Matyszak is one of my favourite historians (because archaeologists and historians are much more deserving of celebrity culture than actual celebrities 😜), and I loved previous books of his. This books offers a review of people and nations you’ve probably heard of in passing, and promises to give you a deeper understanding of those forgotten people and their impact on later generations.
What to Expect
The book is divided into 4 parts, from the first civilisations to rise, to the early iron age, through the rise and then the fall of Rome. As those great civilisations rose and fell, they came into contact with other people, and they are the focus of this book.
Each section follows a few of those lesser known people, from their first appearance in recorded history to their eventual disappearance. Many of them are only known from the records of the “big” civilisations that left records, but Matyszak carefully collects all the evidence – historical and archaeological to present a picture of what life was for them.
What I liked
I love Matyszak flowing style, that brings dusty archaeological remains and obscure original references to life. He keeps you engaged and involved in those long forgotten people, while gently educating and expanding your understanding of historical processes at the same time.
What to be aware of
This is not a primary history book. Each section follows a particular people, about their interactions with others. It can be a big disjointed if you try to follow overall events, as the aim is different. It will broaden and deepen your understanding of what happens at the edges of history.
Felix, who comes from one of the “main” cultures, has seen both those ‘barbarian’ waves crashing against the borders of his burgeoning empire and conquered people thoughtlessly integrated into his culture. He has a low opinion of the politicians leading his republic so he wasn’t surprised to hear that their mismanagement has caused many allied or subjugated people to turn into intractable enemies. Still, for him, life is what it is and he plans to make the most of the ascendancy of his culture.
I love reading history, and this book offers a very unique perspective about subjects not often covered in depth. If you want to learn more than the beaten path, this is for you.
Like my reviews, but wondering who that Felix fellow is? He’s my protagonist, an occult detective from a world based on ancient Rome. He likes to read as much as I do – especially the juxtaposition of history, mystery, and fantasy – and is certainly not afraid to voice his opinion. You can meet him on the free short stories page!
Hmmm, any chance some of this information will go into the inspiration pile for some of Felix’s future adventures?
Philip Matyszak is a very engaging and entertaining writer. I have both of his books on Sparta and this one is on my wishlist. Have you read any of his historical fiction?
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There’s certainly a chance – all the historical non-fic I read sits there in the back of my mind, to jump out into the books.
I don’t think he writes historical fiction per se, unless you mean the books where he sorts of constructs a bit of “story” from original sources as a backdrop to illustrate the rest of the info. Books like 24 hours in ancient Rome / Greece, or the Legionary and Gladiator “unofficial manuals”. Those are awesome – an excellent way to learn.
I think his series called The Panderius Papers is Historical Fiction, but I could be wrong. The first book is called The Gold of Tolosa.
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Oh wow, thanks! I’ll add that to my TBR.
I know he doesn’t read historical fiction in antiquity (had a discussion with him about it once, and he likes to separate his research area from his reading pleasure so as not to confuse facts and fiction). I guess I had, rather mistakenly, assumed he wouldn’t write pure fiction either. Well, now I have to fix that, and get it on my TBR! I love his other works.