Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The History of Ancient Egypt on Audible

After listening to The Plantagenets, Famous Romans, and Famous Greeks on Audible, I decided to try listening to "The History of Ancient Egypt" from the Great Courses, was narrated by Professor Bob Brier. While I knew quite a bit about Greek and Roman history, I knew very little about ancient Egypt, so this seemed like a good place to learn more.

Brier takes the listener through every Egyptian dynasty, from the possibly apocryphal pharaohs of the Old Kingdom to the Ptolemies, including the great queen Cleopatra. The professor, who has appeared on National Geographic and Discovery Civilizations documentaries, comes off as highly knowledgeable and deeply passionate about Egyptology. He does have a thick New York accent, but after a while I found that endearing instead of distracting, especially since his voice has a lot of warmth. As for the subject matter, it was fascinating. Egypt's culture and civilization predates the Ancient Greeks by thousands of years, and it's clear that many of their ideas influenced the cultures around them. For example, although Egyptians usually worshipped many gods, one of the 18th dynasty pharaohs, Akhenaten, introduced the worship of a single deity, one of the first recorded instances of monotheism. His son, the famous King Tut, restored the traditional religion after his father's death.

In some ways, the ancient Egyptians felt surprisingly modern. Although they respected their traditions and were often highly resistant to change, they accepted outsiders so long as they assimilated into Egyptian culture. For example, all the pharaohs of the 25th dynasty were black. They were originally Nubians who invaded Egypt during a time of chaos, then ruled for over a hundred years. Likewise, Egyptians accepted the Greek Ptolemies as pharaohs as well. Clearly, ancient Egyptians were more diverse than you might think. They also had a female pharaoh, Hatshepsut, who may be the first great woman leader we know of in history.

Overall, I enjoyed "The History of Ancient Egypt" quite a bit. Egyptian history is fascinating, and the Brier's passion and knowledge of his subject made it all the more compelling. If you're looking for an interesting and informative course on Audible, give this one a try.

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