Book Review: The Dynamics of Ancient Empires: State Power from Assyria to Byzantium


by Ian Morris and Walter Scheidel, editors

New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. xviii, 281. Illus., maps, diagr., notes, biblio. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 978-0-1997-5834-0

In The Dynamics of Ancient Empires, Morris, author of Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future,and Scheidel, author of Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, have collected a number of essays that look at “problems and perspectives” in the study of empires, ancient and modern. 

After an introductory essay, there follow papers on the Neo-Assyrian, Achaemenid Persian, Athenian, Roman, and Byzantine empires (this last with a brief look at early Islamic empires).  Naturally, given the varied characters, size, and durations of the various empires, the several authors each tend to have a somewhat different focus in their treatments.   The over-all result, however, is a comparative look at how and why these empires were formed, their organizational and ideological differences and similarities, their economies, and more.  The work concludes with a thought-provoking essay by editor Scheidel on  “Sex and Empire”, that considers empire building an extension of human reproductive competition, perhaps overly simplistic, given that at least one of his empires, the Roman, had a long history of welcoming new blood

The Dynamics of Ancient Empires, a volume in the series "Oxford Studies in Early Empires", will prove rewarding reading for those interested in state formation, imperial institutions, and any of the empires examined.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close