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
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