Ancient Greece - From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, Second Edition (Anglais) Broché – 3 mai 2013
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I finished this book, and have since moved on to 'Ancient Rome' by Simon Baker, which is similar in format and goal.
After reading his I no longer feel as much 'in the dark' as I used to about ancient Western civilization history. I hope to find similar books about the Middle Ages and Renaissance next.
Martin starts with a chapter on prehistory which is not really about Greece at all, and gets sidetracked with speculation - for example, that the development of agricultural society resulted in women taking a subordinate social position.
However, from chapter two the book provides a clear, straightforward account of the economic, political, social and cultural development of Greece. Its strength is in description rather than explanation - leaving the reader pondering why Greece's cities concurrently organized themselves into polis with similar concepts of citizenship and popular participation; and more deeply, what were the roots of "the [Greek] view that people must give reasons to explain what they believe to be true" - an astounding development then, which has yet to occur in large parts of today's world.
This valuable survey is enhanced by Martin's gift for choosing short quotations from the ancient sources that express the essence of what he is describing, such as the remark of Xenophon about the hatred of helots (community owned slaves) for the Spartans: "They said they would be glad to eat them raw." Throughout, Martin spices the book brilliantly with such extracts.
The second edition makes a huge improvement in the reproduction of the book's photographs, which unfortunately are also reduced in number.
The new edition also wisely guides the reader to classical literature itself as a source of understanding and insight.
The author gives a good accounting of the social and political developements in Greece, with a lot of concentration on the Athens city state. His chapter on the Peloponesian War between Athens and Sparta is very clear in explaining this 30 year war. It has inspired me to back and read Thucydides " History of the Pelopenesian War".
The book has a very good bibliography with explanations on what each source material is about, so there are lots of suggestions for interesting reading in the bibliography. When you type in "Thomas R Martin" into Amazon there is a book about Ancient Rome that he wrote and a lot of other books about Ancient History which he collaborated on. I will definitely be giving some of those a read.
• Sparta actually had a version of "The Purge." Once a year, Spartans were free to kill/maim/rape helots (not citizens or slaves) with no civil or religious consequences.
• Theoretical Scientists in Greece expressed their ideas through poetry
• Courts were run entirely by the people- the only government official attending was a magistrate, and they were only there to stop physical violence.
• In Athens, there were statues called "Herms" at every intersection, meant to symbolize protection. "Herms" were, and I quote, "stone posts with sculpted sets of erect male organs, and a bust of the god Hermes on top." Even more crazy, when Athens was about to launch its fleet in a major attack, vandals, supposedly in protest, broke off the, uh, male organs of the statues.
• The king of Macedonia was expected to get in fights and drink heavily to prove he was a quote: "man's man." Worthy of the throne.
• Alexander the Great once hopped a wall to fight his enemy all alone, without telling his army. They barely were able to break in and save him. He later died of excessive drinking.
• Zeno, a philosopher, wanted unisex clothing so one couldn’t distinguish male or female. Basically Starfleet uniforms.
You can learn all this AND MORE in Martin's excellent book on Greece.