A nimble and useful survey of pre. Greek and Roman antiquity, by Saggs (Semitic languages/Univ, of Wales). Saggs omits little of true importance and, at the same time, does well to stress the many and interrelated continuities of the ways of the ancients (Egyptians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, etc.) with our own--not to mention with those of classical times. Politics, religion, trade, medicine, architecture, law, diplomacy, and much else are treated with sufficient depth--and thereby escape the shallow hazards of many other surveys--but not all chapters are created equal. The one on writing is among the best of its kind (and shows admirable restraint for a linguist), but another on mathematics and astronomy seems overly complex--even while it succeeds as explanation. Meanwhile, the section on the risings and fallings of kingdoms and empires is mercifully brief--and we're not compelled to keep their fates in order to understand their importance to the general scheme of things. Saggs also illustrates crucial points with sharply chosen (and not overlong) quotations from an unusually wide range of well-translated documents. More meritorious still is that all of this is achieved with 352 pages--pages that are continuously informed by an intimate grasp of the state of post-1960's scholarship. For those hard-pressed to keep abreast of the labors of the specialists, Saggs has done a favor--and done it briefly and accurately.