Sunday, January 03, 2010

Paul Cartledge strikes again (a short book review).

I love Paul Cartledge.

He's a brilliant professor of Greek history and has written several articles and books on the subject (Sparta especially). I often refer to these works when I'm working on my novel. So of course I was excited to learn that he has a new book out.

Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities is somewhat of a beginner's guide to Ancient Greece, but still more advanced than say, Ancient Greece for Dummies. It's a good place to start for those with more than a fleeting interest in the subject.

In his latest work, Paul Cartledge attempts to condense the entire history of Ancient Greece into a few hundred pages; a herculean task if there ever was one. He starts from the beginning--literally--by introducing readers to the island culture of Cnossos around 3000 BCE, and ends with the rise and fall of Byzantion. His choice of cities may appear somewhat arbitrary at first (Massalia?), but as he explains in his introduction he actually picked each city carefully. Many of the smaller islands or lesser-known polis were home to many famous philosophers and powerful Greeks, as well locations for many historic battles.

It's a short book and will not be the most detailed thing you've ever read on Ancient Greece, but it is useful for those who want to brush up on their ancient history. Here's a list of cities covered in the book:

1) Cnossos
2) Mycenae
3) Argos
4) Miletus
5) Massalia
6) Sparta
7) Athens
8) Syracuse
9) Thebes
10) Alexandria
11) Byzantion


Gary Corby said...

With you recommending it Meghan it just went on my list.

Since I haven't read it yet I speak from ignorance, which won't stop me from saying...

Where is Corinth, Ephesus and Samos?

Needs to be retitled A History in Fourteen Cities

Meghan said...

I agree he could have included Samos and Ephesus, not to mention Olympia, Naxos and others. But since he was trying to fit this all into a comprehensive timeline, I guess he just had to make tough choices. There won't be a lot you already don't know in this book (as you are a serious lover of the history AND an author) but there are a couple of little tidbits to be mined.

Constance Brewer said...

Cool. Always looking to improve my rather slapdash knowledge of Greek History. :)