This book is a comprehensive outline of many of the important cities in the ancient world. Each city's biography is written by an expert on the site, all of whom have written a succinct description that not only synthesizes the masses of archaeological data around each city, but also where possible includes information and descriptions of the cities, and their culture and history as found on inscriptions and texts from their periods of habitation. Also revealed are the details from ancient writers and early explorers accounts. As usual for a western academics, the accounts focus primarily on the Mediterranean/European region, although Asia, Africa and the Americas are included. A troubling void in my opinion is the omission of the South American civilizations, particularly the cities of Cuzco, Tiwanaku and Chan Chan, as large and sophisticated as any of the "Old World" cities.
Although each chapter is written by a different author, they each have a consistency in detail and focus that makes for agreeable, informative and comparative reading. Description are not solely based around the physical construction of the cities, but is more comprehensive on the cultural, historical aspects of the city, and its trade and economic ties to their hinterlands. This book is good place to start for anyone interested in ancient urbanism and the rise of urban cultures. It is also a useful reference tool for those who have already read comprehensively read ancient cities. Many of the cities will already bee known to readers but there will be plenty that are lesser known or entirely new to people. Ultimately, one of its key strengths is that the book updates the knowledge on each of the sites seamlessly drawing together older information with newer findings.
Review by Lindsay
John Julius Norwich presents a sweeping tour of forty great cities that shaped the ancient world and its civilizations - and which in turn have shaped our own.
The cities of the ancient world built the foundations for modern urban life, their innovations in architecture and politics essential to cities as we know them today. But what was it like to live in Babylon, Carthage or Teotihuacan?
From the first cities in Mesopotamia to the spectacular urban monuments of the Maya in Central America, the cities explored here represent almost three millennia of human history. Not only do they illustrate the highest achievement of the cultures that built them, but they also help us understand the rise and fall of these ancient peoples. Eminent historians and archaeologists with first-hand knowledge of each site give voices to these silent ruins, bringing them to life as the teeming, state-of-the-art metropolises they once were.