The Greeks

The Greeks : Crucible of Civilization

  • Hardback
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An introduction to the world of Homer, Plato, Sappho and Aristophanes, this book accompanies the BBC TV series on classical Greek history and culture. The author does not avoid pointing out the shortcomings of the Hellenes, nor the differences that separate their world view from our more

Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 160 x 234 x 28mm | 621.42g
  • Ebury Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0563537647
  • 9780563537649

Review Text

This is a book written to accompany a TV series, and has all the best qualities you would expect of such a work, being bright, breezy and full of excellent illustrations. The photographs are not only the familiar ones of statues and pottery, but also include reproductions of post-classical portraits of ancient Greece. This is the only fitting, since one of the book's principal concerns is the influence which the Greeks have had, and continue to have, on their cultural heirs. But the skill with which illustrations have been picked is not confined to the visual field. The opening chapter provides an admirably concise overview of the main themes of Greek history, but otherwise the book is structured around a succession of biographies, running chronologically from Homer to Alexander the Great. Although many of the names are the ones a reader might expect, there are surprises as well, Plato, for instance, although a constant presence throughout the book, does not have a biography, whereas Pasion, a Syrian banker who rose from being a slave to the dizzy heights of Athenian citizenship, has an entire chapter to himself. Most innovatively of all, out of 15 biographies, no less than seven are of women. This enables the great events and currents of Greek history, dominated as they were by the activites of men, to be seen from a radically alternative perspective, one which cannot help but illuminate and inspire. The author states that his ambition is 'to shift the focus, at least to some extent, away from the all too familiar concentration on Athens, and especially on Athens in the fifth century'. In fact, the book offers an adroit sketch of the Athenian golden age, yet it is also true to its aim and does indeed provide a history of all of Greece, and all the Greeks. Reviewed by TOM HOLLAND (Kirkus UK)show more