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4.6 out of 5 stars
Ancient Iraq (Penguin History)
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118 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2001
Georges Roux, who died recently at a good old age, was a remarkable man. He was an Anglophile French doctor who worked in Iraq many years ago for an international oil company. While in Iraq and later, he was fascinated by the epic history of the Mesopotamian civilizations that succeeded one another over three thousand years. As a non-specialist, he appreciates the difficulties of the ordinary reader when confronted with a subject whose ancient history, languages, literature and archaeology are all difficult, specialist fields. He wrote the book for Penguin Books in English from the outset, and since it sold very well Penguin came back to him for revised editions. He had a great range of contacts, and his revisions were first-class. The last revised edition is up to date to the time of the Gulf War, since when there has been no further archaeological work in Iraq. I read this book when it first came out. I teach the subject at university level, and I have always recommended it as an excellent and thorough introduction. It reads very well, and contains a wealth of information that is put over with great clarity. People to whom I have recommended it have come back and told me how good a book they think it is.
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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Now in its 3rd edition, Ancient Iraq remains the most complete and readable overview of the history of this cradle of civilization. Interestingly, the word Iraq comes from the name of the Sumerian city state Uruk. There is now a village called Warka near the ruins of the ancient city.
The introductory chapters explore the geographical setting, archaeological research and the paleo-, meso- and neolithic periods. Following on, the author discusses the Hassuna, Samarra, Halat, Ubaid, Uruk and Jemdat timeframes, and the ancient trade routes.
Next up is the Sumerian civilization, with a study of its origin, religion, history and mythology. The story of Gilgamesh is covered here. There was a Semitic interlude and a final Sumerian renaissance before the torch of history passed to the Semites in the form of the Akkadians and later the Assyrians and Babylonians. The statesman and lawgiver Hammurabbi is thoroughly dealt with.
But other peoples played a part too, like the Hurrians, Mitannians and Kassites. Insofar as they impacted upon the history of the area, empires like the Hittite and the Egyptian are also considered. There are detailed narratives on the Assyrian empire, the Chaldean kings and the fall of Nineveh and later of Babylon. After this event, Mesopotamia ceased to be a seat of empire and passed from the Persians to the Greeks, the Parthians, the Sassanids and ultimately to the Arabs.
In the Epilogue, we learn of the heritage of this civilization, such as enduring religious symbols like the Maltese cross, the tree of life an the crescent. Some words have come down to us, like "alcohol" (guhlu in Akkadian), "myrrh" (murru) and "naphta" (naptu), "abyss" (abzu in Sumerian). Some Sumerian words still live in Hebrew, like Egal (great house) = Heikal = Temple and the personal name Eitan (Etana).
The book contains plates with photographs and illustrations, and concludes with bibliographic notes, comparative history tables, various interesting maps and indices of names and subjects. For those interested in the paleolithic origins of civilization, I recommend Lost Civilizations Of The Stone Age by Richard Rudgley. If you have a taste for alternative history, the book Ramses II And His Time by Immanuel Velikovsky has much to say about Babylon and the Chaldeans. And finally, Empires Of The Word: A Language History Of The World by Nicholas Ostler, deals extensively with ancient Mesopotamia, its languages, culture and empires.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the marvellous books written by someone who knows so much that he makes it sound all too easy; Christopher Duffy has a similar style and Bindhoff's Tudor England is another such joy.

One feels Roux grasps how these ancient cultures actually worked as functioning societies rather than as quaint historical constructs. One sees how the strange factory cultures of Sumer (everyone working for the globalised gods) clashed with the free-booting Semitic and then Hurrian peoples of the periphery resulting in respectively Sargon and Assyria. Here is a people simple enough to be owned by their gods and yet already engaging in complex commercial structures and bureaucratic management never mind their scientific achievements.

Each chapter is just enough to flesh out a culture and then on to the next. Each makes one to think of a real society with rational aims and goals. Each chapter is also well paced enough for you to retain your understanding until you can link to the next piece of the historical chain.

I would not have believed such a distant civilisation could so effortlessly been evoked; something only a great deal of knowledge can achieve.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 25 June 2005
This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to really understand the very beginnings of settled culture and civilisations. It is a serious and academic book, but the author Georges Roux is also interested in putting across heavy and well-researched material to 'lay' people as well as more learned academics.
I am personally obsessed with early civilisations and the more I read and understand, the more I am held in awe by our ancestors. This book is a great introduction to what can be a veritable wealth and minefield of information, and is also something that would give people a taste for other branches of ancient history, such as the study of other ancient cultures, archaeology, the trade and 'intercourse' between great and ancient civilisations, and so on. All in all, a very good book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2011
I bought this book as I'm interested in classics, having studied classical civilisations at A level. As such I have no depth of knowledge in this area and this book was my starting point. It really does frame the mindset of the people of Iraq beautifully, outlining the importance of irragation, farming, defense etc to the people of the area, the author expands upon the ancient cities from the stone age right up to describing the recent digs the international archaeologits have done which really puts whole aspects of little known knowledge into perfect context. The volume and scope of material covered is immense and accompanied not only by plain ink diagrams embedded in the text throughout the book but also several pages of glossy photos of seals, tablets, cities etc which all contribute to giving the reader a sense of real progress in this area of little known history. I have also bought other books on the subject but this book is my favorite. Also I would say that although you do need to concentrate on the information you are taking in, because it is so new, when other reviewers have said the book id dense it is not difficult to understand or written in overly complicated language but it contains a lot of information, so avoid distractions when reading!

I don't know how I lived without it! Buy it!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2004
After reading many general histories of Mesopotamia, I found George Roux's Ancient Iraq the most useful and comprehensive. Rather than give an overall view of everyday life in the region (letters, city plans and religion), Roux chooses to concentrate on the spread of cultural influences, and importantly, the military victories and defeats of the kings and rulers of the city states. This may sound like a heavy read, but Roux throws in some humour ('Gungunnum', a king who Roux points out sounds like the sound of a beating battle drum). Politics is the key word here, and Roux does a superb job. Read it like a novel, and get ready for the rise and fall of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. Even the Assyrian conquest of Egypt gets a mention. If you are after a lighter read try Gwendolyn Leick's 'Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City'.
Overall you will not find a book quite as removed from the rest than you will this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2013
Great book, but a question for Amazon: why is the Kindle edition dearer than the paperback? Kindle pricing needs to be examined generally, but particularly for referance material.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2008
I wanted to learn a bit about Mesopotamia, so I chose this book because of the positite reviews. I'm glad I did! I'm not an academic, curious about history would be an accurate destription. Heavy going at times but well worth the effort in the end.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2010
Simply the best book i have ever read on the subject.

Georges Roux succeeds in clearly reviewing Iraq ancient history.
His book is wonderfully written and should appeal to both scholars and beginners.
It made me re-read all my classics dealing with the history of this part of the world.
The writer, as a story teller should keep you interested until the last page.
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on 21 January 2013
This is an excellent introduction to ancient Mesopotamia and I would highly recommend it to undergraduates and, indeed, to anyone interested in the early development of civilisation. It covers a huge period of time, fron prehistory right up to Alexander, although the latter is covered only briefly.

It also provides an extensive bibliography, although many of the references are quite old. It could be improved by the inclusion of some decent internet links.

Overall a very good read which is sure to motivate you to study particular topics in more detail.
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