FREEDOM IN THE ANCIENT WORLD by Herbert J. Muller
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FREEDOM IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of the widely-read Uses of the Past and last year's Issues of Freedom now turns to a concise history of human freedom. At the offset, he reiterates a definition of freedom used in a previous book as ""the condition to choose and to carry out purposes"". He then turns far back in Time, to the Dawn and Neolithic tribes, to illustrate how purpose was once entirely communal and undifferentiated. From here he examines Sumerian life with its development of craftsmen and hence individualism- then, the highly-developed ""collectivism"" of Egypt, the Hittites, Cretans, Persians, and others-- and the need of the common people for ""miracle, mystery, authority"". These earlier chapters are like a capsule history of Middle Eastern history itself, and are worth reading for that sake alone. His later tracing of Man's movement toward individual and moral freedom -- through the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Christians, and finally the Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires-- are equally fascinating. The marvelous thing about this book, other than its admirable scholarly sense of History and readable style, is its tacit way of making points. Muller does not exhort or preach. He shows what he considers to be the milestones in the search for Freedom, and the value of the search itself. He also gives such eras as the Byzantine, or that of Cyrus the Persian, more due than have previous scholars. He is thus fair, objective, universal. This book is without a doubt of the same high quality, the same meaning, as the other fine historical work he has done in the last few years.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1961
Publisher: Harper