In The Shadow Of The Sword
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In The Shadow Of The Sword : The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World

3.92 (2,639 ratings by Goodreads)
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A SUNDAY TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER

'A stunning blockbuster' Robert Fisk

'A compelling detective story of the highest order' Sunday Times

In the 6th century AD, the Near East was divided between two great empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on, and one had vanished for ever, while the other was a dismembered, bleeding trunk. In their place, a new superpower had arisen: the empire of the Arabs. So profound was this upheaval that it spelled, in effect, the end of the ancient world.


But the changes that marked the period were more than merely political or even cultural: there was also a transformation of human society with incalculable consequences for the future. Today, over half the world's population subscribes to one of the various religions that took on something like their final form during the last centuries of antiquity. Wherever men or women are inspired by belief in a single god to think or behave in a certain way, they bear witness to the abiding impact of this extraordinary, convulsive age - though as Tom Holland demonstrates, much of what Jews, Christians and Muslims believe about the origins of their religion is open to debate.


In the Shadow of the Sword explores how a succession of great empires came to identify themselves with a new and revolutionary understanding of the divine. It is a story vivid with drama, horror and startling achievement, and stars many of the most remarkable rulers ever seen.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 592 pages
  • 128 x 195 x 39mm | 492g
  • Abacus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Digital original
  • Section: 16, colour photos
  • 0349122350
  • 9780349122359
  • 10,984

Review Text

A brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and [with] thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomanaical empresses and visionary prophets . . . Unputdownable Simon Sebag Montefiore The Times
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Review quote

Written with flamboyant elegance and energetic intensity, Holland delivers a brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomaniacal empresses and visionary prophets . . . Unputdownable -- Simon Sebag Montefiore * The Times * A compelling detective story of the highest order, In the Shadow of the Sword is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity. Every bit as thrilling a narrative history as Holland's previous works, [it] is also a profoundly important book -- Christopher Hart * Sunday Times * A stunning blockbuster -- Robert Fisk * Independent * This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity . . . He is also a divertingly inventive writer with a wicked wit - there's something of both Gibbon and Tom Wolfe in his writing. In the Shadow of the Sword remains a spell-bindingly brilliant multiple portrait of the triumph of monotheism in the ancient world -- Barnaby Rogerson * Independent * Tom Holland is a writer of clarity and expertise, who talks us through this unfamiliar and crowded territory with energy and some dry wit . . . The emergence of Islam is a notoriously risky subject, so a confident historian who is able to explain where this great religion came from without illusion or dissimulation has us greatly in his debt' -- Philip Hensher * Spectator * 'A compelling detective story of the highest order, In the Shadow of the Sword is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity. Every bit as thrilling a narrative history as Holland's previous works, In the Shadow of the Sword is also a profoundly important book. It makes public and popular what scholarship has been discovering for several decades now; and those discoveries suggest a wholesale revision of where Islam came from and what it is' -- Christopher Hart * Sunday Times * A brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and [with] thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomanaical empresses and visionary prophets . . . Unputdownable -- Simon Sebag Montefiore * The Times *
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About Tom Holland

Tom Holland is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. He is the author of Rubicon: The Triumph and the Tragedy of the Roman Republic, which won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize; Persian Fire, his history of the Graeco-Persian wars, won the Anglo-Hellenic League's Runciman Award in 2006; Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, a panoramic account of the two centuries on either side of the apocalyptic year 1000; In the Shadow of the Sword, which covers the collapse of Roman and Persian power in the Near East, and the emergence of Islam; and Dynasty, a portrait of Rome's first imperial dynasty.

He has adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for the BBC. His translation of Herodotus was published in 2013 by Penguin Classics and followed in 2016 by a history of AEthelstan published under the Penguin Monarchs series, and in 2019 AEthelflaed England's Forgotten Founder as a Ladybird Expert Book. In 2007, he was the winner of the Classical Association prize, awarded to 'the individual who has done most to promote the study of the language, literature and civilisation of Ancient Greece and Rome'.

Holland is the presenter of BBC Radio 4's Making History. He has written and presented a number of TV documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4, on subjects ranging from religion to dinosaurs.

He served two years as the Chair of the Society of Authors; as Chair of the PLR Advisory Committee and was on the committee of the Classical Association.

@holland_tom
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Rating details

2,639 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 30% (800)
4 40% (1,044)
3 23% (618)
2 5% (138)
1 1% (39)
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