The 10 Best Ancient History Books

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This wiki has been updated 18 times since it was first published in February of 2018. The extraordinary people who lived thousands of years ago still fascinate us today. Whether you’re an aficionado of antiquity or just a casual learner, our selection of enthralling ancient history books will provide insight into the foundations of human civilizations. We’ve included everything from condensed, easily digestible works to highly regarded, in-depth volumes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

2. The Storm Before the Storm

3. The Eternal Army

Editor's Notes

April 22, 2020:

The umbrella of ancient history is so broad that this list would need dozens upon dozens of volumes to even come close to covering the myriad ancient cultures and complexities it encompasses, but we did our best to select some of the most insightful and informative books in the category. We wanted to touch on a variety of topics as well as include a few broad-themed selections.

Those curious about Greek antiquity, for example, will appreciate Ancient Greece, Second Edition. This text is concise and approachable, yet still manages to give balanced, detailed coverage. Readers craving to know more about the invaders who came to English shores hundreds of years ago will learn much from Foundation: The History of England, which spans the origins of the country to the death of the first Tudor king. And if you're interested in ancestry, then Saxons, Vikings, and Celts will prove enlightening.

Many times, putting ancient occurrences in context with more recent centuries can help you understand and synthesize what you learn better, which is why we included sweeping volumes like DK's "History" and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. The former looks at 6 million years of global history and makes it possible to reconcile our origins with current events, while Sapiens integrates history and science to explore our species' past and consider its future.

For today's update, we sadly parted ways with Heroes of History by Will Durant and The Sumerians. While each of these volumes is informative and intriguing, they are both rather dated at this point and espouse ideas and use verbiage that feel out of step with current standards. To replace them, we brought on Myths from Mesopotamia and The Storm Before the Storm. Myths is perfect for those who want to eschew the typical structured text, as this collection of legends is ideal for viewing the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia through a grandiose lens and making your own inferences. It includes a few stories that serve as biblical parallels, making it a good supplement to a history of Christianity book.

As for The Storm Before the Storm, it was written by veteran podcaster Mike Duncan, creator of "The History of Rome" and "Revolutions", two extremely popular, award-winning podcasts. This experience makes Duncan uniquely suited to dive into the period he explores in his book while delivering scholarly prose that is never dry or boring.

Special Honors

Liberation Philology App If the languages of yore are of interest to you, then you'll appreciate Liberation Philology, an app that teaches ancient, medieval, and modern languages. It covers vocabulary, nouns, and verbs, and reinforces what you've learned through instant feedback and repetition. Each program presents a rolling multiple-choice quiz that tests your knowledge of thousands of vocabulary words, while similar modules cover your ability to parse and decline nouns and conjugate regular and irregular verbs. Choose from ancient Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and more.

Ancient History Encyclopedia As you peruse your new ancient history book, you may come across casually-mentioned terms, places, or people you'd like further elucidation on. Ancient History Encyclopedia can help you there. Every submission is carefully reviewed by an editorial team and follows academic standards, but is also written in an easy-to-digest manner with students and the general public in mind. It is recommended by the likes of Oxford University and offers monthly and yearly memberships in addition to plenty of free content.

4. The Landmark Herodotus

5. DK's "History"

6. The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Civilizations

7. Ancient Greece, Second Edition

8. Myths from Mesopotamia

9. Saxons, Vikings, and Celts

10. Foundation: The History of England

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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