Book Review: Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities


by Paul Cartledge

New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2010. Pp. xxvi, 161. Illus, maps, appenda, biblio., index. $19.95. ISBN: 0199233381

A concise, surprisingly nuanced survey of the Ancient Greek world, from the age of Minos through late Antiquity, told with good effect through the history of eleven cities.

Prof. Cartledge (Greek Culture at Cambridge), slecets his cities well.  He opens with the semi-mythic Cnossos and Mycenai, from "Pre-Historic" or "Heroic" age, up to perhaps 1100 BC, most familiar through Homer, but increasingly better known through archaeology.  Then come Argos, Miletus, Sparta, and Massilia, in the "Dark" and "Archaic" ages, through about 500 BC, during which the "classical" Greek world was formed.  The "Golden Age," about 500 to 330 BC, is seen through the histories and life of Athens, Syracuse, and Thebes, down to the conquests of Alexander.  The work culminaes with a look at what was perhaps the Macedonian's greatest achievement, Alexandria, in the "Hellenistic" age, from 330 BC to the completion of the Roman conquest of the Greek world, in 30 BC.

The choices are clever, for they permit Cartledge to touch upon many different aspects of Greek life, history, and culture as it evolved over the ages, and includes not onlyplaces in Greece itself, but also three important outposts of Greek civilization planted in far-off lands, Massilia, in what is now southern France, Syracuse in Sicily, and Alexandria, in Egypt.  The author concludes with some interesting comments on the long-term influence of the Greeks on other cultures down to the present

While providing what is perhaps the best short introduction to the ancient Greek world, this book can also be read with profit even by seasoned students of the subject


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi,    

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