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review 2020-12-07 05:46
Plague of War by Jennifer Tolbert Roberts
The Plague of War - Jennifer T. Roberts

TITLE:  Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece


AUTHOR:  Jennifer Tolbert Roberts




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780190940881



"In 431 BC, the long simmering rivalry between the city-states of Athens and Sparta erupted into open warfare, and for more than a generation the two were locked in a life-and-death struggle. The war embroiled the entire Greek world, provoking years of butchery previously unparalleled in ancient Greece. Whole cities were exterminated, their men killed, their women and children enslaved. While the war is commonly believed to have ended with the capture of the Athenian navy in 405 and the subsequent starvation of Athens, fighting in Greece would continue for several decades. Sparta's authority was challenged in the so-called Corinthian War (395-387) when Persian gold helped unite Athens with Sparta's former allies. The war did not truly end until, in 371, Thebes' crack infantry resoundingly defeated Sparta at Leuctra, forever shattering the myth of Spartan military supremacy.

Jennifer Roberts' rich narrative of this famous conflict is the first general history to tell the whole story, from the war's origins down to Sparta's defeat at Leuctra. In her masterful account, this long and bloody war affected every area of life in Athens, exacerbated divisions between rich and poor in Sparta, and sparked civil strife throughout the Greek world. Yet despite the biting sorrows the fighting occasioned, it remains a gripping saga of plots and counter-plots, murders and lies, thrilling sea chases and desperate overland marches, missed opportunities and last-minute reprieves, and, as the war's first historian Thucydides had hoped, lessons for a less bellicose future. In addition, Roberts considers the impact of the war on Greece's cultural life, including the great masterworks of tragedy and comedy performed at this time and, most infamously, the trial and execution of Socrates. A fast-paced narrative of one of antiquity's most famous clashes, The Plague of War is a must-read for history enthusiasts of all ages.




This is an interesting and fairly comprehensive narrative of the Peloponnesian War, including not only battle tactics and politics, but also what was happening socially at the time.

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review 2020-11-11 06:44
Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens by Robin Waterfield
Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece - Robin A.H. Waterfield

A nicely written, easy to understand if somewhat bland, introductory history book about Ancient Greece.  The author covers the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Eras of Greek history in more or less even spacing, with chapters devoted to thematic topics like the economy and social stratification.  Maps and photographs are included.

Ancient Greece:  From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times by Thomas R. Martin.

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review 2020-10-03 15:11
The Greeks by Philip Matyszak
The Greeks - Philip Matyszak

TITLE:  The Greeks


SERIES:  Lost Civilizations


AUTHOR:  Philip Matyszak




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781780239002



"This book is a portrait of Ancient Greece—but not as we know it. Few people today appreciate that Greek civilization was spread across the Middle East, or that there were Greek cities in the foothills of the Himalayas. Philip Matyszak tells the lost stories of the Greeks outside Greece, compatriots of luminaries like Sappho, the poet from Lesbos; Archimedes, a native of Syracuse; and Herodotus, who was born in Asia Minor as a subject of the Persian Empire. Stretching from the earliest prehistoric Greek colonies around the Black Sea to Greek settlements in Spain and Italy, through the conquests of Alexander and the glories of the Hellenistic era, to the fall of Byzantium, The Greeks illuminates the lives of the Greek soldiers, statesmen, scientists, and philosophers who laid the foundations of what we call “Greek culture” today—though they seldom, if ever, set foot on the Greek mainland. Instead of following the well-worn path of examining the rise of Athenian democracy and Spartan militarism, this book offers a fresh look at what it meant to be Greek by instead telling the story of the Greeks abroad, from modern-day India to Spain."




This book is short and informative, providing a broad, simplified, and somewhat bland, history of Greek Civilization, it's spread and influence.




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review 2020-09-11 06:14
The Story of Greece and Rome by Tony Spawforth
The Story of Greece and Rome - Tony Spawforth

TITLE:  The Story of Greece and Rome


AUTHOR:  Tony Spawforth




FORMAT:  Hardcover


ISBN-13:  9780300217117



"The extraordinary story of the intermingled civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, spanning more than six millennia from the late Bronze Age to the seventh century

The magnificent civilization created by the ancient Greeks and Romans is the greatest legacy of the classical world. However, narratives about the “civilized” Greek and Roman empires resisting the barbarians at the gate are far from accurate. Tony Spawforth, an esteemed scholar, author, and media contributor, follows the thread of civilization through more than six millennia of history. His story reveals that Greek and Roman civilization, to varying degrees, was supremely and surprisingly receptive to external influences, particularly from the East.
From the rise of the Mycenaean world of the sixteenth century B.C., Spawforth traces a path through the ancient Aegean to the zenith of the Hellenic state and the rise of the Roman empire, the coming of Christianity and the consequences of the first caliphate. Deeply informed, provocative, and entirely fresh, this is the first and only accessible work that tells the extraordinary story of the classical world in its entirety.




This is a semi-fast paced, spotty, overview of the the history of Ancient Greece and Rome, interspersed with anecdotes or travel notes from the author.  The organisation of the information in the book is a bit erratic.  For example, the author will mention/quote Cicero but won't tell you who he is or why he is important until the end of the chapter or possible the next chapter.  I'm not sure that anyone new to Ancient Greece and Rome will be able to follow, or perhaps they won't know enough to know what is being left out?  This book does however have a nice collection of  maps throughout.

I prefer Ancient Greece by Thomas R. Martin and Ancient Rome by Thomas R. Martin, or Persian Fire by Tom Holland (for the Greeks and Persians) or even The Classical World by Robin Lane Fox.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-07-06 11:05
The Borgias by G.J. Meyer
The Borgias: The Hidden History - G.J. Meyer

TITLE:  The Borgias: The Hidden History

AUTHOR:  G.J. Meyer


FORMAT:  Paperback

ISBN-13:  9780345526922



"The startling truth behind one of the most notorious dynasties in history is revealed in a remarkable new account by the acclaimed author of The Tudors and A World Undone. Sweeping aside the gossip, slander, and distortion that have shrouded the Borgias for centuries, G. J. Meyer offers an unprecedented portrait of the infamous Renaissance family and their storied milieu.
They burst out of obscurity in Spain not only to capture the great prize of the papacy, but to do so twice. Throughout a tumultuous half-century—as popes, statesmen, warriors, lovers, and breathtakingly ambitious political adventurers—they held center stage in the glorious and blood-drenched pageant known to us as the Italian Renaissance, standing at the epicenter of the power games in which Europe’s kings and Italy’s warlords gambled for life-and-death stakes.
Five centuries after their fall—a fall even more sudden than their rise to the heights of power—they remain immutable symbols of the depths to which humanity can descend: Rodrigo Borgia, who bought the papal crown and prostituted the Roman Church; Cesare Borgia, who became first a teenage cardinal and then the most treacherous cutthroat of a violent time; Lucrezia Borgia, who was as shockingly immoral as she was beautiful. These have long been stock figures in the dark chronicle of European villainy, their name synonymous with unspeakable evil.
But did these Borgias of legend actually exist? Grounding his narrative in exhaustive research and drawing from rarely examined key sources, Meyer brings fascinating new insight to the real people within the age-encrusted myth. Equally illuminating is the light he shines on the brilliant circles in which the Borgias moved and the thrilling era they helped to shape, a time of wars and political convulsions that reverberate to the present day, when Western civilization simultaneously wallowed in appalling brutality and soared to extraordinary heights.
Stunning in scope, rich in telling detail, G. J. Meyer’s The Borgias is an indelible work sure to become the new standard on a family and a world that continue to enthrall.



An interesting look at the Borgia family, focusing on the two Borgia popes and Cesare Borgia.  The author differentiates between what is available in terms of evidence (usually letters), what is rumour and what Meyer thinks is more plausible in terms of evidence available.  The background chapters are a useful tool to discuss a variety of relevant topics without bogging down the main text.

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