Without focusing too much attention on technicalities and complex vocabulary, the book provides an introductory road map for exploring the vast array of religious data permeating the ancient Mediterranean world. Through an examination of literary and archeological evidence, the book summarizes the fundamental religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Near Eastern world, including the religious traditions of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and Israel. Turning westward, the fascinating world of ancient Greek and Roman religion is considered next. The discussion begins with a description of Minoan-Mycenaean religion, followed by a consideration of classical Roman and Greek religion. Next, the numerous religious movements that blossomed during Hellenistic-Roman times are discussed. In addition, the fundamental theological contributions of various Greco-Roman philosophical schools of thought, including Orphism, Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, Platonism and Neo-Platonism, are described.

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BMCR From Prehistory to CE. Second Edition first published Ralph W. Mathisen, Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations. Second Edition first published As a result, whoever seeks to offer students a more balanced initiation to the wide-ranging sets of cultures, states, and historical dynamics that made up the ancient Mediterranean is forced to complement the said textbook with a selection of readings for all the weeks where something else than Greek and Roman history is planned.

That was certainly my case, until I came across Ralph W. Compared to other recent textbooks available in English, AMC does indeed offer the broadest and most thorough coverage of ancient Mediterranean history, and a significantly less Graeco-Roman-centric outline.

Based on this, I assigned AMC to the c. This review therefore stems from both a scholarly and a pedagogical perspective. Apart from ch. To achieve this, four dynamics are emphasized: Evolution and continuity, connections, causality, cultural diffusion and diversity viii.

The second edition also includes new or lengthier discussions on numerous topics or historical figures xiii. Each chapter comes with a selected bibliography in English, and there is a handy glossary at the end. A lengthy sourcebook also accompanies the volume. Due to a lack of space, I shall however focus on the textbook. Mathisen does not specify what his ideas and philosophy on ancient history are, but the textbook offers a paradoxical testimony to his historiographical positioning.

On the other hand, the volume reproduces several outdated, Orientalist stereotypes that undermine its overall reliability. Some statements were so shockingly wrong that I had to dedicate time in class to their deconstruction. Such moments became opportunities to teach students about the importance of critical reading. Given the current state of the world, this was certainly not a waste of time. Gordon Childe and K.

Wittfogel, they amount to a combination of environmentally-deterministic, Eurocentric and Orientalist topoi that betray a lack of engagement with most recent scholarship in ancient environmental and socio-economic history.

The only easy means of access into Egypt were via the Nile River either in the north or the south. As long as these approaches were protected, Egypt was safe from invasion and even to some degree from outside influence.

The predictable replenishment of the soil, coupled with the lack of fear of floods or invasions, gave the Egyptians a completely different outlook on life from the Mesopotamians. The Egyptians were supremely optimistic, convinced that they were the best people, with the best life, on Earth. In fact, they thought that foreigners were somehow not quite human.

The chapter also includes essentializing statements e. In general, passages such as these highlight two methodological issues. First, Mathisen ignores most recent scholarship and has a propensity to use lack of evidence as evidence. Second, many ensuing generalizations are of a speculative nature and follow an outdated, teleological view according to which civilizations are both hierarchical and resemble biological beings they sprout, grow, blossom, then fade.

More troublesome are the sections dedicated to the Hebrews and the Philistines ch. This is not the case here. Such a unbalanced outline cannot be justified by lack of evidence, so one wonders what else but personal biases lie behind the decision to feature the Hebrews so prominently, especially compared to the Philistines and, more still, the Phoenicians. To whom, where, when does it apply? While religious differences do matter, they are not all that matters, and one ought not to equate religion and culture.

Finally, despite—or because—of its ambition, ch. Contrary to the other chapters, it does not adopt a chronological outline. While it certainly has the merit of widening the cultural scope of the book, students found its reading confusing because of the numerous, and sometimes unrelated, topics discussed and of the superficial coverage of each of them. I agree. Yet, while it does allocate more space than any other such English-speaking volume to the many peoples who made up the ancient Mediterranean, its often Orientalist, essentialist subtext seriously undermines its claim to novelty.

It is to be hoped that a third edition will resolve these issues. This also extends to the sourcebook, which is heavily text-centered and includes a large number of outdated translations.

Winks, R. The Ancient Mediterranean World. An Introduction to the Ancient World. The Ancient World. A Social and Cultural History. Boston: Pearson, I benefitted greatly from in-class feedbacks and discussion with my students, whom I am grateful to. I also wish to thank Dimitri Nakassis for his constructive comments. See notably Davis, D. Resurrecting the Granary of Rome.

Athens: Ohio University Press, Tristant, Y. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, , See for instance Guyot, F.

The bibliography is abundant, but see notably Versteeg R. The Law in Ancient Egypt. See p. It also reproduces pictures printed sideways This is the case even when more recent, and better, English translations are available. We also find translations of translations 91, Overall, such an approach to translated texts does not make pedagogical or scholarly sense.


Bryn Mawr Classical Review



Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations



ISBN 13: 9780199384457


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