform clay tablets were unearthed in the ancient mounds of Mesopotamia, from Nineveh to Babylon – the great flood plain of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers that had been fought over by so many powerful empires. His decipherment of the inscriptions resurrected these lost civilisations, revealing fascinating details of everyday life and forgotten historical events. By proving to the astonished Victorian public that people and places in the Old Testament really existed, Rawlinson assured his own place in history.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 876 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (28 Jun 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008CBD7R2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #324,817 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

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Lesley Adkins is a historian and archaeologist, author of numerous critically acclaimed non-fiction books on social and naval history, archaeology, ancient Rome, ancient Greece and Egyptology. Her books (mostly written with her husband Roy Adkins) include 'Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England' (just published and called 'Jane Austen's England' in the US), 'Jack Tar', 'The War for All the Oceans', 'Empires of the Plain', and 'The Keys of Egypt'. They have been translated into several languages worldwide. She lives near Exeter in Devon.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly topical 14 Jan 2004
By A Customer
I was given this book for Christmas and was surprised not to have come across it earlier, especially given the book's topicality, set in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and India. It should really be read by anyone interested in the current conflicts, as so much background is explained here. The author's writing style is deceptively straightforward, without the irritating baggage of flowery adjectives, and presents in a highly accessible way an absolute mass of information - not to mention a fascinating story about the hero of the book, Henry Rawlinson, his adventures, and his great part in the decipherment of ancient cuneiform writing (also his rivalry with Edward Hincks, which is pretty sad really). The bit about Noah's Ark (a touchy subject for many) is actually neatly done, as Rawlinson is posted to the area of Mt Ararat. We then get a short digression on Noah's Ark, and this is then picked up a bit later, when cuneiform is gradually introduced, with Noah, Tower of Babel, clay tablets, and so on. All skilfully done. I came away knowing a great deal more about many topics, such as East India Company, cuneiform, ancient Mesopotamia, Baghdad, and a whole lot more - and I enjoyed the story of Rawlinson's life, largely self-taught, rising through the ranks. What a man, even if he did have a few flaws, which the author doesn't hide. Much recommended book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real cliffhanger 12 Jan 2005
By A Customer
I always look at the illustrations before starting a book. To my eyes the paintings of Henry Rawlinson showed such a mild mannered, bookish kind of person he hardly seemed to fit the hype on the cover. But I saw only a part of him. It is hard to imagine how a man of such astonishing ability could have the opportunity to develop so many of his talents these days - do men of such ability exist in these less taxing times? Rawlinson's career in the East India Company's army leads us from England to India, Afghanistan, Persia, and into Turkish Arabia and Baghdad. We explore the countries, the politics of the time, the early days of Archaeology in the region and get a fascinating glimpse of the Middle East and European attitudes as they were then. Places now so familiar from recent news crop up frequently and you wonder if much has really changed. After twenty two years of dedication to his job and studies Rawlinson is finally allowed to return to England, and along with him we exchange the heat of the desert for the heat of academic rivalry; the ambition, competition and intrigue fuelled by false friends. The difference between the circumstances, characters and techniques of Rawlinson and his chief rival Hinks is both poignant and appalling. How they solved the puzzle of cuneiform, unravelled the ancient languages and came to their interpretations would fascinate anyone who understands the structure of languages and grammar, but I must admit this bit went over my head. Not that I felt cheated, as there is so much more to this book. This is a book to inspire and to inform.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Character 20 July 2003
This book describes the life of the amazing character Henry Rawlinson, and the adventurous life he led as a soldier, explorer and diplomat. He was absolutely fearless in anything he tackled, which made it possible for him to climb up to a cuneiform inscription in Iran that provided the key for decipherment. A very absorbing read and a very good introduction to ancient cuneiform writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rawlinson Through a Brit's Eyes 13 April 2010
By Dumuzi
As part of my research I had already read Henry Creswicke Rawlinson bios from his brother George; as well as Robert Silverberg. Both of those publications seemed to lack an insightful feel to Henry's personality. I wanted to know who Henry married and a little more about his life in the U.K.. What better place than Amazon UK? I wasn't disappointed. Lesley Adkins satisfied my goal. I got a short bio on his wife and sons and a great literary picture of Henry's rivalry with his arch rival Edward Hinks ( a side story barely breached anywhere else). If you're studying Rawlinson-catch George Rawlinson's book in the Public Domain and add this book to season to taste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Victorians invariably inspire 19 April 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Victorians invariably inspire, and that is certainly the case in the story of how cuneiform was deciphered in the 19th C. told very abley by Lesley Adkins. She takes us to a stage full of larger than life haracters fiercely competing for the prize of being the first to crack the ancient alphabets of Babylon. And the scenery is nearly as interesting as the story: India, Iran, Iraq, an interlude for the Afghan war, club land in London, and Ireland. Centre stage is the ambitious gentlemanly Henry Rawlinson, successful soldier and diplomat who becomes engrossed in trying to find the meaning of the ancient alphabets. And so we find him at Bishapur, Mount Elwand, and Bisitun precariously balancing on ladders in the scorching heat copying cuneiform from the inscriptions on the rocks. Later we join him for the very bloody Afghan war where he has to retreat from Kandahar, clearly as fanatical and doped up then as now. He then foregoes promotion in India and leave to England, so he can be based in Baghdad as Consul to resume work on his `old friends' the cuneiforms. Rawlinson's discoveries were received with great excitement back in London, and he looked set to become the winner of the race. But it wasn't quite so simple, for he was not alone. There was Austen Henry Layard, who had a less than formal education, but was widely read and was especially enamoured by `Arabian Nights'. After turning his back on a profession in the law, he borrowed £300 from his mother and started travelling east, towards Nineveh, where he spent hours drawing the ruins, including the cuneiform: soon he was in correspondence with Rawlinson. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Empire of the plain, history of a lost language was found
I am a historian and I recommand this book to all lovers of history, the book written about Henry Rawlinson nthat found the key to open the lost Babylonian Language which for... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Masoud Akhbari
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed
First of all, let's not kid ourselves. As a book about Henry Rawlinson and the Bisotun inscription, Empires of the Plain is engagingly written. Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2011 by Russell Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars Workmanlike
Good but not great biography of Sir Henry Rawlinson, one of the many Victorian soldiers, administrators and diplomats who helped to uncover the history of India, Persia,... Read more
Published on 26 Oct 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Men who put the Great in Britain
Having read the biography of his famous son I am pleased that Sir Henry Creswicke's exploits have been published once more (nobody seems to have a copy of the original biography by... Read more
Published on 28 Aug 2003 by "philsil1304"
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting life of a soldier-scholar
I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of an extraordinary man. Sir Henry Rawlinson was remarkable in being a Victorian man of adventure and political ambition, but a man whose first... Read more
Published on 21 Aug 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Indiana Jones
Purchased book becuase of good review in UK Daily Telegraph. Although Indiana Jones was not based on Henry Rawlinson he could well have been! Read more
Published on 23 July 2003
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