Civilization before Greece and Rome

H. W. F. Saggs

View Inside Price: $34.00


January 23, 1991
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300050318
Paper

Also Available in:
e-book

For many centuries it was accepted that civilization began with the Greeks and Romans. During the last two hundred years, however, archaeological discoveries in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete, Syria, Anatolia, Iran, and the Indus Valley have revealed that rich cultures existed in these regions some two thousand years before the Greco-Roman era. In this fascinating work, H.W.F Saggs presents a wide-ranging survey of the more notable achievements of these societies, showing how much the ancient peoples of the Near and Middle East have influenced the patterns of our daily lives.
 
Saggs discusses the invention of writing, tracing it from the earliest pictograms (designed for account-keeping) to the Phoenician alphabet, the source of the Greek and all European alphabets. He investigates teh curricula, teaching methods, and values of the schools from which scribes graduated. Analyzing the provisions of some of the law codes, he illustrates the operation of international law and the international trade that it made possible. Saggs highlights the creative ways that these ancient peoples used their natural resources, describing the vast works in stone created by the Egyptians, the development of technology in bronze and iron, and the introduction of useful plants into regions outside their natural habitat.  In chapters on mathematics, astronomy, and medicine, he offers interesting explanations about how modern calculations of time derive from the ancient world, how the Egyptians practiced scientific surgery, and how the Babylonians used algebra. The book concludes with a discussion of ancient religion, showing its evolution from the most primitive forms toward monotheism.

"An original, clear, engaging introduction to the civilization of the ancient world, and a must for readers who think that civilization began with Greece and Rome."—Juan Adolfo Vázquez, NAOS: Notes and Materials for the Linguistic Study of the Sacred



"An extremely useful book for every classicist to read and use in trying to understand the greater context of the ancient world into which the ancient Greek and Roman worlds fit. . . . A survey from which we can all benefit—classicists as well as non-classicists."—John E. Rexine

"Saggs’ new book gives a straightforward account of several major civilizations, from the Aegean to the Indus, in early times. He concentrates on Mesopotamia and Egypt, but he has shrewd observations to make on Harappan society and the Hittites, among others. . . . A useful book for broadening the cultural horizons of classical scholars, and for giving a persistent general reader an introduction to many early cultures rich in intellectual achievement."—Andrew Ramage, Classical World

"Can be read with pleasure and profit by specialists, general readers, and students alike."—Marvin A. Powell, American Historical Review

"H. W. F. Saggs focuses primarily on the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia and, to a lesser extent, the cultures on their periphery, in Anatolia, Palestine, and the Indus Valley. . . . He vividly recreates the character of life in these ancient societies and illustrates the great extent to which subsequent civilizations have been based on ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian accomplishments. The author makes particular effective use of scores of quotations from ancient texts. . . . [He] present[s] in a lucid and lively manner even complex subjects, such as subtle but fundamental grammatical differences between ancient Egyptian and Sumerian written languages, the intricacies of Babylonian astronomical computations and the technology of ancient metallurgy. . . . Saggs displays considerable insight into the significance of the similarities and differences of early civilizations. And he has managed to vivify these civilizations in a way few others have. Civilizations Before Greece and Rome is a considerable achievement."—Robert J. Wenke, American Scientist

"Saggs has a knack for drawing together the most telling details from the jumble of cultural data and presenting them in such a way that we truly see each culture as it was at its zenith, and its heritage to the world. There is an especially informative look as [to] the cross-cultural development of writing. . . . An accurate and lively picture of an area typically neglected by Western educators."—Library Journal

"Very successful in not only showing the importance of archaeology to history but in showing how much of today’s culture is owed to the work of the ancients."—Lyrae K. Borders, Bowling Green Daily News

"An impressive and enjoyable book. . . . Gives a comprehensive overview of the earliest Middle Eastern civilizations, as well as a fascinating sketch of how we have gained our knowledge of ancient Egypt, Bablyon, Assyria, and their neighbors. . . . The writing is graceful, with occasional dry humor, and remarkable for the clarity with which complicated processes are explained. . . . It is very successful."—Stephanie Martin, Wilson Library Bulletin

"Saggs is an experienced writer who has done much in behalf of ancient Mesopotamia."—Jack M. Sasson, Religious Studies Review

"Civilization before Greece and Rome is a survey of the peoples and cultures which once flourished in the ancient near East, Crete, the Indus Valley, and the Arab peninsula. Written by a former professor of Seminitic Languages at University College, Cardiff, the book is both clear and surprisingly comprehensive for an introductory test. Saggs assumes no prior knowledge of his subject on the part of the reader and fully explains any potentially unfamiliar terms as soon as they are introduced. Indeed, the author is often quite inventive in relating each new concept to something which the reader may already know. . . . The result is that the book is both informative and highly readable."—Jeffrey L. Buller, The Classical Outlook

"Every page of his new title shows the depth and precision only a master can achieve, a remarkable work of synthesis and interpretation that supersedes Sabatino Moscatai, face of the Ancient Orient (BRD 1961), except for Moscati’s discussion of the border peoples. Saggs’s writing is idiomatic and lucid. An excellent bibliographic essay, 4 maps, 15 figures, and 25 illustrations are included . . . An admirable work for readers at all levels."—Choice

"Saggs takes technical archaeological findings and translates it into a history which is both scholarly and absorbing."—Midwest Book Review

"Every page . . . shows the depth and precision only a master can achieve, a remarkable work of synthesis and interpretation. . . . Saggs’ writing is idiomatic and lucid."—Choice

"Saggs has a knack for drawing together the most telling details from the jumble of cultural data and presenting them in such a way that we truly see each culture as it was at its zenith, and its heritage to the world. An especially informative look at the cross-cultural development of writing. . . . An accurate and lively picture of an area typically neglected by Western educators."— Library Journal

"A nimble and useful survey of pre-Green and Roman antiquity. . . . For those hard-pressed to keep abreast of the labors of the specialists, Saggs has done a favor—and done it briefly and accurately."—Kirkus Reviews

"This lively and authoritative book gives the general reader and student an introduction to most of the early civilizations of the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean."— Andrew M.T. Moore, Yale University

 

 


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