The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece by Josiah Ober (Princeton UP) £24.95
Lord Byron described Greece as great, fallen, and immortal, a characterization more apt than he knew. Through most of its long history, Greece was poor. But in the classical era, Greece was densely populated and highly urbanized. Many surprisingly healthy Greeks lived in remarkably big houses and worked for high wages at specialized occupations. Middle-class spending drove sustained economic growth and classical wealth produced a stunning cultural efflorescence lasting hundreds of years. Why did Greece reach such heights in the classical period-and why only then? And how, after “the Greek miracle” had endured for centuries, did the Macedonians defeat the Greeks, seemingly bringing an end to their glory? Drawing on a massive body of newly available data and employing novel approaches to evidence, Josiah Ober offers a major new history of classical Greece and an unprecedented account of its rise and fall. Ober argues that Greece’s rise was no miracle but rather the result of political breakthroughs and economic development. The extraordinary emergence of citizen-centered city-states transformed Greece into a society that defeated the mighty Persian Empire. Yet Philip and Alexander of Macedon were able to beat the Greeks in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, a victory made possible by the Macedonians’ appropriation of Greek innovations. After Alexander’s death, battle-hardened warlords fought ruthlessly over the remnants of his empire. But Greek cities remained populous and wealthy, their economy and culture surviving to be passed on to the Romans-and to us. A compelling narrative filled with uncanny modern parallels, this is a book for anyone interested in how great civilizations are born and die. This book is based on evidence available on a new interactive website. To learn more, please visit: http://polis.stanford.edu/.
The Greeks in Asia by John Boardman £27 (£5 off RRP £32)
Laughing Awry. Plautus and Tragicomedy (OUP) £60
The Trial of Socrates by I. F. Stone £16.00 (£4 off RRP £20.00)
Platonic Conversations by Mary Margaret McCabe (OUP) £50
Strolling Through Rome by Mario Erasmo £14.99
Rome, the Eternal City – birthplace of western civilisation and soul of the ancient world – has a history that stretches back two thousand five hundred years. It is also one of the most-visited places in the world, but where does one begin to delve into two millennia of history, culture, art and architecture, whilst also navigating the vibrant modern city? Mario Erasmo here guides the traveller through Rome’s many layers of history, exploring the streets, museums, piazze, ruins and parks of this ‘city of the soul’. Punctuated with anecdote, myth and legend, these unique walks often retrace the very steps taken by ancient Romans, early Christians, medieval pilgrims, Renaissance artists and aristocrats on the Grand Tour. Here is a rich cultural history of Rome that brings its epic past alive, illuminating the extraordinary sights and fascinating secrets of one of Europe’s most beguiling cities.
The Gods Rich in Praise (OUP) £60 by Christopher Metcalf
Many scholars today believe that early Greek literature, as represented by the great poems of Homer and Hesiod, was to some extent inspired by texts from the neighbouring civilizations of the ancient Near East, especially Mesopotamia. It is true that, in the case of religious poetry, early Greek poets sang about their gods in ways that resemble those of Sumerian or Akkadian hymns from Mesopotamia, but does this mean that the latter influenced the former, and if so, how? This volume is the first to attempt an answer to these questions by undertaking a detailed study of the ancient texts in their original languages, from Sumerian poetry in the 20th century BC to Greek sources from the times of Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, and Aeschylus. The Gods Rich in Praise presents the core groups of sources from the ancient Near East, describing the main features of style and content of Sumerian and Akkadian religious poetry, and showing how certain compositions were translated and adapted beyond Mesopotamia. It proceeds by comparing selected elements of form and content: hymnic openings, negative predication, the birth of Aphrodite in the Theogony of Hesiod, and the origins and development of a phrase in Hittite prayers and the Iliad of Homer. The volume concludes that, in terms of form and style, early Greek religious poetry was probably not indebted to ancient Near Eastern models, but also argues that such influence may nevertheless be perceived in certain closely defined instances, particularly where supplementary evidence from other ancient sources is available, and where the extant sources permit a reconstruction of the process of translation and adaptation.