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Catching up with the mail

I’m still second drafting. Which means I’ve been putting off answering reader emails for a couple of months now; I like answering them, but lots of things get delayed when I’m trying to get out a coherent draft. This week I made a start on the emails. And I also went in and checked my box at the English department at William & Mary; I didn’t teach this semester (I’m back to it in the fall, though), so I haven’t been to pick up my mail in a while. And a lot of readers send mail directly to the College, since my affiliation with William & Mary is on my book jackets.

There was a HAUL there. So I thought I’d share with you a few random quotes from the letters and emails.

I am journeying through your delightfully readable book, “The History of the Ancient World” where I learned Assyrian soldiers made a standard practice of blinding their war captives (bottom of page 250). Elsewhere, I had read that the Byzantines did this regularly, including to their 15,000 Bulgarian captives in AD 1014. These acts would have resulted in extraordinary amounts of suddenly blinded people in one place. What happened to these soldiers next?

(That is a FINE question.)

I am reading your new history of the ancient world and enjoying it very much, but I am puzzled by the title. I am particularly interested in late antiquity and “fall of Rome” studies, so I am confused about why your book is billed as ending with the fall of Rome, when in fact it does not.

(I lobbied for the “End of Rome,” actually, but my editor overruled me.)

So, as I was reading about the ancient Sumerians and the years their kings ruled, a question arose: How do we know the ancient Sumerians kept time as we keep time, today?

(Huh. Well, we don’t, really. I’ll have to think about that one a little more.)

I’m in the middle of reading The History of the Ancient World. I must say I have never been so better informed and enlightened of the origins of the human race. I’d just like to thank you for making ancient history such an interesting experience for me.

(You have just made my day.)

I was enjoying your book on the history of the ancient world until I discovered your description of ancient Sumeria. Once again I find the same old uninformed tripe that all other scholars write. When will you stop trading ignorance with each other and actually research the facts?

(Probably won’t answer that one.)

Why don’t you use Bishop Ussher’s dating? You should show more respect for the great scholars who have come before you instead of ignoring their contributions.


I am going to be teaching Medieval History in a 9th grade history class and an 11th grade West. Civ. class. What topics from this significant era should be covered with high school students in a classical school?

(That is a great question, but it makes my brain hurt.)

I found your book, “The History of the Ancient World”, a delightful and thoroughly engaging narrative. I look with great anticipation toward your next installment which hopefully will cover “The History of the Middle Ages.”

(“Hopefully” is the operative word at this point…)

Are there any self-help books you recommend?

(None come to mind.)

Would you mind sharing with me some of your time management ideas? I’m feeling quite overwhelmed by trying to find time to do it all.

(You and me both.)

I’m 14 and I would just love to say that I love your book: “The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome”! I have never read another book as easy to read and as informative. I am wondering how your current book on medieval history is going along. When do you think it will be released?

(I was really enjoying that one until I got to the end.)

Hi Ms. Susan, I am 6years old. I read your book called the story of the world .I really liked it. Anyway one chapter called The mystery of Mohenjo-Daro I think they fled because they wanted to be ruled by a king.


I’m curious about your timeline and where you would put the Ice Age, caves of Lascaux, ancient Europe nomads, etc. How do these events reconcile w/ Creation account in Genesis and the young-earth philosophy of the earth’s age?

(Believe when I say that I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA.)

I am enjoying reading your new book, “The History of the Ancient World.” But on page 32, it says, “…the Indus, which flowed northwest through India into the Arabian Sea.” Is this correct?

(Well, er, no, it isn’t. Thanks for pointing this out.)

I am a huge fan of your book the Well-Trained Mind. I just wanted to know, without taking too much of your time, about your thoughts on video games.

(Still formulating those. Should have a coherent answer as my last son is leaving for college.)


You know, I really like my mail, even when it makes my brain hurt.

I’ve also come to a conclusion about readers who take the time to write when they find an error. 90% of the time, they are either retired doctors, or retired army officers. Retired doctors point out the error nicely and tell me how much they enjoyed the book. Retired army officers point out the error with indignation and inform me that they will never buy a book of mine again.

I’m sure there’s some sort of cultural studies essay lurking in that phenomenon.