Cities That Shaped the Ancient World - John Julius Norwich

You know of Thebes and Memphis, Alexandria and Petra—but what of Mohenjo-Daro and Tikal? And can you name the world’s first city? If not, consider an armchair tour across forty cities in the dawning age of urban life in Cities that Shaped the Ancient World (Thames & Hudson, $40). Edited by the estimably erudite John Julius Norwich, this volume showcases its subjects in four-to eight-page spreads, set off by the vivid illustrations characteristic of a Thames & Hudson fine art volume: detailed depictions of each city’s standout art and architecture (insofar as it is documented) and aerial views of the excavated metropolises. The sampling of cities is admirably varied, drawing of course from the Mediterranean and Levant, but also from the New World, Asia, and Africa, covering cities with a profound historical record as well as those whose material remains are sparse. As Norwich cautions, this collection is not a history book per se; “instead, it spins the globe and watches, as the earth’s endlessly varied peoples take their first tentative steps in that most challenging art of living together.”