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"A lively, appealing, and highly recommended introduction to the Bronze and early Iron Age Near East." -Journal of the American Oriental Society
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Amanda H. Podany is Professor and Chair of History at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is the author of the award-winning book Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East as well as a number of other books and articles on topics in ancient Near Eastern history.
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At first I was really pleased with the title of this book. The term “Near East” has unfortunately fallen in disuse, and has been replaced with “Middle East,” which is traditionally a very different geographical area. However, the way term “Near East” is used in this book is not quite the way it’s been colloquially used either. The book basically covers the ancient Mesopotamia and its related cultures, and not, as I had expected, ancient Egypt, Persia and Israel. Apparently the way that archeologists and historians use this term is much narrower than what I had expected. I don’t have a problem with this per se, but this may cause confusion with many readers.
Having the issues of nomenclature out of the way, let me just say that this is a very fascinating book, especially if you are a fan of history. My understanding of this region and its ancient civilizations has been rather cursory, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how rich and sophisticated this period of history was. It seems that of all the ancient civilizations this is the last one to be fully explored and understood, and was more or less completely unknown for thousands of years. However, thanks to the nature of its written records – cuneiform tablets – the written records of these civilizations that have been unearthed over the past century or so are extremely extensive and help us get a very detailed picture of this region in ancient times.
The book is written in chronological order, starting in about fourth millennium BC. It covers several major consecutive civilizations and periods that had arisen and fallen over the course of about three millennia. The final end of all of these civilizations and the cultures that sustained them came in sixth century BC with the Persian conquest by Cyrus the Great.Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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Peter S. Bradley
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a solid introduction and survey of the current state of archeological and historical knowledge concerning Near Eastern/Middle Eastern history and culture from prehistory to just short of the beginning of classical history. The books starts with the early development of Sumerian city states - when the term for king was not being used - and the early start of writing - when writing was essentially a "memory aid" - through successive eras of the 700 year "Uruk period" (circa 3600 BC to 2900 BC), the early dynastic period, the Akkadian Empire (2334 BC - 2194 BC), the Third Dynasty of Ur, the early Babylonian period, the early Assyrian period - when Assyria was treated like a bumptious upstart by the Hittite king - the Late Bronze Age - including its collapse - the neo-Assyrian Empire (973 BS - 612) - when the bumptious upstart became the sole remaining player of the Game of Kings - and the neo-Babylonian Empire (612 BC - 539 BC) - which was in turn brought law by the Medes.
Along the way, the author shares insight into cultural and technological developments including the development of writing and the institutions of kingship and empire. Language moves from eastern Sumerian to central Sumerian (Akkadian) to western Sumerian. (Amorite) as new people emerged and/or the locus of power shifted. The author touches on the literature of Sumeria, including Gilgamesh, the flood story of Utnapishtim, and Enlil's "Tablet of Destiny." I want to share the last because it is interesting and was touched on in Mark S. Smith's "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts:
//Order was maintained in the universe because the king of the gods possessed an object called the "Tablet of Destinies" on which were inscribed the me (pronounced "may"). These me were never written down on any earthly tablet, as far as we know, for human edification. But they encompassed all that kept chaos at bay. Humans were not significant enough, in the Mesopotamian view, to have any major role in cosmic events. It was neither here nor there to the gods what humans actually believed about them. They simply were. And just as the gods needed a king, so too did the humans. This was part of the cosmic order.
Podany, Amanda H. (2013-10-21). The Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Kindle Locations 521-526). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
Insofar as that was the case, one can see the "anti-pagan polemic" in the Old Testament's claim that humans were created in the image and likeness of God (albeit the Sumerians believed that men were created in the same shape as their gods, albeit that was a fact without significance.)
Clearly, the author's interest is directed to Mesopotamia. Egypt gets some mentions, such as its involvement in the cooperative era of the Late Bronze Age, when Egypt was willing to use cuneiform and clay tablets to communicate with her international allies. But the area outside of Mesopotamia is largely off-camera.
There is some overlap here with Eric Cline's 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History), for those with an interest in the mystery of the collapse of Late Bronze Age civilization.
The writing is clear and direct. I listened to this book mostly as an audiobook (as part of Kindle's "whispersync" program.) I found the writing and the subject to be sufficiently interesting to keep my attention as I was driving. Although the book tends to fall on the academic side, the "very short" format keeps the work focused and direct. I think that someone with an interest in "ancient" history would find this to be a worthy addition to their library.
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M. W. S. Cawthorne
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Knowledge of Professor Podany's previous work on the region does not in any way detract from the insight and pleasure to be derived from this handy volume, which is just the job to fill in a plane journey or quiet evening and offers a balanced overview of the development of written records in the ancient near east from the earliest known times. It certainly lives up to its title as a Very Short Introduction, and leaves one hungry for more - not just for the ancient near east, but for other titles in the series.
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“The Ancient Near East: A very short Introduction” is an excellent primer on the ancient Near East, or better, the Cuneiform world from 35000 - 539 BDE. This is exactly as the title indicates, a short (app 150 pages) overview of the Eastern Mediterranean into ancient Iraq. Mrs. Podany gives us short sketches of several of the important cities and cultures of the area and era. These are well done, and give a good taste of what the period was like, at least for the ruling classes. The intrigue, diplomacy and interactions of the peoples is well demonstrated.
One is advised to go to such books as “1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed” for more detail in a readable form. But the collage of cultures, peoples, languages, religions over that and region is vast and seldom taught or understood as a unit. This little book gives the uninformed reader an insight into what can be discovered in further research. It is an invaluable aid in understanding the people and cultures.
This book is not for the seasoned historian of the period. It is for the masses of us who want a taste of the era to see if we want to explore further. It does this very well.
The book is very readable. Technical terms are either well explained or absent. The maps and pictures well illustrate what is known.
A well done short introduction well worth the time to read.
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I developed an interest in the ancient middle east as a college student over 4 decades ago. Now that I am retired I can read much more than when I was working. This book is an excellent overview and helped to bring me up-to-date with modern archeology and scholarship. This is not my first purchase from the Oxford U. Press' Very Short Introductions, which are perfect to overview [or review] a subject, or see if you want to go any deeper. With just about every volume my appetite for the latter has been whetted. Five stars for this volume and for the series!
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Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim
- Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Thanks to this wonderful book, "The Ancient Near East VSI", I now understand the Ancient Near East (ANE) far better than I used to. The book is a wonderful blend of high level scholarship and a very fine poetic perspective.
Studying the ANE is studying the basis for civilization and, consequently, the basis for much of the human condition. This book is the best I've encountered at making the subject easy to understand. It makes sense that a cuneiformist of the first order would write an extremely coherent book on the ANE as cuneiform writing is the key to understanding the various cultures (Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hittite).
If nothing else everyone should read the section on Sargon of Akkad ("To whom Enlil has given no rival; to him he (Enlil) gave the Upper and lower sea.") Sargon formed the worlds first empire out of city states and the guy was a hoot!
I put this book in the category of books that one should run out and buy and then drop everything and read it with enjoyment.