What Really Happened in Ancient Times: A Collection of Historical Biographies is the second in the series from one of my favorite homeschool vendors, Knowledge Quest, Inc. There are eight contributing authors and eight separate stories. The book begins at the beginning of time with an imaginative story of Eve and her recollections of the Fall shared with her children and extends all the way to Constantine in the fourth century, A.D.
In "A Word from the Publishers" they are careful to stress several things. First, "History is an interesting blend of facts, legends, assumptions and speculations." Second, that while historical research reveals specific events, it cannot always reveal motivations or explain the differences between eyewitnesses. Third, "What Really Happened in Ancient Times is a compilation of stories based upon actual historical happenings as found in scripture and other historical writings. We, the authors, have been careful not to add to nor subtract from the actual events of history, especially the scriptural accounts. We have, however, added some small fictional elements, or daily life details, as to contribute to the flow of the biographies and the ease of reading. In the same way, some unsavory details have been left out or glossed over for the benefit of our younger readers and listeners." This was really important to me and I was very glad to see these clarifications in the book.
I found that reading the story of Eve, The Very First Day of the World, that she really came alive as a living person, but that her sin and the repercussions of it, were sincerely expressed. The second story about Noah, Noah and the Great Flood, expressed a lot of different daily aspects to building the ark, the chaos of the flood, and also revealed Noah and his family to be real people too. They knew the preservation of God as well. They were both carefully crafted so as not to take away or add to the true Biblical account and were very encouraging stories.
The next tale about Gilgamesh the Sumerian King, A Tale of Two Friends, was less riveting, but still very interesting. Gilgamesh's epic poem is one of the most ancient of stories. It was written in cuneiform and found in the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria at Nineveh. The story follows the friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu and their various adventures.
The fourth tale is set in 1877 B.C. Egypt and is about Imhotep. Who is Imhotep? We usually call him Joseph and it is the story, The Man Who Saved Civilization. This is one of my favorite scriptural stories and it is wonderful to see the "fleshed out" version here. Daniel, Captive in Babylon, is the fifth story and will re-familiarize you with Nebuchadnezzer and all his interesting dreams and machinations of his mind! The sixth story, Cyrus the Great, Mighty Warrior, Gentle King, is the story of the Persian King's birth, empire, and his many choices he made as ruler. I love the section that details the portion of Cyrus and God's people. "God chose Cyrus for a specific, great act of salvation; and through Isaiah , God announced Cyrus' coming and his name years before his birth." Not only that, but Cyrus was given the title of, "The Lord's Anointed," and that title is not used elsewhere of anyone outside Israel. That it was applied to Cyrus would have shocked Isaiah's audience. This was an excellent story with all sorts of wonderful historical details.
The seventh story, Eratosthenes, A Friend of Learning, is about a librarian. He was not your ordinary librarian though! He was the head of the library at Alexandria, in Ptolemy's Egypt! The story centers on a lengthy, but fascinating, conversation between Eratosthenes and Aristophanes. I will not spoil it by going into it further. Needless to say it is full of interesting historical tidbits too!
The final story, as mentioned above, is Constantine, By this Sign, You shall Conquer, and is about the great military victory of Constantine, his rise to power, and his Christian faith. The story even goes into the fall of Byzantium and the amazing growth and beautification of Constantinople, as well as the Council of Nicaea in 325. There is so much great information packed into this story as well that Constantine becomes a real live man--with faults and sins as much as any man or woman.
This book, at first glance, might seem like an "extra" but it really is a treasure and a thoughtful purchase for your Ancient studies. It is wonderful to read and even better to see a human side to the many people of history.