The contribution of the ancient Greeks to modern western culture is incalculable. In the worlds of art, architecture, myth, literature, and philosophy, the world we live in would be unrecognizable without the formative influence of ancient Greek models.
This highly original and stimulating introduction to ancient Greece takes the city as its starting point, revealing just how central the polis ("city-state" or "citizen-state") was to Hellenistic cultural achievements. In particular, Paul Cartledge uses the history of eleven major Greek cities--out of more than a thousand--to illuminate the most important and informative aspects of Greek history. The book spans a surprisingly long time period, ranging from the first examples of ancient Greek language from Cnossus in Crete around 1400 BC to the establishment of Constantinople (today's Istanbul) in 324 AD on the site of the Greek city of Byzantion. Cartledge highlights the role of such renowned cities as Athens (birthplace of democracy) and Sparta, but he also examines Argos, Thebes, Syracuse in Sicily, and Alexandria in Egypt, as well as lesser known locales such as Miletus (home of the West's first intellectual, Thales) and Massalia (Marseilles today), where the Greeks introduced the wine grape to the French. The author uses these cities to illuminate major themes, from economics, religion, and social relations, to gender and sexuality, slavery and freedom, and politics. And throughout, the book explores how these eleven cities differed both from each other and from modern society.
An innovative approach to ancient Greece and its legacy, both in terms of the time span covered and in its unique city-by-city organization, this superb volume provides the ideal concise introduction to the history and culture of this remarkable civilization.
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From Publishers Weekly:
Paul Cartledge is the inaugural A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture in the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Clare College. He is also Hellenic Parliament Global Distinguished Professor in the History and Theory of Democracy, at New York University. He is the author, co-author, editor and co-editor of over 20 books, many translated into several foreign languages. He is an honorary citizen of modern Sparta and holds the Gold Cross of the Order of Honor awarded by the President of Greece.
Cartledge, professor of Greek culture at the University of Cambridge, has created an intriguing overview of Greek history by providing synopses of 11 key city-states, each representing a different facet of Greek life and culture, such as politics, gender, and philosophy. Beginning with the earliest example of the successful polis, proto-Greek Cnossos on the island of Crete, and continuing through the near-mythical city of Mycenae; Argos; doomed Miletus; Massalia (present-day Marseilles), the first of the great Greek colonies; and through to the rise of laconic Sparta, it is easy to trace the development of Greek civilization. Classical Greece is examined in the descriptions of Athens, Syracuse, and Thebes. The description of Hellenic Alexandria is symbolic of the transition of the classical period into the Hellenistic age. A final discussion of the polis of Byzantion notes the decline of city-state independence. A list of significant individuals, a glossary, and a time line are beneficial. Other than labeling Athens, Ga., as that state's capital in comments on the proliferation of Greek city names throughout the world, errors are few. 20 b&w illus., 4 maps. (Jan.)
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