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Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations

From Prehistory to 640 CE

Third Edition

Ralph W. Mathisen

Publication Date - 03 March 2020

ISBN: 9780190080945

672 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The most thought-provoking, contemporary, and engaging survey of the ancient world


Challenging the stereotypes and myths that typically characterize students' understanding of antiquity, Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations: From Prehistory to 640 CE, Third Edition, focuses on continuity and connections, along with cultural diffusion and cultural diversity, to show how history is a cumulative process and that numerous similar themes recur in different times and places. The text also explores sensitive issues and debates including attitudes toward race, ethnicity, and tolerance; gender issues and roles; slavery; social mobility; religion; political evolution; the nature of government; and imperialism.

New to this Edition

  • "Subversive Personalities," illustrated features that highlight the actions of people--particularly women, including Eve, Enheduanna, Akhenaton, Jezebel, Judith, Sappho, Hypatia, and Theodora--who challenged traditional institutions, beliefs, or social conventions
  • "Cultural Encounters" features that focus on the Romans' engagements with other peoples
  • New discussions of Göbekli Tepe, Old Europe, Sumerian dream interpretation, Buddhism, Artemisia, the temples in the Largo di Torre Argentina, recent scientific developments, and the Alamanni
  • Expanded coverage of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Scorpion kings and Egyptian trade, the Battle of Salamis, the history of Rome, and more


  • Presents an understanding of the ancient Mediterranean that emphasizes evolution and continuity, connections and causality, and cultural diffusion and cultural diversity
  • Integrates material culture directly into an appreciation of how history is reconstructed
  • Covers the full range of the ancient human experience in the Mediterranean, from the Paleolithic to the end of antiquity in the 7th century CE
  • Includes an entire chapter that examines cultures outside the immediate margins of the ancient Mediterranean: Chapter 9: "Civilization beyond the Near East, Greece, and Rome (2300-31 BCE)"
  • "Digging Antiquity": Illustrated features that discuss specific archaeological sites, many of which can still be visited
  • Looking Back": Chapter summaries, followed by "Looking Ahead" sections that preview the following chapters
  • "History Laboratory": Concise observations on how historians use different methodologies to interpret historical evidence and to debunk pseudoscience
  • "Historical Controversy": Reflections that explore conflicting modern interpretations of ancient phenomena
  • "A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words": Illustrations of distinctive material artifacts, accompanied by brief essays
  • "Mysteries of History": Selections that address puzzling and intriguing aspects of the past
  • "In Their Own Words": Extended quotations that exemplify each chapter's main themes
  • Sticky Notes: Notes placed in the margins at key points that remind students of commonalities, patterns, or connections
  • A stunning interior design featuring more than 200 maps and illustrations, including an eight-page color portfolio
  • Oxford Learning Link at www.oup.com/he/mathisen-mediterranean3e provides digital learning resources for students (including chapter quizzes, flashcards, and videos) and a test-item file and PowerPoint lecture slides for instructors

About the Author(s)

Ralph W. Mathisen is Professor of History, Classics, and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has authored, edited, or coedited thirteen books and has published 100 scholarly articles. He is a Fellow of the American Numismatic Society, founding editor of the Journal of Late Antiquity, and Director of the Biographical Database for Late Antiquity Project.


"Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations is an excellent textbook for introducing new students to the study of antiquity. Mathisen's writing is clear and concise, making the complex history of the ancient world readily accessible."--Jeffrey Stevens, University of Missouri, Columbia

"This is the best text of its kind. The photographs are well-chosen, beautiful, and not clichéd. The text is extremely up-to-date and beautifully written."--Timothy Donald Doran, California State University, Los Angeles

Table of Contents

    Special Features
    Note on Spelling and Pronunciation
    About the Author
    1. Civilization Before Civilization (2,000,000-3000 BCE)
    2. Mesopotamia and the Bronze Age (6000-1200 BCE)
    3. Egypt and the Bronze Age (5000-1200 BCE)
    4. Coastal Civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean (2500-800 BCE)
    5. Iron Age Empires: Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia (850-500 BCE)
    6. Greece in the Dark and Archaic Ages (1100-500 BCE)
    7. Sparta, Athens, and the Classical Age (500-387 BCE)
    8. Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age (387-31 BCE)
    9. Civilization beyond the Near East, Greece, and Rome (2300-31 BCE)
    10. The Rise of Rome and the Roman Republic (753-120 BCE)
    11. Crisis, Recovery, and the Creation of the Principate (150-21 BCE)
    12. The Roman Peace (27 BCE-192 CE)
    13. Crisis, Recovery, and the Creation of the Late Roman Empire (192-337)
    14. The Christian Empire and the Late Roman World (337-476)
    15. The End of Antiquity (476-640)