New Books: Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History

by Trevor Bryce

"Bryce’s Syria has few dull moments, and many gripping tales to tell.” – Paul Cartledge, BBC History Magazine

Syria is known in our contemporary times as a hotbed of political instability, religious extremism and international tension. Trevor Bryce looks beyond the troubles of the present to examine the peoples, cities, and kingdoms that arose, flourished and declined in the lands that now constitute Syria. This comprehensive history of the country spans the time of its earliest written records in the third millennium BC until the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 3-4th century AD.

Bryce’s history of Syria provides a uniquely human focus. From the Ebla tablets to the Muslim conquest, including Queen Zenobia’s Palmyrian Empire, the annals of Syria’s first three millennia are brought to us through a series of individual protagonists. Characters who, illustrious or infamous, indigenous heroes or foreign overlords, succeeded one another on the lands’ political and military stage. Together, they give us a compelling picture of Syrian civilization over the centuries: Hittite and Assyrian Great Kings; Egyptian pharaohs; Amorite robber-barons; the biblically notorious Nebuchadnezzar; Persia's Cyrus the Great and Macedon's Alexander the Great; the rulers of the Seleucid empire; and an assortment of Rome's most distinguished and most infamous emperors.

Syria has always been a place of exchange, encounter and confrontation. Bryce utilises an impressive range of archaeological, historical and literary materials to reconcile us with the rich and complex history of what is often called the “cradle of human civilization”.

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Trevor Bryce is an Honorary Research Consultant in the University of Queensland, and an Emeritus Professor of the University of New England, Australia, where he was Professor of Classics and Ancient History. Although trained as a Classicist, most of his research has been conducted in the field of Near Eastern history and civilization, with some emphasis also on the links between the Classical and Near Eastern worlds. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Near Eastern history, including The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms (2012) and Babylonia: A Very Short Introduction (2016), also published by Oxford University Press.

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