In this comprehensive and fast-paced account of pre-fifth-century Greece, Grant, prolific author of popular histories of antiquity (History of Rome, 1978; History of Ancient Israel, 1984) again proves that erudition need not be pedantic or dull. Ancient Greece, like Renaissance Italy, presents a tough narrative problem to the historian who has to tell a single story about a culture spread among countless very individual city-states. Grant manages to steer a perilous course between the chaos of ethnography and the inaccurate order of an Athens-centric view. Though the literary remains and later history make it difficult to get out from under the shadow of Athens. Grant shifts our perspective and makes us see that great city as ""only one of a number of outstanding centres."" His narrative owes its clarity to his use of the guidebook approach to history: he divides his story geographically, rather than chronologically, with chapters on Athens, the Peloponnese, Eastern and Central Aegean, etc., with each geographical designation further divided into city-states and islands. Within each chapter, he covers mythic origins and developed religious practices, changing political and economic institutions, vase painting, sculpture, architecture, and poetry--reminding us from chapter to chapter of parallel developments in other regions, so by the end he has given a sense of the Greeks' shared history and culture and of the individual features of over 50 city-states. Of manageable length, pleasantly written, and clearly organized, this is an ideal historical introduction to very early Greece.