Michael Grant is a real professional writer and historian, academically astute without being pedantic. His earlier books (The Ancient Mediterranean, The Ancient Historians, etc.) have been on this part of the world and related subjects, and he seems to be so familiar with his sources and facts that he might have been able to write this one from memory or with a skeleton set of index cards. Throughout the text he supports his narrative by reference to ancient texts (from the Bible to the more esoteric religious writings, from Josephus to St. Augustine), commenting, refuting and explaining as he goes along. Mr. Grant begins with Adam and concludes with the proclamation of Christinaity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. The Jews are the main actors, seen as relating to the Romans as an imperial power but also to the neighboring Greeks (among the first anti-Semites), Arabs, and the increasingly separate sects. Historical events receive more emphasis than does life within the Jewish community itself, although various Jewish groups, schools and factions are lucidly analyzed. Mr. Grant attributes the success of Christianity to its concept of a saviour, and claims that ""Christian emperors and religious leaders were far less tolerant to the Jews than the pagans had ever been."" There are many accounts of this period in print -- some more concise or more scholarly -- but this book is among the most pleasant to read.