Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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."—Publishers Weekly

"Aiming for a general audience, Cartledge achieves a fast-paced, highly engaging romp through ancient Greece. An excellent choice for anyone seeking an introduction to the topic; for all its readability, this book doesn't skimp on the research."—Library Journal

"Amid the wreckage of the Greek economy and the deadly riots on its streets, it may be more relaxing to read of earlier struggles in that country, revolutions whose course is more or less settled and no longer careering at horrific speed. Cartledge's Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities is a rare work, a compelling historical narrative that is also a useful guidebook. The premise, as his subtitle indicates, is to help the historically conscious tourist by introducing places of trouble and strife, many of them ignored by travelers, that reveal how Greece, as we know it, began."—Peter Stothard, Wall Street Journal

"A concise, surprisingly nuanced survey...told with good effect through the history of eleven cities...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." — New York Military Affairs Symposium Review

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Cartledge (Classics, Univ. of Cambridge; Ancient Greek Political Thought in Practice) ushers readers through the geopolitical atmospheres of various Greek city-states, from the Bronze Age of Knossos and Mycenae to the Archaic Sparta, the Classical Athens, and the Hellenistic Alexandria. The similarities and differences between each polis are readily apparent, and, for so brief a study, this work manages to discuss an enviable array of topics, from military engagements to women's roles, sociopolitical history, architecture, and cultural impacts on later civilizations. The explanations of Greek spellings, monetary units, and measures of distance, as well as the time line, glossary, and "Who's Who," would be especially useful for newcomers. VERDICT Aiming for a general audience, Cartledge achieves a fast-paced, highly engaging romp through ancient Greece. An excellent choice for anyone seeking an introduction to the topic; for all its readability, this book doesn't skimp on the research. —Crystal Goldman, San Jose Sate Univ., CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199233380
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/13/2010
  • Pages: 261
  • Sales rank: 687,986
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Glossary
Timeline
1. Introduction
Part I: Prehistory
2. Cnossos
3. Mycenae
Part II: Early History (to 500 BCE)
4. Argos
5. Miletus
6. Massalia
7. Sparta
Part III: Classical (500-330 BCE)
8. Athens
9. Syracuse
10. Thebes
Part IV: Hellenistic
11. Alexandria
Part V: Retrospect and Prospect
12. Byzantium
Appendix
Further Reading
Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Very fine little book

    Speaking as a relatively serious civilian student of ancient history, I found this to be the very best short book/overview of Ancient Greek culture from Crete to Alexander. One can choose areas to look into more deeply.

    Cartledge bears his erudition elegantly and with an ever-so-cocky attitude that I find delightful.

    As a further testimonial, I read many of the chapters twice.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2010

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