The Greeks: A Global History by Roderick Beaton - review by Daisy Dunn

Daisy Dunn

Out of Attica

The Greeks: A Global History


Faber & Faber 608pp £25

When bubonic plague reached Constantinople in the spring of AD 542, carpenters downed tools, shops grew empty and people sat at home, ailing, caring or simply waiting. The Byzantine historian Procopius recorded that, during the four-month peak of the pandemic, between five thousand and ten thousand people were dying every day. Perhaps a quarter of the city’s population was wiped out by the disease, which is thought to have been carried by fleas on rats.

Reading about historical plagues during a pandemic can feel masochistic, but in the context of Roderick Beaton’s new history of Greece, it is oddly edifying and empathy-inducing. I say Greece, but the book is actually, very pointedly, a history of Greek speakers, from the Mycenaeans of Bronze Age Crete

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter