The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World

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9780140293234: The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World

The achievements of the ancient Greeks form the cornerstone of modern western civilization. This text traces the entire course of ancient Greek history across thousands of years - from the Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations of the Bronze Age through the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The account celebrates the incredible range of Greek achievement: the architectural marvels of the Athenian Acropolis; the birth of drama and the timeless tragedies of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles; Homer's epics; the philosophical revolutions of Plato and Aristotle; and the conquests of Alexander the Great.

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The idea of an entity called Greece is a modern one, which a Thracian of Homer's time or an Athenian of the age of Pericles would not have recognised. Ancient Greek politics was organised along the lines first of family, then of clan, then of neighbourhood, and then finally of town or city; the concept of nationhood, the existence of a nation called Greece, scarcely entered the discussion.

But if there was no Greece in ancient times, there is more than one ancient Greece. One, writes the noted Classical historian Charles Freeman, can be found symbolised in the Parthenon of Athens, its graceful architecture and statuary bespeaking ideals of freedom, citizenship, truth. But another, Freeman continues, can be found early in the pages of Thucydides, who writes of, among other atrocities, the Athenians slaughtering the citizens of Melos upon their surrender after a long siege. "Whatever the achievements of the Greeks might have been", he writes, "they developed against the backdrop of a real world, one in which human beings were degraded by disease and where brutality was an everyday part of life".

Freeman traces both the real and the ideal Greek world in this comprehensive survey of ancient history, which opens with an up-to-date assessment of the Greek peninsula's Bronze Age cultures and closes with a view of the survival of Classical customs and ways of thought in the Western tradition. Gracefully written, Freeman's fine history will find a welcome place on Classicists' bookshelves. --Gregory McNamee

From the Author:

An up-to-date and comprehensive history of ancient Greece.
The Greeks laid the foundations of the western world -in mathematics, science, astronomy, democracy, history and most areas of philosophy including ethics.Their achievements are set against a backdrop of great names, Homer, Pericles, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander, Archimedes and Cleopatra to name only a few. Yet there is no comprehensive history of the ancient Greeks available today for the general reader. Most are very dated or are textbooks for students. Penguin and I felt the general reader needed something up-to-date and readable. The Greek Achievement is designed to fill the gap. It takes the Greeks from the Mycenaeans (1500BC) through to the coming of Christianity in the fourth century AD. It covers the whole breadth of the achievement from literature through to science and mathematics, from architecture through to politics. There are maps,lots of illustrations, a book and date list. If you are holidaying in Greece and want some background, are fascinated by the ancient world or want to understand how the western world came to be the way it is, this is a book to have on your shelves.It has been great fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it.

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