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Translations of primary sources are available on the WWW, although some you might have to dig a little for.  These are secondary sources which I have found very informative and useful.


Who first deciphered hieroglyphics?  Google (and anyone else) will tell you it was Champollion in the early 1800's.  That's wrong.

The first books on hieroglyphic decipherment were published in the 8th and 9th century during the golden age of the Islamic empire.  There was tremendous enthusiasm in unlocking the secrets of Egyptian science and mathematics.  As Okasha el-Daly explains, there were still speakers of Coptic-2 (a vanishing language at the time of the empire), which was closely related to Coptic-1, the language ancient Egyptian's spoke and wrote in demotic and hieratic.

The take-away is a completely different perspective on Egyptian history.  Strabo was Greek and visited Alexandria about 10 years after the death of Cleopatra: two paragraphs are his entire coverage of the period.  Roman authors 200 years after her death outcompeted each other to see who could trash the "sexy, whore queen", instead of discussing the civil war that actually took place.  Arabs translated histories of the Egyptians themselves.

This isn't a dry textbook, it's entertaining reading and I can't recommend it more highly ... I go back to it just for fun.  El-Daly covers the scholarship of Arabic Egyptology, as well as tomb robbing, Egyptian science, and ... yes ... Cleopatra.  Extremely well annotated.


A casual reading of 1st century BC history presents Antony as sort of a sidekick: moving around in Caesar's shadow, slipping into Cleopatra's arms once Caesar was out of the way, and ending as a puppet in a diplomatic game. 

Southern systematically presents the unadorned actual facts in Antony's life, from his start as a drunken frat-boy to him being the most powerful man in the Roman world, running the entire empire.  Initially a little inept in politics, under Caesar's guidance working on the level of "the house whip", he learned domestic diplomacy.  He proved his military abilities as general many times.  If Agrippa hadn't been at Actium, he could've ruled the world.

More than just a dry biography, it makes an interesting read.


This book was a very pleasant surprise.  In both of my books, I hand drew maps of Egypt to keep readers oriented in the 1000's of miles of travel that goes on.  I bought this book thinking it was sort of a "Rand McNally's Atlas" of ancient Egypt: just what I needed if more maps were required.

It's that, plus so much more.

Most of the excavated and partially excavated sites along the Nile are not only indicated, but illustrated with photographs.  In some cases, where sites have disappeared, original illustrations from Napoleon's artists are included.  The histories of the monuments/temples themselves are discussed: who built them, when, who modified, etc.

Add to this a quick overview of dynasties, everyday peasant life, writing/hieroglyphics, arts styles and implementation, religion, and iconography.  It's particularly useful to leave in a place you only visit for minutes at a time: break it open at a bookmark, read 1/2 a page.  It also works well if you want to spend hours taking a trip through the buildings of ancient Egypt.  If you like travel books, you might like this too (but there's nothing about hotels or restaurants).




Free, mostly downloadable references:





Free, mostly downloadable references:

          Become the annoying know-it-all that ruins every trip to a historic locale

          by mansplaining everything, and talking over the guide.

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