From Pomeroy (Classics/Hunter Coll.), Stanley M. Burstein (History/Calif. State U niv., Los Angeles), Walter Donlan (Classics/Univ. of Calif., Irvine), and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts (Classics/City Coll. of New York), a comprehensive narrative history that emphasizes the "astonishing creativity, versatility, and resilience" of the culture shaped by the ancient Greeks. A poor, backward people occupying barely cultivable land on the periphery of the Mediterranean world, the Bronze Age Hellenes or Greeks (c. 3000—1150 b.c.) seem in retrospect an unlikely bet to become the progenitors of a great world civilization. While Bronze Age Greece eventually developed a distinctive culture and power base at Mycenae (c. 1600—1100 b.c. ), it derived most of its industrial skills from its more highly developed neighbors around the Mediterranean basin. And beginning around 1150 b.c., the authors speculate, a mysterious wave of invaders from the north wiped out the brilliant Mycenaean civilization, reducing Greek society to a culturally primitive "dark age" until around 750 b.c. The authors' account treats aspects of Greek life for which primary sources are sparse—the role of women, for instance—but it doesn—t neglect the amazing political, artistic, architectural, philosophical, and literary achievements of classical Athens and other cities. The authors detail the development of Athens and Sparta, the creative tensions between them that helped defend Greece from Persian invasion, the ruinous wars that vitiated the Greek polis or city-state, and the extensive colonization (by the city-states) and conquest (by Alexander the Great) that spread Greek civilization from modem France to what is now Pakistan. While the Hellenistic kingdoms that resulted from the Alexandrian conquest were brutally absorbed into the Roman super-state, the cultural legacy of Greece remained pervasively influential in the Roman world and exerted a profound effect on the rise of Christianity. An accessible and well-balanced introduction to the culture and history of ancient Greece, useful for both student and general reader.
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