Monday, October 04, 2010

Finding Buried Treasure.

These days it's very hard for me to find a book on Ancient Greece I don't already have. Every week I poke around Borders looking for something new on the subject, and every month I do a search on Amazon's massive website to see if I missed anything. Lately it seems the only books I don't have on Ancient Greece are ones I can't afford (some textbooks cost well over a hundred dollars). So imagine my surprise when I nonchalantly glided into a used book store the other day and found (gasp!) a book on Ancient Greece I'd never seen...for only seven bucks!

A History of The Greek City States 700-338 B.C. by Raphael Sealey is a great find. Published in 1976, this book gives a basic account of...well, the Greek city-states between 700-338 BCE. But what makes it stand out is the level of detail. The author dives into not only what happened but WHY. Take a look at this paragraph from Appendix A, which tries to explain some oddities in Cleisthenes' division of the trittyes, demes and tribes:

"Usually each trittys held a connected parcel of territory, but [D.M.] Lewis draws attention to some anomalies. Two of these are especially revealing. The first concerns the costal trittys of the tribe Pandionis. Most of this trittys lay in a block south of Brauron; but the deme Probalinthos, just south of Marathon, belonged to the same trittys, although seperated from it by the coastal trittys of the tribe Aegeis. This anomaly can be explained.

There was a much older unit, the Tetrapolis, consisting of the adjacent villages of Marathon, Oenoe, Trikorythos and Probalinthos; this continued to perform religious functions; indeed as late as the first century B.C., on occasion when the Athenian state sent the sacred deputation called the Pythias to Delphi, the Marathonian Tetrapolis sent its own seperate envoys. Cleisthenes detached Probalinthos from the old Tetrapolis and allocated it to the more distant trittys of the tribe Pandionis. The district of Marathon had Peisistratid connections; the anomaly surely reveals a desire to prevent the old Tetrapolis from retaining political significance."

Super detailed, right? Although all this convoluted stuff might explain why I'm one of the few people crazy enough to take on this time period in Athenian history. There's a LOT going on!

In short, A History of The Greek City States 700-338 B.C. is full of maps, illustrations, notes and interesting ideas. If you can find it or order it online, it's a good one to have in your collection (at least if you love ridiculous amounts of detail like me).


Charles David Eyer said...

I am just beginning research into Ancient Greece as background for Nero's tour of Corinth, Olympia, etc. My first novel was all about Rome and its provinces of Africa and Syria. Now my settings have shifted to Greece. So my collection of Greek history books is just starting. I have Thucydides and Herodotus but I'm finding plenty I want to read.

Mark Noce said...

Nice find! Often times for subjects like Greece or other bits of history I start looking for myth, archeology, or any remotely related topic in order to find more sources, but I'm willing to bet you've tried those too:)

Charles David Eyer said...

I was just leafing thru my Penguin version of Herodotus and the translator lists R. Sealey's book in his bibliography. I thought that a funny coincidence after reading your post about the same book.