This is the book of the Major BBC2 Series. Across the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Nile Delta, awe-inspiring, monstrous ruins are scattered across the landscape - vast palaces, temples, fortresses, shattered statues of ancient gods, carvings praising the eternal power of long-forgotten dynasties. These ruins - the remainder of thousands of years of human civilization - are both inspirational in their grandeur, and terrible in that their once teeming centres of population were all ultimately destroyed and abandoned. In this major new book, Richard Miles recreates these extraordinary cities, ranging from the Euphrates to the Roman Empire, to understand the roots of human civilization. His challenge is to make us understand that the cities which define culture, religion and economic success and which are humanity's greatest invention, have always had a cruel edge to them, building systems that have provided both amazing opportunities and back-breaking hardship. Miles is above all fascinated by the compromises that make the city work - the mixture of coercion and desire, ceremony and justice, the great public and private spaces created and recreated across the ancient world that defined the focus and meaning of human civilization. This exhilarating, beautifully illustrated book is both a pleasure to read and a challenge to us all to think about our past - and about the present.