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Marc Van De Mieroop

Teoksen A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC tekijä

14+ teosta 800 jäsentä 7 arvostelua 1 Favorited

Tietoja tekijästä

Marc Van De Mieroop is Professor of History at Columbia University and Director of Columbia's Center for the Ancient Mediterranean. He has also taught at Oxford University and Yale University. He is the author of King Hammurabi of Babylon, The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramessess II, and A näytä lisää History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 B.C näytä vähemmän

Tekijän teokset

Associated Works

The Great Empires of the Ancient World (2009) — Avustaja — 59 kappaletta
The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing in Sumer (2000) — Kääntäjä, eräät painokset37 kappaletta
Rethinking the Mediterranean (2005) — Avustaja — 18 kappaletta

Merkitty avainsanalla


Columbia University
University of Oxford



Certainly not a book for the layman. Van de Mieroop (° 1956, professor Near Eastern History Columbia University) is an absolute authority in the history of Mesopotamia (for a reason unknown to me he systematically speaks about “Babylonia” which refers to a much more limited area). But in this book he goes into very technical aspects of Mesopotamian civilization. He makes a structuralist analysis of the enormous numbers of lexicographical lists and lists in which omens are described, and he also briefly covers some legal texts. His basic thesis and conclusion is that in the successive Mesopotamian cultures cuneiform writing stood on its own and that scribes simply let themselves go inventing new words and omen forms, independent from reality. Translated into philosophical language: according to Van de Mieroop Mesopotamian epistemology was very different from the later, empirically founded approach that was passed on to the West via the Greeks. Extremely fascinating, certainly, but perhaps not always convincing and, moreover, it does require some perseverance from the reader. More about that in my History account on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4791604378.… (lisätietoja)
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bookomaniac | 1 muu arvostelu | Jul 22, 2022 |
I'm half way through this and wondering whether it's worth finishing. Basically, I'm finding it pretty boring; kind of like reading Deuteronomy....a succession of kings and kingdoms. Admittedly, Marc does try and peg things back to the evidence; documentary or hard evidence like pottery etc., Still there is a heck of a lot of sheer speculation. Take this for example "...this may merely show the spread of southern scribal practices. Widespread territorial control of the region seems unlikely. The old Akkadian kings probably established points through which they could channel their commercial interests , possibly backed by the threat of military action."....Here we have this collection of weasel words: "merely", "unlikely", "probably", "possibly"....I feel a bit like I'm reading "Holy Blood and Holy Grail" ....or Dan Brown's take on it. Obviously, there is a lot of guess work when you are writing about things that happened 4000 years ago ....and written records were limited (and usually only showed one side of the history).
Marc does try to draw out something of a big picture ....most obviously with his chapter headings: for example, "Political centralisation in the late third Millennium" or "The growth of territorial states in the early second Millennium" .
I guess, I am learning something ...but it is rather hard going. OK I will soldier on with reading it. But it is a chore.....Ok now about a week later and I've finally finished the book.
Yes, it was worth persevering but I still feel like I have been beaten over the head with endless genealogies. Yet there is a lot more.
One thing that does come through is that a dynastic monarchy is not really a great way to govern a country. When I look at the length of time that the various kings ruled...and there must have been thousands of them over the period covered in the book .......most of them ruled for less than 20 years. And the successions seemed generally to be very messy affairs with lots of murders and social disruption. And frequently, what had previously been a smoothly functioning machine fell into disarray and was susceptible to invasion and total collapse.
Another thing that shone through was the interconnectedness between the royal families throughout the region. Often rulers were keen to have their daughters intermarry with other kings in the area. There was also a custom of exchanging expensive gifts between the royal families ...and especially between the women. So there were interesting connections between the various royal families throughout the region ....though this did not stop family rivalry ..eg between brothers or cousins.
The power structure seems to have been based around particular gods....(managed by the priesthood) ....they bestowed their blessing on particular individuals who were the kings and they seemed to be encouraged to go out campaigning ....sacking other cities (and their gods) ...and bringing the booty and slaves back home.
Much of the great building projects (eg Persepolis) seemed to have been financed by the booty seized from the sacking of other cities (like Babylon).
But there was another arm to the power structure and this seemed to be the military....and often a military leader deposed a weak leader or a newly appointed leader who had little chance to establish themselves. So there was this common triumvirate of King/Priest/Military that ran the country.
At the bottom end of the social pyramid was the peasant who worked the fields. They really seemed to get screwed. The kings could make fairly arbitrary demands for tribute from them (ostensibly taxation or protection money) but when the demands were too great or season poor, the peasants went into debt thence into slavery....so not a great career path for them.
Seems that it wasn't until the Persians came along that governance got better with their Satrapy system working reasonably well...and clearly one of the smart things that they did was to leave the local religions (priests) in place. My impression also is that the tithe was the requisite taxation and this appeared to be sustainable.
One of the other groups that made an impression on me was the Assyrians...who seemed to be pretty much a military cult..with the obligation to go campaigning every summer. Great for a while...but after they had conquered everything within reach it became harder to find reasonable targets. They had developed something like their own Ponzi scheme ...requiring more and more sackable cities to sustain their operations. Also fascinating that the whole Assyrian machine....at it's peak in about 640BC collapsed within about 30 years. Not exactly clear what happened but seems there was political confusion in Assyria and poised on the borders was a powerful enemy (the Medes) ready to pounce.
Another thing that I found interesting was the value of trade routes and trading to the various empires. If your city was a trading centre that was a key to wealth and to survival. Trading centres are there because of geographic factors normally.....so hard to change this and they will always have that advantage...unless the demand for a certain item drops. So some of the port cities were valuable in that respect and Ecbatana benefitted by being on the Khorasan Road....the major trade route between Iran and Babylon.
I hadn't fully appreciated the vast time gaps between the initial establishment of Babylon and it's sacking by the Persians ...and, in fact, the ability of Baylon to spring back after being sacked. Also, it's incredible contribution to the culture of the region ....including the script that tended to be adopted and used everywhere.
Marc gives passing reference to the policy of deportations which must have been absolutely horrific for the affected communities. Samaritans transported to Iraq for example. He mentions, without further details, the incredible logistics involved in walking 12,000 captives thousands of km to new locations. (apparently, the archeological records have no details). The policy had twin objectives: remove a source of trouble permanently; and supply labour to the empire or city.
He also puts into a much better perspective (for me) the biblical accounts of Israel and Judah. The deportation policies were common and Israel and Judah were just two more troublesome vassel states that needed to be kept in line. Marc continually draws attention to the fact that one cannot accept the record on walls or in the bible at face value. They writer was always putting their own spin on things and the only way to really get somewhere near the truth is to have multiple accounts of the same event from different perspectives. Even then, they are not necessarily trustworthy because they may all draw on the same biased source material or be written hundreds of years later. A pity that the parchment and papyrus records have all (apparently) been lost for this period.
He has deliberately avoided bringing Egypt into the equation (as much as is possible) and I think that is a problem. Clearly, they were major players in the events governing the Near East and I do think we have missed a lot by not having more information about Egypt.
Would I recommend this to my 16 year old studying ancient history? No, I don't think so. I learned a lot from it. But bottom line is that it's hard going and a bit boring in style, though it might appeal to higher level students. I give it three stars.
… (lisätietoja)
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booktsunami | 1 muu arvostelu | May 21, 2020 |
A short, concise biography of Hammurabi, focusing on his military exploits and his "law code". There isn't very much information available on Hammurabi so we don't know anything about his family life. The author includes a chapter on the difficulties of writing a biography with limited information. Interesting.
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ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
Quite a decent book about cuneiform writing (though with far too few examples for my taste), a good if superficial exploration of three genres of cuneiform, mostly Babylonian, writing: word lists, omen lists and law codes (which were lists as well, and were never used as actual law codes). Not very engaging style, much worse than his history of the ancient Near East, reading this has soon become a chore.

It would not be that bad, but for one thing sorely missing from this book: Philosophy.… (lisätietoja)
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igorterleg | 1 muu arvostelu | Feb 2, 2016 |


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