The contribution of the ancient Greeks to modern western culture is incalculable. In the worlds of art, architecture, myth, literature & philosophy, the world we live in would be unrecognizable without the formative influence of ancient Greek models. This original & stimulating introduction to ancient Greece takes the city as its starting point, revealing just how central the polis ("city-" or "citizen-state") was to Hellenistic cultural achievements. In particular, Cartledge uses the history of 11 major Greek cities--out of over a 1000--to illuminate the most important & informative aspects of Greek history. The book spans a surprisingly long time period, ranging from the 1st examples of ancient Greek language from Cnossus in Crete c. 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) & Sparta, but he also examines Argos, Thebes, Syracuse in Sicily & Alexandria in Egypt, as well as lesser known locales such as Miletus (home of the West's 1st intellectual, Thales) & Massalia (Marseilles), where the Greeks introduced the wine grape to the French. The author uses these cities to illuminate major themes, from economics, religion & social relations, to gender & sexuality, slavery & freedom, & politics. Throughout, the book explores how these 11 cities differed both from each other & from modern society.
An innovative approach to ancient Greece & its legacy, both in terms of the time span covered & in its unique city-by-city organization, this volume provides an ideal concise introduction to the history & culture of this remarkable civilization.