Skip to content

The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome – Review by Kenneth Ellman

Kenneth Ellman Reviews History of Ancient World by Susan Bauer.

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer, reviewed by Kenneth Ellman,, Box 18, Newton, New Jersey 07860

As is the case with many books, the reviews and comments by readers can reveal the impact of a writer more than and in ways that the book itself does not readily expose. That is the case with The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer.

This book consists of over 800 pages of storytelling with author Notes of sources for the 85 Chapters, a Works Cited section, Index, Table of Contents, List of Illustrations and List of Maps. There are so, so many books on the Ancient World that just listing such publications would take a book or books in itself. Further the very many topics that can be chosen to investigate and learn about in Ancient History certainly cannot be encompassed in any one volume work. So it is silly to criticize this author, as some have done, for providing this limited one volume account and introduction to the “Ancient World” of man as not containing the entire ancient history as we know it today. I am not so sure that the classical manner of separation of the story of man into arbitrary delineations such as Ancient, Medieval , Modern etc. really serves any purpose. Many of the ideas, dreams, suffering and development of man continue unabated as a perpetual conflict of growth and change of the human animal. But such historical categorization of the “Ancient World” is normal, common and expected. So why is the work of Susan Wise so interesting and attractive? And why do some make such strange criticism of her writing?

The answer is probably due to the ability of the author to convey past accounts, literature, records, research, etc. in a manner of a well documented storybook that makes following and reading her work an uninterrupted adventure. As you may gather I like her work. So far I have not found any passage or paragraph where her meaning and thoughts were difficult to understand or misplaced. I have not found any significant historical errors. Some reviewers object to what they believe are her inferences and injections of personal interpretation and her personal reactions to the history and story she conveys. I find that rather odd. An authors commentary and reactions as to a stated historical event is certainly not out of place and adds to the recounting of what is believed to have occurred. I may or may not agree with the authors reaction to the historical event, but as long as the event is properly recounted, the authors comments are a useful view into the mind of the writer. And I do seek to hear what the writer has to say in addition to a recounting of the ancient works, archeological evidence and research of others. Susan Wise does well in taking a vast and extraordinary time period of mankind and creating a portrayal in this one volume work that encompasses so many centuries and over so much geographical area. The author is earthy, does not shy from her reactions to what she recounts and is not afraid to use ancient writing which critics call “religious sources” or “mythology” as also being part of human history.

For her lack of fear to incorporate the stories of so many people as those people viewed and wrote about themselves, she get criticized by some reviewers. I commend her. When a historical account passed down over thousands of years whose authenticity as an ancient writing cannot be disputed is used, this does not take away from the concept and recounting of the work of a historian. Certainly the writing we call the Bible is as much a historical inheritance as any other writing of antiquity. To the extent such a work is recounted as evidence of the thoughts, belief and the way of life of ancient people, it is as the ancient Romans viewed it, “entitled to respect” for its antiquity and the deep past of its culture and people.

To the extent there is independent archeological evidence as to its validity that is an additional gift for understanding those who lived so long ago. I found the authors recounting on pages 12-14 of the various stories and evidence for the “Flood” and of the work of William Ryan and Walter Pitman well examined. In fact there is research citing to a “Flood Event” occurring around 7400 BC and we are not necessarily stuck with the date of 5600 BC. We know for sure as Susan Wise and countless others have shown that the many ancient cultures fervently believed in a “Flood” having changed the world and we must conclude that our ancestors had an experience that caused such history to develop in their own time .

This book is a very useful one volume story of ancient mankind which as many of us know encompasses thousands of volumes of writing, research and history. It can be read and offered with benefit to any age group as long as the reader has a desire to learn. Easy to read and easy to understand. Take it to bed with you. Kenneth Ellman,, Box 18, Newton, New Jersey 07860.