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Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History

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Syria has long been one of the most trouble-prone and politically volatile regions of the Near and Middle Eastern world. This book looks back beyond the troubles of the present to tell the 3000-year story of what happened many centuries before. Trevor Bryce reveals the peoples, cities, and kingdoms that arose, flourished, declined, and disappeared in the lands that now con Syria has long been one of the most trouble-prone and politically volatile regions of the Near and Middle Eastern world. This book looks back beyond the troubles of the present to tell the 3000-year story of what happened many centuries before. Trevor Bryce reveals the peoples, cities, and kingdoms that arose, flourished, declined, and disappeared in the lands that now constitute Syria, from the time of it's earliest written records in the third millennium BC until the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 3-4th century AD. Across the centuries, from the Bronze Age to the Rome Era, we encounter a vast array of characters and civilizations, enlivening, enriching, and besmirching the annals of Syrian history: Hittite and Assyrian Great Kings; Egyptian pharaohs; Amorite robber-barons; the biblically notorious Nebuchadnezzar; Persia's Cyrus the Great and Macedon's Alexander the Great; the rulers of the Seleucid empire; and an assortment of Rome's most distinguished and most infamous emperors. All swept across the plains of Syria at some point in her long history. All contributed, in one way or another, to Syria's special, distinctive character, as they imposed themselves upon it, fought one another within it, or pillaged their way through it. But this is not just a history of invasion and oppression. Syria had great rulers of her own, native-born Syrian luminaries, sometimes appearing as local champions who sought to liberate their lands from foreign despots, sometimes as cunning, self-seeking manipulators of squabbles between their overlords. They culminate with Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, whose life provides a fitting grand finale to the first three millennia of Syria's recorded history. The conclusion looks forward to the Muslim conquest in the 7th century AD: in many ways the opening chapter in the equally complex and often troubled history of modern Syria.


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Syria has long been one of the most trouble-prone and politically volatile regions of the Near and Middle Eastern world. This book looks back beyond the troubles of the present to tell the 3000-year story of what happened many centuries before. Trevor Bryce reveals the peoples, cities, and kingdoms that arose, flourished, declined, and disappeared in the lands that now con Syria has long been one of the most trouble-prone and politically volatile regions of the Near and Middle Eastern world. This book looks back beyond the troubles of the present to tell the 3000-year story of what happened many centuries before. Trevor Bryce reveals the peoples, cities, and kingdoms that arose, flourished, declined, and disappeared in the lands that now constitute Syria, from the time of it's earliest written records in the third millennium BC until the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 3-4th century AD. Across the centuries, from the Bronze Age to the Rome Era, we encounter a vast array of characters and civilizations, enlivening, enriching, and besmirching the annals of Syrian history: Hittite and Assyrian Great Kings; Egyptian pharaohs; Amorite robber-barons; the biblically notorious Nebuchadnezzar; Persia's Cyrus the Great and Macedon's Alexander the Great; the rulers of the Seleucid empire; and an assortment of Rome's most distinguished and most infamous emperors. All swept across the plains of Syria at some point in her long history. All contributed, in one way or another, to Syria's special, distinctive character, as they imposed themselves upon it, fought one another within it, or pillaged their way through it. But this is not just a history of invasion and oppression. Syria had great rulers of her own, native-born Syrian luminaries, sometimes appearing as local champions who sought to liberate their lands from foreign despots, sometimes as cunning, self-seeking manipulators of squabbles between their overlords. They culminate with Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, whose life provides a fitting grand finale to the first three millennia of Syria's recorded history. The conclusion looks forward to the Muslim conquest in the 7th century AD: in many ways the opening chapter in the equally complex and often troubled history of modern Syria.

30 review for Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Iset

    I have to say this is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read so far this year. I was aware previously of Trevor Bryce’s status as a well-respected scholar in his field (ancient Anatolia and the Levant), but this is the first time I had actually got around to reading one of his books. I can see that reputation is well-deserved. Bryce manages that rarity; to combine scholarly professionalism, quality of research, and intelligently thorough examination of the subject, with a smooth, engaging w I have to say this is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read so far this year. I was aware previously of Trevor Bryce’s status as a well-respected scholar in his field (ancient Anatolia and the Levant), but this is the first time I had actually got around to reading one of his books. I can see that reputation is well-deserved. Bryce manages that rarity; to combine scholarly professionalism, quality of research, and intelligently thorough examination of the subject, with a smooth, engaging writing style that never bores or confounds. This book could easily be enjoyed by both scholars and the layman alike. Bryce has set himself a considerable task here, taking on about three-thousand years or so of ancient history in Syria; in fact his remit often goes beyond that as he must explain events elsewhere in order to fully illuminate proceedings in Syria. Despite a very tangled and complex history, not to mention frustratingly fragmentary sources, Bryce does an excellent job of clarifying three millennia of history in the region. 9 out of 10

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    I'm becoming a bit of a fan of Trevor Bryce, who's an Australian, writing prolifically on the Ancient Near East / Western Asia, including areas, such as Syria, that haven't had a lot in the way of dedicated books (this only has one predecessor, in the 90s). He writes fluently, I'd say he's semi-popular in style, that is, he crosses that frontier between scholarly and general audience -- no-one need to be afraid to pick him up.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bruce McLaren

    You know I read this book because it was sort of research related and I'm trying to cram my brain with all things Syria and I was mightily surprised to find how excellent the book actually is! You know the old saying "lecturers usually are rubbish researchers and vice verse". It's not often you find a clearly written, highly erudite, thoroughly researched and fascinating read. Now I'm being a bit parochial here because the writer, Trevor Bryce, is a fellow Australian, but gods-honest-truth-Mum I You know I read this book because it was sort of research related and I'm trying to cram my brain with all things Syria and I was mightily surprised to find how excellent the book actually is! You know the old saying "lecturers usually are rubbish researchers and vice verse". It's not often you find a clearly written, highly erudite, thoroughly researched and fascinating read. Now I'm being a bit parochial here because the writer, Trevor Bryce, is a fellow Australian, but gods-honest-truth-Mum I didn't realize that until after I picked it out. But Bryce really is one of those rare talents, a serious historian who can actually write. There aren't too many people around these days who can do this, bringing to vivid life the history of Syria, 5000 years ago through the time of the Seleucids. There are also a few Australianisms in there that only another Australian would understand which, for my mind are a pure delight, but it is good to see a serious scholar sticking to his roots when it comes to writing and doing so proudly yessir! To explain one, Bryce uses the term "tail-enders" to round off the Seleucid succession, an cricketing terms that any Australian schoolboy worth his salt would instantly understand. He also uses the expression "God gave them the go..." as in the go ahead to proceed. Very funny. But laughs aside, this is a serious book covering 3000 BC to the arrival of Islam and Bryce leaves no stone unturned. Names old ancient city-states may make the eyes glaze over from time to time but stick with it and be rewarded....

  4. 5 out of 5

    Richard Diamond

    If one wants to know why Syria and SW Asia is the way it is now, one MUST read this book. An outstanding background to today's world of the Middle East.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Im glad the Palmyrene Empire got its own section or otherwise this would have just been a tale of provincial woe after the bronze age.

  6. 4 out of 5

    LPenting

    History told as "one darn thing after another." If that puts you off as much as it does me, perhaps Kevin Butcher's Roman Syria and the Near East will be more to your liking.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Artur Olczyk

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leshy

  9. 4 out of 5

    Yazan Sy

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mahmoud Alkhayal

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kees Buijtelaar

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rob Marshall

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robin Pyburn

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  15. 5 out of 5

    Waseem

  16. 5 out of 5

    Antonios

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kay-cee

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rasha Halim

  21. 5 out of 5

    Basel Safieh

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip Armstrong

  23. 4 out of 5

    James

  24. 5 out of 5

    Denize

  25. 4 out of 5

    Selim

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sammy_90

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Bauer

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hutton

  29. 5 out of 5

    Colin Martin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

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