Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities by Paul Cartledge - review by Peter Jones

Peter Jones

Polesis

Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities

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Oxford University Press 261pp £12.99 order from our bookshop
 

Talk about ‘the Greeks’ and it is almost certain that you mean ‘the Athenians’. Not that Homer, composer of the Western world’s first literature in around 700 BC, was Athenian (he came from Asia Minor); nor Aristotle (384–322 BC), inventor of the disciplines of logic and biology, and author of works covering in masterly detail almost anything you care to mention (he came from Stageira, a town way up in the north of Greece); nor Herodotus, the father of history, nor Hippocrates, the father of rational medicine (both from Asia Minor too). But Cleisthenes (inventor of democracy), Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides (pioneers of tragedy), Thucydides, Pericles, Aristophanes (inventor of comedy), the artist Pheidias, Socrates, Plato, Demosthenes and so on – they are all true blue Athenians to a man.

Which raises the question implied by the first A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge in the title of his book – what do we mean by ‘ancient Greece’? For of the eleven cities Cartledge discusses, five are not in what we know as Greece at

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