Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

Book Review: The Book of Ancient Bastards, by Brian Thornton

By HistoryNet Staff 
Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: March 01, 2012 
Print Friendly
0 comments FONT +  FONT -

The Book of Ancient Bastards, by Brian Thornton, Adams Media, Avon, Mass., 2011, $13.95

The subtitle of Brian Thornton's new book pretty much says it all: 101 of the Worst Miscreants and Misdeeds from Ancient Sumer to the Enlightenment. It might be worth noting, however, that the "bastards" in question, ranging from Sargon of Akkad to Henry VIII of England, are derived entirely from Western history. None of the 101 mini-biographies represent figures from East, Central or South Asia, Russia, sub-Saharan Africa or the Americas. Perhaps a more appropriate subtitle might have been "101 Ancient Bastards of the Known World."

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to Military History magazine

Having aired that minor reservation, it must be said this is one of the most entertaining little volumes to come along in some time. In his highly amusing style the author has removed the spin from history and portrayed many of its great figures as the ruthless villains they really were. His sources of information are the same ones utilized by every other notable historian through the ages: ancient chroniclers such as Herodotus, Tacitus and Plutarch.

Even limited to the Western world, Thornton's gallery of rogues is certainly diverse, including famous figures from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Constantinople, the post-Roman Dark Ages, Medieval Europe and the Renaissance. On display are kings, pharaohs, tyrants, emperors and a not insignificant number of popes. A healthy plurality was skilled in the military arts, since those were often as necessary to their acquiring and holding power as more underhanded "politics by other means." Quite a few of the author's chosen historical miscreants are women. It should also be pointed out that, although not a few of the individuals described are, indeed, illegitimate, that condition is clearly not a prerequisite for inclusion. It is to be hoped the author will soon follow this darkly enlightening work with a companion volume, giving equal treatment to the ancient bastards of Russia, China, India, Mongolia, the Huns and the various Central Asian empires.

—Robert Guttman


Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy