The History of Ancient Egypt by Bob Brier
Digital Audiobook narrated by Bob Brier
Ancient Egyptian civilization is so grand our minds sometimes have difficulty adjusting to it. It lasted 3,000 years, longer than any other on the planet. Its Great Pyramid of Cheops was the tallest building in the world until well into the 19th century and remains the only Ancient Wonder still standing. And it was the most technologically advanced of the ancient civilizations, with the medical knowledge that made Egyptian physicians the most famous in the world.
Yet even after deciphering its hieroglyphs, and marveling at its scarabs, mummies, obelisks, and sphinxes, Egyptian civilization remains one of history's most mysterious, as "other" as it is extraordinary. This chronological survey presents the complete history of ancient Egypt's three great Kingdoms: the Old Kingdom, when the pyramids were built and Egypt became a nation under the supreme rule of the pharaoh and the rules of Egyptian art were established; the Middle Kingdom, when Egypt was a nation fighting to restore its greatness; and the New Kingdom, when all the names we know today-Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen, Ramses the Great, Cleopatra, and others-first appeared.
While I really enjoyed Myth in Human History, I have to say: The History of Ancient Egypt is the best of the The Great Courses I’ve taken yet. Lecturer Bob Brier is not only widely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, but he makes you feel like you’re in a classroom environment. There’s a difference in experience when the lecturer makes you feel like he wants to share knowledge, rather than tell you what he knows.
I’ve always been interested in Ancient Egypt, but I felt like my knowledge was lacking. Through my entire academic career, I only spent one unit on Ancient Egypt. It was seventh grade and I remember studying mummification with two of my friends. I remember about canonic jars and linen wrappings and that’s about it. I knew Hatshepsut and Cleopatra’s names, but not nearly as much as I wanted.
Bob Briar made me want to collect information and put it in a jar. Things like how to read hieroglyphs? And I had no idea we knew very little about Tutankhamun (“King Tut”). The fact that none of the Ptolemys except Cleopatra spoke Egyptian (they all spoke Greek). There was so much information in this course that I didn’t feel overwhelmed, but I did feel that I was only skimming the surface.
I think that a good class should be like that – not overwhelming, not boring, but inspirational. At the end of the lecture series, I wanted to learn more about Egypt and dig into the details. This course covers three thousand years of Egyptian history, so it’s definitely an overview, but Professor Briar did a very good job of making the subject engaging and encouraging further study.
If you’re interested in Egyptian history and want to further your studies, I recommend this course. Doubly so if, like me, you don’t have time to audit a class – The Great Courses are really an awesome way to dig into a new subject. They can be hit or miss, so you want to read review and listen to samples first… but The History of Ancient Egypt is a truly wonderful overview.
What is your favorite story from Ancient Egypt? I’ve always found the Osiris myth interesting, but Hatshepsut is the coolest. Seriously, look her up.