Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review: The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt

Finally finished this one. It took me until November 7th to reach 50% and then I killed the last 50% over the next 2 weeks. Once again, I blame the election cycle. I have troubles unplugging, which is something I intend to correct in the future.



But anyways, on to the book! 4 out of 5 stars for this one. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt tracks the first 3000 years of ancient Egypt's existence, basically from their conception to their time of being acquired by the Roman Empire. The author, Toby Wilkinson, makes clear that he knows this subject well, and he does a remarkable job of covering such a huge swath of time, switching up the pace to keep things moving forward. As a history book, it followed the normal timeline of the rise and fall of royalty, jumping from war to peace and back again. On the whole, I realized Egypt could actually be quite boring if not for Wilkinson's deft hand at explaining what makes this ancient world so unique.

As Wilkinson explains, Ancient Egypt essentially founded the concept of royalty as we know it today. They were the first "bully on the playground," rising to power while most of humanity was still trying to figure out how to survive the winter. The first royalty were in uncharted waters, and as such, they experimented and laid the groundwork for other empires to follow. They were the first demonstrate the need for evil to create an empire (subjecting the people with religion, placating the bureaucrats, dominating and exploiting foreign land), and then also demonstrating the great wonders the could be done with it (pyramids at Giza, Suez Canal), and yet also the great tragedies that could be done as well. Wilkinson shies from none of it.

It also showed me something about our world today. More than once, as Egypt rose and fell in power, Wilkinson would track and show the difference in mentality between those working the fields and never left their home town versus those who lived in the multi-cultural city centers. The difference between those with a local view of the world, and those with a global view. It showed me, quite starkly, that not much has changed from humanity in 5,000 years. Actually, this has been nothing more than a blink of eye, and we're every bit as noble or barbaric, knowledgeable or ignorant and those people were back then.

It would seem history truly does repeat itself, and knowing this, I've come to realize that America as I know it will perish, possibly in my own lifetime. There is no saving it, none, and any attempts to do so will only bring this country's doom closer at hand. Also, I've come to realize that we as a species are not yet beyond are archaic roots. 5,000 years ago, Ancient Egypt made light of slaying thousands just because they could. 70 years ago, Nazi Germany made light of slaying 6 million people who worshiped a different god. Mark my words, we are still capable of such atrocities, and somewhere, sometime, they will be done again.

But beyond that note, about the book. Let it be known that the middle of this book ran a tad dry, hence only 4 stars. However, it was still a great read and I'd recommend it to any fellow history buff looking for an introduction into Ancient Egypt.

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