Synopses & Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In this landmark work, one of the world’s most renowned Egyptologists tells the epic story of this great civilization, from its birth as the first nation-state to its final absorption into the Roman Empire—three thousand years of wild drama, bold spectacle, and unforgettable characters.
Award-winning scholar Toby Wilkinson captures not only the lavish pomp and artistic grandeur of this land of pyramids and pharaohs but for the first time reveals the constant propaganda and repression that were its foundations. Drawing upon forty years of archaeological research, Wilkinson takes us inside an exotic tribal society with a pre-monetary economy and decadent, divine kings who ruled with all-too-recognizable human emotions.
Here are the years of the Old Kingdom, where Pepi II, made king as an infant, was later undermined by rumors of his affair with an army general, and the Middle Kingdom, a golden age of literature and jewelry in which the benefits of the afterlife became available for all, not just royalty—a concept later underlying Christianity. Wilkinson then explores the legendary era of the New Kingdom, a lost world of breathtaking opulence founded by Ahmose, whose parents were siblings, and who married his sister and transformed worship of his family into a national cult. Other leaders include Akhenaten, the “heretic king,” who with his wife Nefertiti brought about a revolution with a bold new religion; his son Tutankhamun, whose dazzling tomb would remain hidden for three millennia; and eleven pharaohs called Ramesses, the last of whom presided over the militarism, lawlessness, and corruption that caused a crucial political and societal decline.
Riveting and revelatory, filled with new information and unique interpretations, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt will become the standard source about this great civilization, one that lasted—so far—longer than any other.
"Cambridge University Egyptologist Wilkinson (Lives of the Ancient Egyptians) offers a revisionist view of the ugly life hidden by the splendors and dazzling treasures of pharaonic Egypt. He shows in rich detail that it was a brutal society where life was cheap, royal power absolute and established through fear and coercion. Wilkinson finds unequivocal evidence in royal tombs like that of First Dynasty king Djer (c. 2900 B.C.E.), surrounded by 318 buried retainers, probably victims of human sacrifice. Even if construction workers for Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza ('the ultimate projection of absolute power') were reasonably fed and housed, they were virtual, if not literal, slaves, drafted to perform the perilous work. Later the fanatical, heretic king Akhenaten built a new model city with grand temples where mountains of food were offered to a sun god while his people were starving and severely overworked. The Ptolemies' punitive economic policies unleashed a peasants' revolt that fatally weakened their empire. This is a penetrating and authoritative overview of a violent ancient civilization often revered by contemporary scholars and enthusiasts. 24 pages of color photos; 44 b&w photos; 12 maps. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Toby Wilkinson graduated with a first class honors degree in Egyptology from Downing College, University of Cambridge, winning the university’s Thomas Mulvey prize. He is the recipient of the Lady Wallis Budge Junior Research Fellowship in Egyptology, a Leverhulme Trust Special Research Fellowship, and an Honorary Research Fellowship in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham. He is currently at Clare College in the University of Cambridge. Wilkinson has published seven books and numerous articles, and has appeared on radio and television as an expert on ancient Egyptian civilization (especially the early periods). He is the recipient of the Antiquity Prize for the best journal article and is a member of the international editorial board of the Journal of Egyptian History.