The Greek Achievement

The Greek Achievement : The Foundation of the Western World

By (author) Charles Freeman

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The achievements of the ancient Greeks form the cornerstone of modern western civilization. This text traces the entire course of ancient Greek history across thousands of years - from the Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations of the Bronze Age through the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The account celebrates the incredible range of Greek achievement: the architectural marvels of the Athenian Acropolis; the birth of drama and the timeless tragedies of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles; Homer's epics; the philosophical revolutions of Plato and Aristotle; and the conquests of Alexander the Great.

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  • Paperback | 512 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.06 x 38.1mm | 612.35g
  • 25 Jan 2001
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 24pp b&w illustrations, chronology, further reading, index
  • 014029323X
  • 9780140293234
  • 532,385

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Author Information

In more than thirty years, Charles Freeman's travels have taken him to most of the sites mentioned in The Greek Achievement, from Aphrodisias to Olympia, from Troy to Delphi. He has dug on all three continents surrounding the Mediterranean and served as academic director on summer schools on Renaissance Italy. His books include EGYPT, GREECE AND ROME; CIVILIZATIONS OF THE ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN; and LEGACIES OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS.

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Review text

British historian Freeman (The Ancient Greeks, 1996) offers a thoughtful, limpidly written survey of the history and cultural achievements of the ancient Greeks, not only during the usually celebrated classical period but throughout the period from 1500 B.C. to the onset of Christianity in the late Roman Empire. How should we regard ancient Greece? Was it the cradle of democracy and civilization symbolized by the shining marble Parthenon, or was the reality less noble, even nasty and violent? Both images have elements of truth, Freeman argues: "the Greeks provided the chromosomes of Western civilization" yet depended on slave labor and marginalized women. He addresses both sides of this paradox: Greek natural philosophy, mathematics, ethics, medicine, poetry, and drama laid the foundations for the sciences and humanities, but Greek city-states seemed constantly at war. Greeks regarded foreigners as barbarians, and Greek political thought failed to develop a theory of human rights. Freeman intersperses brief looks at the teachings of Plato and Aristotle, and the works of Aristophanes and Euripides, with short studies of Greek land use and the role of women and slaves in Greek society. He also traces the turbulent history of Greece's evolution from a collection of maritime city-states finding its identity through resistance to Persia, through its consolidation under Macedonian tyrants Philip and Alexander the Great, to its status as a province of the Roman Empire. Though Alexander was a civilized Greek, his conquests were brutal in the extreme and brought little benefit to the peoples he subjugated, Freeman asserts. Once his empire crumbled, Greece was absorbed into the Roman Empire (Greek influence on Roman culture, of course, was enormous). Freeman covers vast ground in this relatively short account, which results in some oversimplification. However, he laudably emphasizes the lasting accomplishments of Greece's vibrant civilization without idealizing it. Engaging, well-researched, and a good introduction to ancient Greece for the general reader. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Back cover copy

The achievements of the ancient Greeks form the cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Charles Freeman's The Greek Achievement traces the entire course of ancient Greek history across thousands of years -- from the Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations of the Bronze Age through the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods. This brilliant account celebrates the incredible range of Greek achievement: the architectural marvels of the Athenian Acropolis; the birth of drama and the timeless tragedies of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles; Homer's epics; the philosophical revolutions of Plato and Aristotle; and the conquests of Alexander the Great.Lavishly illustrated with photographs and maps, The Greek Achievement paints a sweeping panorama of the ancient Greeks' world and provides a rich, contemporary overview of their enduring contribution to world civilization.

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