A readable survey for the nonspecialist with an interest in the ancient world.



A well-crafted and indeed short history of the three centuries between the death of Alexander the Great and Rome’s final conquest of the eastern Mediterranean.

As Green (Emeritus, Classics/Univ. of Texas) observes, the Hellenistic age is a category invented by historians, not the people who lived in it, and whatever material evolution and wealth ensued from it was to the benefit of only a few. (As for social strata and progress, he writes, the rule of thumb is, “The lower, the slower.”) Alexander the Macedonian boy wonder conquered half the ancient world at the dawn of the age, but when he died in Babylon, his empire instantly fell apart, contested by rival lieutenants. Green finds it noteworthy as well that the empire was not forged by an alliance of the willing—far from it; the Greeks contributed only a few thousand soldiers to the campaign, “a tiny fragment of what was actually available.” The “Persian other” began to disappear with the chaos, with new enemies closer to home, from Seleucids to Celts. When the rivals died off, a balance of power was struck: Three post-Alexandrian worlds evolved in Europe, Asia and Egypt, though all were characterized by increasingly urban societies, a process that accelerated with the continued development of strong city-states. The greatest and most interesting of these may have been Alexandria, a place where “commercial success and intellectual panache” ruled. The flowering of Egypt and the Near East ended with the arrival of the Romans, who were concerned not to be seen as barbarians but who definitely had an aggressive way of adding to their territories. “As colonial rulers,” Green writes, “the Romans neither bothered much with benefactions nor showed any real interest in democracy.” Neither did Marc Antony and Cleopatra, whose attempt to re-create the empire of Alexander ended rather badly for both.

A readable survey for the nonspecialist with an interest in the ancient world.

Pub Date: April 10, 2007

ISBN: 0-679-64279-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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