Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World by Philip Matyszak - Book Review

Write on: Fri, 18 Sep 2020 by  in Assaph's Reviews Read 3366

Matyszak is one of my favourite popular historians (because archaeologists and historians are much more deserving of celebrity culture than actual celebrities), and I loved previous books of his. This books offers a review of people and nations you've probably heard of in passing, and promises to give you a deeper understanding of those forgotten people and their impact on later generations.

What to Expect

The book is divided into 4 parts, from the first civilisations to rise, to the early iron age, through the rise and then the fall of Rome. As those great civilisations rose and fell, they came into contact with other people, and they are the focus of this book.

Each section follows a few of those lesser known people, from their first appearance in recorded history to their eventual disappearance. Many of them are only known from the records of the "big" civilisations that left records, but Matyszak carefully collects all the evidence - historical and archaeological to present a picture of what life was for them.

What I liked

I love Matyszak flowing style, that brings dusty archaeological remains and obscure original references to life. He keeps you engaged and involved in those long forgotten people, while gently educating and expanding your understanding of historical processes at the same time.

What to be aware of

This is not a primary history book. Each section follows a particular people, about their interactions with others. It can be a big disjointed if you try to follow overall events, as the aim is different. It will broaden and deepen your understanding of what happens at the edges of history.

Felix's Review

Felix, who comes from one of the "main" cultures, has seen both those 'barbarian' waves crashing against the borders of his burgeoning empire and conquered people thoughtlessly integrated into his culture. He has a low opinion of the politicians leading his republic so he wasn't surprised to hear that their mismanagement has caused many allied or subjugated people to turn into intractable enemies. Still, for him, life is what it is and he plans to make the most of the ascendancy of his culture.


I love reading history, and this books offers a very unique perspective about subjects not often covered in depth. If you want to learn more than the beaten path, this is for you.


Last modified on Friday, 18 September 2020 08:33

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy - he whinged horribly when they dragged him to "yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling", yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art. 

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin. 

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and - this being Australia - assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he's writing - he seems to do his best writing after midnight.



Twitter: @assaphmehr