Book Reviews, Reading

5 Cities that Ruled the World? post 2

Back to this book again?


I have never taken so long to read a history book. This thing is just so – awful.

Here is a portion concerning the Third Punic War:

In 149 BC Rome declared war on Carthage for the third time. Scipio was a young Roman officer who had distinguished himself in the earlier siege of Carthage…Because of his record, he was made supreme commander despite his young age and undertook a year of fierce fighting, which ended with the defeat of Carthage. At the requirement of the Senate, in 146 BC Scipio Africanus razed Carthage and sowed it with salt.

So, here are my issues with this:

  • 149-146 BC does not constitute “a year of fierce fighting.” Did the editors not take basic math?
  • The author makes no distinction between Scipio Aemilianus and his adopted  grandfather Scipio Africanus. This Scipio was elected consul in 147 BC so he could be named commander, which is probably what the “year of fierce fighting” implied. Would it have hurt them so much to have included that little clarification?
  • While it is true that the Roman Senate ordered the razing of Carthage, Scipio did not in fact sow it with salt, despite the popular urban legend, invented in the 19th century. This is SO WELL KNOWN that even the Wikipedia article points it out.

Why, why, why do book publishers continue to publish poorly researched, badly edited pieces of junk like this? Would it really have killed them to give the manuscript to – oh, I don’t know – a HISTORY PROFESSOR to verify the statements made in this book?!?

It bothers me; really bothers me. And here’s why.

Because most people do not have my background or interest in ancient history. They read these books and nod their heads, assuming that the authors did their due diligence. And then people who are trying to TEACH these people must then UNTEACH all the garbage.

And now you know why watching the History Channel is virtually a contact sport for me.


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