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The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine

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An innovative and intriguing look at the foundations of Western civilization from two leading historians. The influence of ancient Greece and Rome can be seen in every aspect of our lives. From calendars to democracy to the very languages we speak, Western civilization owes a debt to these classical societies. Yet the Greeks and Romans did not emerge fully formed; their c An innovative and intriguing look at the foundations of Western civilization from two leading historians. The influence of ancient Greece and Rome can be seen in every aspect of our lives. From calendars to democracy to the very languages we speak, Western civilization owes a debt to these classical societies. Yet the Greeks and Romans did not emerge fully formed; their culture grew from an active engagement with a deeper past, drawing on ancient myths and figures to shape vibrant civilizations. In "The Birth of Classical Europe," the latest entry in the Penguin History of Europe, historians Simon Price and Peter Thonemann present a fresh perspective on classical culture in a book full of revelations about civilizations we thought we knew. In this impeccably researched and immensely readable history we see the ancient world unfold before us, with its grand cast of characters stretching from the great Greeks of myth to the world-shaping Caesars. A landmark achievement, "The Birth of Classical Europe" provides insight into an epoch that is both incredibly foreign and surprisingly familiar.


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An innovative and intriguing look at the foundations of Western civilization from two leading historians. The influence of ancient Greece and Rome can be seen in every aspect of our lives. From calendars to democracy to the very languages we speak, Western civilization owes a debt to these classical societies. Yet the Greeks and Romans did not emerge fully formed; their c An innovative and intriguing look at the foundations of Western civilization from two leading historians. The influence of ancient Greece and Rome can be seen in every aspect of our lives. From calendars to democracy to the very languages we speak, Western civilization owes a debt to these classical societies. Yet the Greeks and Romans did not emerge fully formed; their culture grew from an active engagement with a deeper past, drawing on ancient myths and figures to shape vibrant civilizations. In "The Birth of Classical Europe," the latest entry in the Penguin History of Europe, historians Simon Price and Peter Thonemann present a fresh perspective on classical culture in a book full of revelations about civilizations we thought we knew. In this impeccably researched and immensely readable history we see the ancient world unfold before us, with its grand cast of characters stretching from the great Greeks of myth to the world-shaping Caesars. A landmark achievement, "The Birth of Classical Europe" provides insight into an epoch that is both incredibly foreign and surprisingly familiar.

30 review for The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Reading a lot of historical fiction I’m starting to want to know more about certain periods in European history that I’m aware of but don’t fully understand & after a little search came across this epic series (I hope) by Penguin which covers 7 books entitled “Penguin history of Europe“ https://www.goodreads.com/series/7814... We start with the above titled which in it’s own words tells us “This history of classical Europe will travel from the so-called Minoan civilisation of Crete to the later R Reading a lot of historical fiction I’m starting to want to know more about certain periods in European history that I’m aware of but don’t fully understand & after a little search came across this epic series (I hope) by Penguin which covers 7 books entitled “Penguin history of Europe“ https://www.goodreads.com/series/7814... We start with the above titled which in it’s own words tells us “This history of classical Europe will travel from the so-called Minoan civilisation of Crete to the later Roman Empire, from the middle of the 2nd millennium BC to the early 5th century AD” The book is an easy read giving mostly an overview of the civilisations of the region backed up with archaeological record/findings or written historical text from the period or later. Some of the early history is retold through later recorded historians & the text advises us these are incomplete in places but the authors have compiled it all giving references as they go. As a result some periods are more expanded upon (better recorded/evidenced) & go into much more depth, mostly periods which are perhaps not so well known so I felt that I was learning all the time whilst having what I already knew reinforced / put into perspective in a timeline. Many civilisations are mentioned throughout which is great as ive heard of many of them through other works but couldn’t always place them geographically or knew much more about them in terms of their overall place/role/impact in history. Throughout the book are short tie-ins with other periods of history, for instance the Greek/Turkish war C 1920-22 which ended nearly 3500years of Greeks living throughout Asia Minor. Spliced between the text are figures, maps & plates adding clarification as we go. At the back of the book we have a date chart, an index & also further reading on the subject highlighting chapter by chapter where the authors have drawn their insight & knowledge from. In all a well put together & informative text which gives a great overview for a beginner on the subject matter or even someone with some experience who wants to join the dots (like me!) Following gives a flavour of each chapter....... Bare with me this might go on a bit......I made notes as I went along...... skip to the end perhaps if you jus want the score or don’t want to know any detail (cant really say spoilers ahead as its History after all!) The book is broken into nine recognisable eras (chapters), our journey starting C 1750BC with the Minoans, Mycenaeans & Trojans, ending around 1100BC where the ancient Greeks hold sway in the region. The foundation of Europe so we are told starts in Create with the palaces of Knossos & other city complexes found on the island. Ancient Greek text is recovered from wax tablets on the island (outdating that found on the mainland) & so the Minoans (Of Crete) are credited with being the first Europeans which as traders centred around the Aegean is a credible factor for me. Further evidence shows there to be a lot of migration & overlapping of the Mycenaeans & Minoans which points towards the two cultures being the forerunners to ancient Greece. We’re next taken to the Mediterranean, The Levant & Middle Europe C 110BC – 800BC where we start in the near-East (Today’s Modern Turkey & the Middle East) & work our way through the turmoil of the region (no difference there then) for the period in question which is much to do with the collapse of the Hittites & the civil wars / takeovers of Egypt from Libyans & then the Nubians. A transition from Bronze to Iron Age is also relevant to this period & of course the trade/expansion of peoples across the Aegean. We learn about the creation of Israel (through archaeological evidence & not the fictional work of the bible), the expansion of the Phoenicians & the rise of states in the Near East from mere cities along with their fall & subsequent impact across the Aegean, as trade routes disappear & rise across the centuries. Middle Europe gets a mention which is everything North of Greece encompassing France, Spain & everything in between, then there’s the Atlantic System (Atlantic Coast, British & Irish Isles) & finally the Nordic System...... Archeologically not a lot was going on in any of these three regions during that period in terms of development from a Bronze age era...... all the action is going on around the Aegean waters & the Eastern Mediterranean which is mostly accredited to agriculture & trading/interaction of the civilisations present. Chapter 3 takes us from 800-480BC with the focus on the Greeks, Phoenicians & the Western Mediterranean....... we experience evidence of a shift in Ancient Greece where the rise of the Greek Polis (Citizen states) occurs along with the orientalising of Greek culture and society which is influenced immensely during the earlier part of the period via the near East, namely alphabet from the Phoenicians, pottery designs from Egyptians, deities from the remnants of the Hittites..... the period sees an urbanisation of the city states from rural enclaves, population explodes & a connected culture rises in the region which builds throughout until the clash with the growing Persian Empire C 500BC . In the west we experience expansion in North Africa & Iberia through the Phoenicians (who originate from modern day Lebanon region) by their establishing a series of trading posts, set-up to tap into & exploit natural resources in Iberia (Copper, Iron, Silver, Gold & lead) thereafter along the Atlantic coast (Tin trade)..... whilst the Greeks begin to colonise westward to first Sicily, southern Italy & beyond to Marseilles (which they founded C600BC)..... It’s these interactions with local populous that sees technology & culture begin to take root & flourish in Western Europe. The 8th-6th centuries BC was undoubtedly a critical stage in the development of Europe, local cultures continued to evolve, some dramatically like the Etruscans, but the real story is the connectivity between the cultures & by 500BC the Mediterranean can be thought of as a single cultural world. The next few chapters see a split in East/West Europe & first (Chapter 4) we concentrate on the Greeks, Europe & Asia 480-334BC. We start with the defeat of the Persian Empire which is wrapped up in 2 neat paragraphs! (ive read a whole series of 6 books about this war - Killer of Men) Then the next dozen or so is about the Athenian Empire & how by stealth (for want of a better word) & naval power they set about being the domineering force in the Aegean Greek World. The Spartans than enter the stage as the saviours of the Greeks from the Athenian Empire & the Peloponnese War runs in earnest for 30+ years its frontline running from the Greek states in Asia Minor to Sicily with hundreds of Greek polis taking part in the conflict, the Athenians are finally defeated by virtue of Spartan assistance from Persian Satraps in Asia Minor, Persia finally reclaiming all the Greek city Polis (Ionians) in Asia Minor after they & Sparta go to war. The Spartans have a period as being top dog in Ancient Greece before they too are toppled by the Thebans..... its a period of rise & fall of individual Greek Polis who try to effect power over their near neighbours. Once all the Greeks had beat each other into submission the Macedonians under Philip I defeated the Northern/border Greek city states in turn before defeating a combined Athenian/Thebian army. Its this period (C340-330BC) where Europe is spoken of in broader terms as there was more than jus the Greek culture in the region with the Macedonians & the Illyrians (Modern day Yugoslavian region). Calendars are also discussed in this chapter which is very interesting as there were no conforming timelines between polis.... history is recalled by events as are claims to lands/titles by displaced peoples with all timelines leading back to the fall of Troy & Bronze Age Heroes..... Chapter 5 & we’re still in the East with Alexander the Great & the Hellenistic World (334-146BC), heard of him! Not so much the world after him.... but the book portrays that Alexander (in his own view) in conquering the Persian Empire now controlled the entire inhabitable world. With the spread of Hellenistic (Greek & Macedonian) culture in Asia Minor occurring for the next 300 years, in doing so it’s claimed by the authors that Europe in reality stretched as far as the Indus in the East & the Nile in the South. It’s a period when conversing in Greek or worshipping Greek Gods meant power & all bar a small percentage of officials in the region were Greek/Macedonian.... as a result the Hellenistic culture was embraced by the populous long after Alexander was gone by those that filled the power void left by him as his empire fragmented (Ptolemies, Attalids, Seleucids, Parthians, Bactrians & Antigonids) – all founded by former satraps of Alexander. Greek scholars & mathematicians of the period are discussed & the great leaps they made in their fields especially in the recording/dating of their pre-history is a fascinating read. The story then shifts to the La Tene Celts, their name (origins) from the Eastside of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland & we follow their expansion/migration across Central Europe & subsequent battles with Rome (sacked 386BC) & the Greeks (C279BC), again only a small flavour. Towards the end of the chapter we have the Romans appear on the scene who have been slowly expanding along the Adriatic coast & we follow their interactions with the Greeks first as benefactors aligning against Macedon C214BC with the help of the Aetolians, a cycle which is continued amongst different Greek states until come 146BC Rome has picked off the Greek states & wiped Corinth off the face of the earth..... The next chapter switches us to the West & Rome Rome, Carthage & the West C 500-146BC – We have already read that Rome superseded the Greeks in the East Mediterranean come 146BC through the Greek side of things, now we switch to the Romans. There is an opening caveat to this chapter about the origins & early history of Rome in that much of the early history is taken from much later sources or from Greek historians when the Romans begin to expand into their territory. Nevertheless the story begins C753BC with the founding of Rome by Trojan refugees & the early origins/myths/stories/legends are discussed starting from Romulus & the early kings to C507BC where Rome became a republic. Archaeological facts are interspliced logically where possible as we go (but as the caveat says it’s a fragmented history) & its an interesting start as we begin to understand the workings of the Roman culture, it’s people & how it expanded within the Italian peninsula in its informative years. Once we get past C500BC the history is on more solid ground & the text illustrates how Rome expanded through firstly the Latin league (alliances with local city states) & then through Roman colonies or in other cases subjugation. The sack of Rome by the Gauls is covered & we see from there on a determination that a repeat would not occur as they further expand through the Italian peninsula which is done in periods of rapidity. We learn about their social-economic history/transformation as well as the founding & spread of Latin as a common (Roman) language, the use of roads to foster their trade network & most importantly that all subservient states/cities didn’t pay taxes/levies to Rome but provided manpower for her armies which was the key to their success. The last part of the chapter (which is divided into three rationales) talks of Carthage, its Phoenician origins, its early treaties with an expanding Rome as the senior partner C 507BC, its affinity with the Greek World, a further treaty with Rome C348BC where it looked to limit Rome’s trade & expansion in Carthage’s Mediterranean world...... we all known about the Punic Wars & the chapter is neatly wrapped up in 146BC with the destruction of both Carthage & Corinth. Rome, Italy & Empire (146BC – AD14) This chapter starts in a period where the Gauls were independent of Rome & ends with Roman provinces over a huge part of Europe & the Mediterranean which had major consequences for how that territory was administrated. We also see the change from a Republic to the days of an Emperor ruling Rome. An event called the “social wars” is covered which revolved around the states on the Italian peninsula wanting at first Roman citizenship & then a separate state to Rome, the outcome was to see the Roman populous triple in size at wars end as most of Rome’s peninsula allies became Roman themselves which was originally what they craved. In the East in 133BC the Attalid kingdom is bequeathed to the Romans & the province of Asia is born, the next 40 years sees the annexing of the Seleucids kingdoms creating the province of Syria & the state of Judea, all rebellions (Pontus) in the region are crushed & the old kingdoms of Alexander the Great in Asia Minor are absorbed into the Roman Empire. To the West Massillia (Marseilles) request Roman assistance C125BC & they too are absorbed into the Empire along with most of Southern France allowing the Italian peninsula to join up with their conquests in Iberia & form a continuing border with the Middle European peoples (Gauls & La Tene Celts). The status quo remains for a period & then along comes a chap called Julius Caesar...... his history & that of his heir Augustus is told & by the end of his reign in 14AD the world is no longer spoke of in terms of Europe & Asia or indeed Europe, Asia & Africa but that of the Roman Empire centred on Rome itself. Roman historians travel the length & breadth of the Empire to record history & mention the peoples of the time/regions which is covered in this chapter as we learn of the Gauls, Germans (peoples North of the Rhine) & the British. The Roman Empire AD14-284 is the penultimate chapter & swiftly takes us through the emperors & talks of Roman expansion coming to a halt by the reign of Hadrian AD117-38, the empire now stretched from the hills of Cumbria to the Nile Delta & the Portuguese coast to the desert plains of Jordan. This period sees stability throughout bar a few minor revolts & the chapter explains that this is simply (it does detail its theory/findings) down to Romanisation which is driven by the local populous. Its similar to how the Greek civilisation spread in the Near East where now everything of power is associated with Roman values/goods/culture. The peoples in the West undergo the most change as before Rome there was no popular urbanisation, there is even evidence of Celts in Gaul abandoning their own towns/villages in order to create a Latin gridwork one based on Roman architecture. Language/buildings/pottery/design/culture/gods are all affected & the overriding factor is that all want to be part of the Roman civilisation during this period resulting in most of the pre-Roman history of the region disappearing from our understanding. In the East we experience a difference as the Greek culture is deep rooted, cities are already established with urban population through the prior Greek expansion. The overseas trade to India is revealed as is the conflicts with the Parthenon’s & their successors but come the end of the chapter the main focus is about the spread of Christianity & it’s impact in the Eastern regions of the Empire. Talk of Europe in this chapter sees it split into 3 parts, the first zone which is Roman, the 2nd zone which is controlled by Roman client kings/chiefs & the 3rd zone which is all the rest outside of Roman control – simple really! The later Roman Empire AD284-425 – A complicated chapter if wanting to know about the fall of Rome as it wasn’t really 1 key event that brought it about but merely a drip drip effect over a long period of time which is retold for the reader. Be it weak emperors, too many in quick succession, barbarians at the gates, rise of Christianity, the split between East & West, spiralling debt..... likely all of the above & probably others too. A fair bit of this chapter follows the religious activities of the time alongside the fragmentation of Roman power throughout it’s Empire (mainly in the West). It’s (Christianity) impact on the recording/writing of history is explained too as it spreads throughout the region replacing the pagan ways of the Romans & the Greeks. We finish at the sack of Rome AD410 without much mention of the barbarians of the time which for me is quite an omission. I don’t read so much non-fiction these days but found this an excellent & entertaining read & hope the rest of the series is as good as its helped pulled a lot of snippets of knowledge I had together to make semblance of it all. FIVE Stars for me as it delivered exactly what I was looking for & pitched at the right level of detail.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Inkspill

    When I started to read works by Homer it was because I have always daunted by it – I just never expected to enjoy it. The translations I read were packed with helpful notes but these also got me thinking – why are we still drawn to these and similar old stories? My first real clues appeared in Troy. Simon Price and Peter Thomann’s book goes further, starting with the Aegean and the Trojans and working its way to end of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of Christianity. Big subjects, where I wa When I started to read works by Homer it was because I have always daunted by it – I just never expected to enjoy it. The translations I read were packed with helpful notes but these also got me thinking – why are we still drawn to these and similar old stories? My first real clues appeared in Troy. Simon Price and Peter Thomann’s book goes further, starting with the Aegean and the Trojans and working its way to end of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of Christianity. Big subjects, where I was expecting this book to be daunting, but instead I really enjoyed reading it. In reading this, I have discovered a bit more about the wars between Athena and Sparta. Also, the only thing I knew about Alexander the Great was his name, but now I have a better understanding of who he is, what he achieved and how it was a touch tricky because he wasn’t really Greek. I was also expecting to feel overwhelmed by Rome’s early history, but it was explained so well that I just about managed to follow it; I especially enjoyed reading about Julius Caesar and the people involved in his murder as I had recently read Julius Caesar by Shakespeare. I also liked the care put into its kindle edition when formatting the book(other books I’ve read where the styles switch back and forth are messy, making it harder to follow it). I also found the number of maps included generous. All this gets 5 stars, but for me it’s also worth these stars for making reads like this easier than I imagined they would be.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Williams

    There are thousands of books about the classical world so one might ask if we really need another. The answer is yes we do. Our understanding of the past is constantly changing as new information is discovered. New writers have new ways of looking at old subjects. Most of all as the world we live in changes we need new books to help us connect with a past that is constantly moving. The Birth of Classical Europe is a wonderful introduction to the ancient world. The authors focus on Greek history a There are thousands of books about the classical world so one might ask if we really need another. The answer is yes we do. Our understanding of the past is constantly changing as new information is discovered. New writers have new ways of looking at old subjects. Most of all as the world we live in changes we need new books to help us connect with a past that is constantly moving. The Birth of Classical Europe is a wonderful introduction to the ancient world. The authors focus on Greek history and then move on to Rome. They do not spend a lot of time on the civilizations of Mesopotamia, the Ancient Near East, and Egypt. That is not because of any Eurocentric prejudice, but rather they focus their story on one specific region. They spend a lot of time on Minoan and Mycenaean cultures. Using archeological discoveries from the last 20 years they build up a picture of the ancient world that is a little less catastrophic than the previous pictures that we have had. They argue more for a story of a sequence migrations that ends with assimilation. This is a little less sudden than the image of hordes of invaders wiping out the natives and resettling the region. The authors spend a lot of time with ancient authors and recognize the value of the ancient sources. They do not accept the ancient stories at face value, that would of course be a mistake. Instead they look at the archeology and see how that illuminates the stories. Often credible theories of the past can be built when one uses this method. This book is not meant to be a comprehensive history of the ancient world. Instead it is an introduction to the period. As the first volume of The Penguin History of Europe its purpose is to give the reader an understanding of the foundations of European civilization. The book is designed for the general reader. If you are not well read in the period you can pick this book up and learn a lot. I consider myself to be moderately well read in the period and I learned a lot. The Further Reading section at the end has a wonderful list of books, both scholarly and general reader, that should keep the person interested in the period satisfied for a long time to come. I highly recommend this book for anyone who would like to learn about the ancient world. This can be read as a general reader book and could also be used as a high school level textbook for home schoolers or others interested in providing young people with well written book that is informative and enjoyable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    After reading two of the Penguin History of Europe volumes, which were bad and quite bad, why did I pick up this one? Honestly, because they're well designed and I love series. Luckily, this was much better than the other two. It's not in depth at all, but that's fine; that's the type of thing I want from books like this. It's well written, which is hardly a given these days even for supposedly accessible history writing. And it has a cogent argument: those who look to ancient Greece or Rome for After reading two of the Penguin History of Europe volumes, which were bad and quite bad, why did I pick up this one? Honestly, because they're well designed and I love series. Luckily, this was much better than the other two. It's not in depth at all, but that's fine; that's the type of thing I want from books like this. It's well written, which is hardly a given these days even for supposedly accessible history writing. And it has a cogent argument: those who look to ancient Greece or Rome for some sort of fixed starting point of history or Europeanness or tradition or whatever are engaged on a fool's errand. Price and Thonemann show that the pre-classical civilizations, and the Greeks and Romans, were always looking backwards to justify their actions or existence. People still do it today: x is good/valuable/right because it's what our forefathers did. Well, that's nonsense. As if that wasn't good enough, P & T also manage to split the difference between "There are no facts, only interpretations" and "Only facts matter, interpretations are meaningless" by making sure they explain the facts as well as how those facts were interpreted at the time and since. Their section on pre-classical civilizations was particularly interesting, as were the smattering of pages about the Celts and other north of the alps types. My only caveat is that this might be a tough read if you don't know something about the period already; lots of names whiz by.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Victor Sonkin

    An absolutely excellent history of Classical Europe; more like a sequence of separate stories about different strands of the phenomenon.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Willis

    The first volume in the Penguin History of Europe balances academic rigor and insightfulness with a compulsive readability. As a result, I throughly enjoyed a long overdue return to the "ancient world" of Europe, with a significant amount of clarity and new insights. My five stars might be somebody else's four, based on your enthusiasm for approximately 1500 BCE-400 CE. From my reading, the first 1/3 (100 pps), surveys the development of Europe into a discrete, vaguely familiar space. There is a The first volume in the Penguin History of Europe balances academic rigor and insightfulness with a compulsive readability. As a result, I throughly enjoyed a long overdue return to the "ancient world" of Europe, with a significant amount of clarity and new insights. My five stars might be somebody else's four, based on your enthusiasm for approximately 1500 BCE-400 CE. From my reading, the first 1/3 (100 pps), surveys the development of Europe into a discrete, vaguely familiar space. There is a lot of overlap with the Middle East and Northern Africa, as those areas distinctly impacted what we now call Europe. Most significantly, Phoenecia and the Middle Eastern area of Levant (basically what we now call the Holy Land and Syria) were the most literate and spread the ideas of language and civilization that impacted the European continent (of course, I'm putting it very simplistically). The middle 1/3 covers what we call classical Greece, and the final 1/3 the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity as a reforming force. You would be disappointed if you read this volume for the narrative and facts of the dates and names of Greece and Rome. They are covered, but very methodically and over the space of a few pages. I believe the assassination of Julius Caesar for instance is one paragraph if that, and the Peloponessian War is covered over less than 10 pages. These events receive far more page space in fantastic books out there. This book covers the cultural, economic, socio-economic, and daily lives of these civilizations primarily, and it does make for fascinating reading. It is a balanced approach that actually yields quite a bit of insight, and it propels the story. In the end, I was fascinated by connecting the dots in my head towards where Europe developed in later volumes, and foreseeing how for instance French wine is in particular very much descended by Roman imports, or how for instance the Celts began in northern Gaul and spread South and East (and eventually North) from there. If you want to know what the modern countries of France and Britain where like roughly a millennium before they became France and Britain, this book will give you the material to connect those dots. One last note: a brilliant idea by the authors to include the "text within text" grey boxes that provides divergences for these areas down the line. There are brief looks at how Shakespeare portrayed events in Rome in his plays or how the Parthenon ended up in pieces in London, and they place our modern perspective into direct focus with the events that led to them. Great stuff and a fun read, particularly for the subject matter. If the above sounds fascinating, this book comes highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex Echevarria

    In 400 pages, Simon Price gives a whirlwind tour of 1,500 years of European history. Obviously not meant for the serious scholar, this is a wonderful dip in the water, giving a very macro view of various currents in European history. The writing is breezy and devoid of jargon, and the book should make the reader want to delve more deeply into the stories it relates.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ellana Thornton-Wheybrew

    An interesting book. As a narrative, it was fascinating. The book covers a wide range of both time and place, covering most of Europe. However, I found a few conclusions to be inadequate, badly explained, or just plain wrong. For example, in one chapter a burial of "The Doctor" is described, a Celtic person who was cremated, then the urn buried with trinkets and important items. The book casually says the burial was "probably of a man" but shows no evidence to say why. There were many of these lit An interesting book. As a narrative, it was fascinating. The book covers a wide range of both time and place, covering most of Europe. However, I found a few conclusions to be inadequate, badly explained, or just plain wrong. For example, in one chapter a burial of "The Doctor" is described, a Celtic person who was cremated, then the urn buried with trinkets and important items. The book casually says the burial was "probably of a man" but shows no evidence to say why. There were many of these little things throughout the book. As a narrative, like I said, it was a fascinating read. The book covers a wide range of subjects, from the fall of Troy to the fall of Rome. I quite enjoyed reading it, despite its flaws.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sverre

    Interesting and informative, albeit a somewhat dryly written account of the early history of Classical Europe. I found some facts to be simplified, as one would reasonably expect from a book dealing with material of this magnitude. One of the book's strengths is its frequent drawing of parallels between the periods, distinguishing the work from other books on the subject. I recommend this for more intermediate Classical readers, as it can come across as quite inaccessible at first reading. Interesting and informative, albeit a somewhat dryly written account of the early history of Classical Europe. I found some facts to be simplified, as one would reasonably expect from a book dealing with material of this magnitude. One of the book's strengths is its frequent drawing of parallels between the periods, distinguishing the work from other books on the subject. I recommend this for more intermediate Classical readers, as it can come across as quite inaccessible at first reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tobias

    Phenomenally learned, compulsively readable and immensely informative.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    This overview nicely stresses identities and memories, their artificiality, and yet their real effects.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Justin Tapp

    The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine is a fantastic overview of Mediterranean and broader European history. One advantage of reading modern books on history is you have the latest thoughts coming from recent archaeology, technological development, discoveries about languages and migrations, etc. I have read Freeman's Egypt, Greece, and Rome (my review) so this book was a good refresher for events but did a better job helping me understand the overall historical contexts The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine is a fantastic overview of Mediterranean and broader European history. One advantage of reading modern books on history is you have the latest thoughts coming from recent archaeology, technological development, discoveries about languages and migrations, etc. I have read Freeman's Egypt, Greece, and Rome (my review) so this book was a good refresher for events but did a better job helping me understand the overall historical contexts of the Mediterranean and Asia Minor (Anatolia) during the time period covered. Whereas Freeman tended to categorize his chapters by looking at art, war, technology, and religion separately, Price and Thonemann weave them together as a whole. You can't understand what we know about, say, the Punic Wars without looking at who recorded the stories and the context they were writing in. Price and Thonemann also look more at what modern archaeology tells us about the lives and development. There are also several inset boxes that explain the significance of an event or writing in modern history-- whether it be what influenced Machiavelli or Dante's writings, Shakespeare, the U.S.'s Founding Fathers, or Nazi Germany's inspirations. We start in the areas of Mycenae, whose inhabitants also settled in Crete, blending with a native culture that was growing and continue with the development of Classical Greece, then through the later Greek periods. Not too much time is spent on Philip and Alexander's Macedonian conquests. We then look at the rise of Rome while also looking at the civilizations that existed in mainland Europe (Gaul) and Britain, Carthage (North Africa), Persia, and Syria. The book concludes by looking at Christianity in the early Roman empire, and the increasing divide between East and West (Greek-speakers vs. Latin speakers). It concludes with a look at St. Augustine, which having just read Confessions I found helpful to put him in a greater context. Augustine is truly a post-Roman, a Latin speaker living in a Roman colony, highly educated in the classics and trying to reconcile those classics and Roman history with biblical history. If you want a general history of Europe and the Mediterranean with plenty of peeks at details without going too deep, then this is your book. I greatly enjoyed it and give it 5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Piker7977

    The first entry in the Penguin History of Europe analyzes the period of antiquity by focusing on the Greeks and Romans. While the text is fairly dense and complex, the authors provide a brief narrative that could have easily been extended by hundreds of pages. Would that have been necessary? No. If the reader is looking for an exhaustive narrative I would recommend the Cambridge Ancient History 2nd ed. What the reader comes across is a general timeline beginning with the early migrations to Cret The first entry in the Penguin History of Europe analyzes the period of antiquity by focusing on the Greeks and Romans. While the text is fairly dense and complex, the authors provide a brief narrative that could have easily been extended by hundreds of pages. Would that have been necessary? No. If the reader is looking for an exhaustive narrative I would recommend the Cambridge Ancient History 2nd ed. What the reader comes across is a general timeline beginning with the early migrations to Crete and the Greek peninsula and ending with the writings of Augustine. The authors do a fine job of describing how and where the main events took place in the timeline without getting bogged down in context. This is both the main strength of the book and its biggest detriment. I envision the individuals who pick up this book will already be familiar with the likes of Pericles, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Sparta, Athens, etc. thus leaving a contextual background of the infamous names unnecessary. However there is room for background when describing various adversaries from the two periods of rule along with details about the more obscure rulers and regions. As an example, Carthage is adequately described in a historical context and also by historiographical analysis of ancient authors. Surprisingly the Gothic tribes are not given the same attention. This is a small complaint of a book that is by and large informative and relevant to a modern understanding of Classical Europe. All in all, The Birth of Classical Europe provides a decent framework for understanding the origins and subsequent transformation of thought, society, and order in the period of antiquity. The authors do a fine job of setting up the next entry in the series which examines the departure from Roman order to a Christian-based continental Europe. Readers should look into a little background before beginning this entry. I would recommend Bulfinch's Mythology, the works of Julius Caesar, and a basic work concerning the emergence of the Greek mainland.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Arup Guha

    The birth of classical Europe, first volume of the penguin histories of Europe is a very interesting flowing read. No clunky writing here. Also, throughout the book the authors have inserted short discussions on interesting events and phenomena related to the main text which are a great read. The book starts from the Mycenaean civilization on Create and continues till the late Roman or the Christian Roman Empire. It analyses the events using a 3d construct of memory, communal and spatial identit The birth of classical Europe, first volume of the penguin histories of Europe is a very interesting flowing read. No clunky writing here. Also, throughout the book the authors have inserted short discussions on interesting events and phenomena related to the main text which are a great read. The book starts from the Mycenaean civilization on Create and continues till the late Roman or the Christian Roman Empire. It analyses the events using a 3d construct of memory, communal and spatial identity which form a critical template to explain the birth of Europe as a geopolitical entity or more, from merely a kidnapping legend. It is by building identities along these three dimensions that Europe gradually took shape. For instance, one of the most interesting themes that run through the book is the continuous attempt by new people to connect with the ancient, sometimes through manufactured history. So the early greek connected with the Minoans, the later greek connected with early greek heroes, Macedonians connected with the Greeks and the Romans connected with troy. Another interesting theme that needs to be explained more is the contribution of the near eastern and Egyptian civilizations towards the greek. This has been neglected by nationalistic historians and is being corrected now. The near eastern powers were already massive matured entities when the greek city states were starting to take shape and there had to be a lot of cultural and technical imports, but this side has been glossed over in past histories. All credit to the authors for touching on this theme. Few open questions remain as perplexing as ever: Who were the etruscans or the phoenicians? How did the Romans become so strong and how did they establish such a vast and long lasting empire? One can only theorize. The canvas of the book is too large (1700 BC-400 AD) for any topic to be dealt with in great detail. So thankfully the authors provide a helpful bibliography for every period. Overall it's a rivetting read, go for it. I am onto the next volume by Chris Wickham.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Adam Glantz

    Perhaps my rating is unfair, as this is a serviceable history in certain ways, but I expected more. My difficulties begin with the notion of memory, which is a central concept of the work. I appreciate the authors evading the stale question of whether or not a particular legendary event like the Trojan War actually happened in favor of asking how ancient peoples themselves conceived of their past. So far, so good. But if memory is both functionally ubiquitous and infinitely malleable, with every Perhaps my rating is unfair, as this is a serviceable history in certain ways, but I expected more. My difficulties begin with the notion of memory, which is a central concept of the work. I appreciate the authors evading the stale question of whether or not a particular legendary event like the Trojan War actually happened in favor of asking how ancient peoples themselves conceived of their past. So far, so good. But if memory is both functionally ubiquitous and infinitely malleable, with every city and tribe innovating their own link to the legendary past, it loses its conceptual power and becomes just a static cultural constant, interesting perhaps, but not very useful. Giving credit where credit is due, the authors' other key paradigms, Romanization from below (self-Romanization?) and the evolving idea of Europe are much tighter. I'd have wanted even more attention devoted to these topics, since the book is about Europe, but I accept that I might be forcing things further than a true analysis warrants. My final criticism is a bit painful, partly because I'm afraid it might be quibbling and partly because I open myself to the rejoinder that I didn't comprehend the subtlety of the authors' approach. But I can't help it. The narrative feels meandering, with the level of analysis zooming in and out. The opening contains a long excursus into several archaeological digs that might better have been summarized. Then, some huge events like the Punic Wars were squeezed into just a few pages. Toward the end, I wished the beginning of the transition to feudalism had been spelled out a bit more, rather than merely hinted at. In sum, the book comes across as the work of two scholars with divergent interests, who didn't coordinate their efforts as well as they might.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carmelo Militano

    The book is slightly confusing at the beginning what with all this talk about pre & post Minoan palace periods but the picture that emerges is of a people and their self-awareness-based on legend and their knowledge of the Illiad and the Odysssey- and how this shaped both ancient Greek and Roman culture. This alertness to the heroic past is the the start of the idea of a Europe. But what I don't get is why the Romans were so keen on hooking up their past with Aeneas. Why have one of the founders The book is slightly confusing at the beginning what with all this talk about pre & post Minoan palace periods but the picture that emerges is of a people and their self-awareness-based on legend and their knowledge of the Illiad and the Odysssey- and how this shaped both ancient Greek and Roman culture. This alertness to the heroic past is the the start of the idea of a Europe. But what I don't get is why the Romans were so keen on hooking up their past with Aeneas. Why have one of the founders of Rome the escaped son of the losers at Troy? Hardly noble or heroic. Compare that to the defeat of the Persians by the alliance of the ancient Greek city states. The gradual expansion of the Romans up & down the Italian peninsula and eventually the whole Med basin is well done And, the last bit on the rise of the early Christian church in the Roman empire is enlightening indeed !

  17. 5 out of 5

    Omar Ali

    This is a great review of the rise and fall of classical Europe, from the earliest civilizations in Crete and Greece to the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity. The authors are professional historians and remarkably free of either Left or Right wing cant. They provide an excellent summary of the rise of Mediterranean civilization and the origins of the notion of Europe. They manage to pack a remarkable amount of facts into this book, including quantitative data where possible ( This is a great review of the rise and fall of classical Europe, from the earliest civilizations in Crete and Greece to the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity. The authors are professional historians and remarkably free of either Left or Right wing cant. They provide an excellent summary of the rise of Mediterranean civilization and the origins of the notion of Europe. They manage to pack a remarkable amount of facts into this book, including quantitative data where possible ("X percent of all crockery at this site changed from Greek to Etruscan between Y and Z years" kind of thing). Greco-Roman nerds will know many more details obviously, but even they will not be disappointed with how much information and perspective the authors can fit into a small space. Well worth reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anton Ivanov

    A well researched book but unfortunately lacks analytical depth and understanding of the historical process. Roughly one third through the book but feeling a bit disappointed. The level of skepticism towards the oral tradition and myths is a bit surprising. At least we can probably acknowledge that there might have been some historical ground behind the oral tradition, although, of course, over the course of the centuries it might had been distorted and additional colorful details might had been A well researched book but unfortunately lacks analytical depth and understanding of the historical process. Roughly one third through the book but feeling a bit disappointed. The level of skepticism towards the oral tradition and myths is a bit surprising. At least we can probably acknowledge that there might have been some historical ground behind the oral tradition, although, of course, over the course of the centuries it might had been distorted and additional colorful details might had been added and some important facts were omitted. Then this book is too focused on archeology. Ancients did not know that we would be researching them in the future, so probably did not try to deliberately leave traces of the historical events in the chronological order or make things easier to follow. Building research solely on archeology and disregarding other sources of evidence introduces a bias: the artifacts that were better preserved are given more weight in the resulting analysis. So as a result a large part of the beginning of the book is dedicated to analyzing grave finds and cemeteries, which were preserved best, but a good question is still how representative those are of the time period being researched and whether they should be given the central place in the narrative at all like it is done in this book. Then some of the examples of questionable analysis from the book: - "the killing of horses and, in many cases, deliberate damage of weapons of the weapons in early Iron Age warrior graves act as conspicuous demonstration of the family's wealth; this family could afford to damage or destroy goods of great values" It is also probable that horses were killed and weapons destroyed (also "killed" in a way) to just be transported to the afterlife right along with their owners so that they could still use them, and not to "demonstrate wealth". This by the way, has its analogies in the old Norse burial rituals. - "it is very striking how eager they were, both through the ritual activity on the ancient palace-sites an through their elite burial practices, to relate their new world to the surviving traces of the palatial past" Is it equally striking how we still try to relate our own present to the distant past? Or imagine that the Western tradition comes from the Greek and Roman roots, or still try to follow the Christian religion established centuries ago? There might be some crises and periodic destructions such as the ones of the Minoan or Mycenaean civilizations, but in general people tend to refuse to acknowledge that something changes and try to stick to the old ways of how life is organized or think that they still follow them. Just as one example, later Byzantine state thought of itself as a Roman empire and Byzantines were Romans in their own eyes. This was part of the legitimization of the rule of the state and myth creation of the state's and people's identity. Another one: the "Holy Roman Empire" that was not Roman in any way with its "emperor" in the Middle Ages who tried to legitimize themselves through the distant "glorious" past that was not quite directly related to them. In this book one would expect a better analysis of the crises of the ancient civilizations and understanding of how culture is seemingly "preserved" under new economic conditions. Instead economy is mentioned only briefly in between the extensive analysis of the grave contents and surprise is expressed at the fact that people try to connect to their assumed historical past. And, what is even more important, and what the book also fails to fully notice, is that this image of the past would then gradually turn into a myth like it happened in "Iliad", which, unfortunately, seems to be just a bit more than a fairy tale from the perspective of the book. - "worshipers were certainly aware of the site's palatial past" Not only were they aware, most likely they tried to directly relate to it like we still do with our own carefully constructed images of the past. The local economy could no longer support the palatial system of organization, but there might had been much more of the cultural continuity or at least trying to relate to the past than the book admits. - "illustrate how much 'heroic' material in Homer was derived not from the age of the palaces, but from the 'Dark Age' centuries immediately preceding his own day" Why is it at all surprising? Would somebody really expect to encounter the careful preservation of all the details in the oral tradition? The fact that they are distorted does not mean that there are no historical events behind the oral tradition and does not immediately turn it just into a 'fairy tale'-like narrative. We can compare this to the paintings of the events from the Roman history by much later European artists up until the 20th century: the armies, armor and weapons are always contemporary to the artists, but only because this is the only kind of armor and weapons they ever saw and could paint. Is it then at all surprising that people tend to describe past events in the terms familiar to them from the present? Again this may display some misunderstanding of the process of myth creation and passing down of the oral tradition on the part of the book. To sum up, having details from the 'Dark Age' centuries does not automatically invalidate the Homer works as the historical source, in fact such details are to be expected by a historian. - "in the ninth century some families won themselves a prominent position in local Knossian society by playing up their connections to the ancient architectural and pottery styles" We can be almost sure this is not how they won a 'prominent position'. On the other hand after winning this position they might have tried to cement their rule and legitimize themselves by making such connections to the past. Again, this demonstrates misunderstanding of the historical process and how politics works on the part of the book. Can we, for example, name any modern royal house which came to power "by playing up their connections to the ancient architectural and pottery styles"? There are none, but this is where the sole focus on archeology and pottery styles has lead us: analysis bias and confusing the cause with the effect. Then, as mentioned before, the book does not stress enough the economic reasons for the collapse of the civilizations of the Minoan and Mycenaean periods both in the Aegean and the Ancient Near East. Foreign invasions and destruction of the palaces were first most likely just a consequence of the systemic economic crises and overstraining of the productive limits of the available agricultural lands. The very same processes that brought down the Western Roman Empire might have brought down the earlier civilizations. Then, of course, invasions in turn would cause the decrease of the surplus needed for the existence of the palaces and damage the economy even more, so a downward spiral would start that would eventually lead to a complete destruction of the old society and its transformation. This process should sound quite familiar to any modern economist, but may be a bit harder to comprehend for a modern historian. Then the 'Dark Ages' happened quite a few times in history and they tend to repeat. Trying to embellish them and say that, well, civilization did not collapse completely, there were still some small villages and some economic activity is probably in vogue in modern historical circles, but again hides the true economic reasons of the collapse and fails to analyze the process of cyclical decay of civilization properly. This, by the way, is very similar to how medieval historians try to show the 'complexity' of the early Middle Ages. The fact is when there is less economic surplus, the societal organization simplifies, writing becomes less important and life becomes more primitive. We tend to call such periods 'Dark Ages' and there were already quite a few of them in history in different parts of the world. Overall this is a rather average modern scholarly text, not better, not worse, but very unlike the works of Thucydides or Xenophon who had some practical experience and real understanding of the subject they were writing on, and not just were viewing it from an abstract scientific perspective of a narrowly specialized discipline.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roniius

    A very good history of Europe in antiquity. I don't remember much of it, which speaks to its complexity (and also how long I took a break between the Greek and Roman sections). Tends to focus on historical processes, with case studies of them, rather than put names and dates everywhere. Doesn't explain, say, the crisis of the third century, but does explain how what happened after impacted the cultural divide within the Roman Empire. A very good history of Europe in antiquity. I don't remember much of it, which speaks to its complexity (and also how long I took a break between the Greek and Roman sections). Tends to focus on historical processes, with case studies of them, rather than put names and dates everywhere. Doesn't explain, say, the crisis of the third century, but does explain how what happened after impacted the cultural divide within the Roman Empire.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vlad Golovach

    Excellent book on the political history of early Europe, especially on the changing of the meaning of the term. "Are those Syrian refugees to Gaul barbaroi?" etc. Nicely written too. Excellent book on the political history of early Europe, especially on the changing of the meaning of the term. "Are those Syrian refugees to Gaul barbaroi?" etc. Nicely written too.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacob van Berkel

    Solidly informative but (too) dry.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brad Marshall

    Very good overview, with a neat line on how civilisations use their stories of the past to justify the present.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Justin Godwin

    I’ve got mixed feelings about this book. At times, this book dishes out some nourishing nuggets of information, other times it has a bad case of a little thing called “the tangent.” The Birth of Classical Europe can look deep into the logistics of a war or a development in classical history. The authors sometimes have a clear focus on what they want to tell. They gave me riveting accounts of Athens’ rise to as a cultural and maritime power and its reverberations in the Persian and Peloponnesian w I’ve got mixed feelings about this book. At times, this book dishes out some nourishing nuggets of information, other times it has a bad case of a little thing called “the tangent.” The Birth of Classical Europe can look deep into the logistics of a war or a development in classical history. The authors sometimes have a clear focus on what they want to tell. They gave me riveting accounts of Athens’ rise to as a cultural and maritime power and its reverberations in the Persian and Peloponnesian war. In these rare deep dives, they explore riveting stories about some of the major events of the classical world. Where this book excels is in its broadness in that it talks about the entirety of Europe. Whereas most books might focus solely on Rome or Greece during the classical era, The Birth of Classical Europe covers events happening across the entirety of Europe as well as parts of Europe’s neighbour, Asia. I’ve learnt thing which would otherwise be hard to come by. This book taught me a little about everything concentrating on the cultures spread throughout Europe. It’s also interesting to learn how much major powers such as Greece and Rome influenced other civilisations. But this book’s broadness has its downside. Often, there is a lack of historical analysis and there are regular gaps in the history of Europe. The authors jump decades, sometimes centuries without any consideration for the developments between those times, even in Greece and Rome. While this book has gaping holes in its documentation of European history, the authors’ exhaustive tangents are the heart of this book’s problems. While they are informative about the culture of a given society, they drag on far longer than they need to. They go on for paragraphs on end, leaving little thought for the events going on around those time. These tangents become increasingly worse when the authors switch their focus to the Romans. There is an extremely limited dive into many major historical events around these times. In fact, it gets so bad that the authors spend the final chapter talking almost exclusively about the rise of Christianity, placing frustratingly heavy prejudice on pagan worship. The chapter barely spares much thought for the rest of the history of which the chapter concerns. There are little more than a handful of paragraphs describing the rise of Constantine and the Vandal’s sacking of Rome. That is over a century of Roman history glossed over for the sake of religious conversation. While The Birth of Classical Europe has taught me a little about the culture behind Rome, Greece and many more obscure settlements, its weak historical analysis and its exhaustive tangents leave little to be desired about this book. Its broad topics have taught me much about the lesser-known civilisations but without any descent historical analysis, the authors leave me with a vague idea of the history of classical Europe.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ian Mapp

    Looking for a book that covered the basics of European History and found this series of 8 books from Penguin that looked like it would hit the spot. This is book 1. Remains unclear whether all books have currently been published (the list at the start of the book, indicates some titles are coming). So this covers the dawn of Europe from the fall of Troy through to the writings of Emperor Augustine in the fourth century. The chapters are broken down into time periods and we have Cretan society (whi Looking for a book that covered the basics of European History and found this series of 8 books from Penguin that looked like it would hit the spot. This is book 1. Remains unclear whether all books have currently been published (the list at the start of the book, indicates some titles are coming). So this covers the dawn of Europe from the fall of Troy through to the writings of Emperor Augustine in the fourth century. The chapters are broken down into time periods and we have Cretan society (which made me want to visit), through to the Greeks, Alexander the Great, Hanibal and the Romans. The text is broken up with plenty of maps and graphics with a couple of sections of plates of artworks and coins. Easy reading and informative to a degree - I just didn't feel that there was that much of a spark to the text and at times was a little dry. Each chapter has recommended reading at the end of the book and this is not limited to other factual books but works of fiction. This may have worked better if the references were footnotes at the bottom of the pages. I would like to move onto book 2 - the fall of the Roman Empire - but they don't have it at any of my county libraries. May be a case of ordering it in.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    For a survey of such a broad time period, this was surprisingly technical (and kinda dry if I'm honest.) Normally I would have appreciated the more detailed look at this period (if you read a bit of ancient history, you come across many of the same examples and case studies just in different works), but I listened to the audio book and found it a little hard to focus on. If I try this again, which I'd like to eventually, I'll read it and see if it is easier to focus on. I did enjoy the interesti For a survey of such a broad time period, this was surprisingly technical (and kinda dry if I'm honest.) Normally I would have appreciated the more detailed look at this period (if you read a bit of ancient history, you come across many of the same examples and case studies just in different works), but I listened to the audio book and found it a little hard to focus on. If I try this again, which I'd like to eventually, I'll read it and see if it is easier to focus on. I did enjoy the interesting tangents the author takes in the inset boxes. So ultimately I can't recommend this as an introduction to the time period, but if you're already comfortable with ancient Western history, then this is a good bridge between introductory surveys and more narrow academic titles.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    Well written but way too sketchy for what it promises; I thought this kind of sketchiness is passe in history books, but it seems people still are in love with generalizations. The vignettes realting the classical world with the modern world and the treatment of the early period with Troy and the Minoan civilization are highlights, but the rest is not worth being way better book out there that treat the Greek-Hellenistic - Romnan era; I think that a focus only from 1200-600 BC would have made th Well written but way too sketchy for what it promises; I thought this kind of sketchiness is passe in history books, but it seems people still are in love with generalizations. The vignettes realting the classical world with the modern world and the treatment of the early period with Troy and the Minoan civilization are highlights, but the rest is not worth being way better book out there that treat the Greek-Hellenistic - Romnan era; I think that a focus only from 1200-600 BC would have made this book much better

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Murphy

    The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine by Simon Price and Peter Thonemann is a good survey, but feels more than a little crippled by its length. There's not a lot of page space here to really get into any details, and I was often left baffled by some omissions and some inclusions into the text. I'm used to reading substantially longer texts recounting a much narrower band of time and space than this text. It is also not helped that it is half the size of many of the othe The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine by Simon Price and Peter Thonemann is a good survey, but feels more than a little crippled by its length. There's not a lot of page space here to really get into any details, and I was often left baffled by some omissions and some inclusions into the text. I'm used to reading substantially longer texts recounting a much narrower band of time and space than this text. It is also not helped that it is half the size of many of the other books in the series - this being the first of seven or eight books on European history. The rushed nature of the narrative feels like this text has a set of obligatory milestones it must acknowledge and some debates it must reference to justify an inclusion here or another omission there. There's a lot that can be learned, but I never am left feeling satisfied with what I'm reading either. Probably the most useful and engaging sections were actually a series of boxes with information relating more modern periods to the classical past. It wouldn't be fair to be too critical of it though. The book is what it is, and there are some very cogent points in the text worth remembering: the many different interpretations of Julius Caesar offered the crown, the narrative history as political tool in the Greek world, and so on. This book isn't bad, and I appreciate the efforts of the authors in hoe they framed some of the debates, but I wish it were more. 85/100

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Daily life still has significant traces of things that are over 2,000 years old. Democracy, public roads, calendars, and even the languages of European countries and their colonies started in the classical societies of ancient Greece and Rome. But these societies also had significant elements from cultures that came before them. This is their stories and histories. Why I started this book: I was in the thick of it with Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward and I wanted a no stress n Daily life still has significant traces of things that are over 2,000 years old. Democracy, public roads, calendars, and even the languages of European countries and their colonies started in the classical societies of ancient Greece and Rome. But these societies also had significant elements from cultures that came before them. This is their stories and histories. Why I started this book: I was in the thick of it with Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward and I wanted a no stress nonfiction audio book to balance myself. Why I finished it: Solid foundation but classical history of Greece and Rome has never been my jam. And it was very interesting reading it after Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648 (instead of before) as defining Europe has frequently been more about ideas and ideals than geography. And European society has returned again and again to the ideas of citizenship, freedom, alliance and dominance that was raised in this period. Not the mention the art, language, philosophy, and politics.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    As a complete novice to this time period, I thought it was a pretty good overview. Things moved very quickly, sometimes a bit too quickly, as the authors tried to make connections to the thesis that was introduced in the beginning of the book. That is, that not just the past is important, how people view an (re)interpret the past is important as well. I think it does a really good job of that. This book touches on a few different disciplines such as archaeology, linguistics, and of course, history As a complete novice to this time period, I thought it was a pretty good overview. Things moved very quickly, sometimes a bit too quickly, as the authors tried to make connections to the thesis that was introduced in the beginning of the book. That is, that not just the past is important, how people view an (re)interpret the past is important as well. I think it does a really good job of that. This book touches on a few different disciplines such as archaeology, linguistics, and of course, history. I think it also did a good job of being honest about what each discipline can really tell us. Like I briefly mentioned above, there were parts where I wished they went into more detail, but I understand that this is supposed to be an overview and not a comprehensive book about any one subject. With that said, I think it introduces the reader to many different areas, and thus it allows each person to get an idea of what they want to focus in on and read next. There's a good list of recommended readings at the end of the book for exactly that.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sidney

    I had a relatively hard time reading this, and did spend a large amount of time doing it, despite all the effort trying to read just a bit faster. Two things that slowed me down: 1. Novel names of places or people. There are simply so many of them, you can simply find dozens just denoting those tiny islands in the Aegean Sea. And that's not all, most of them are either Greek or stemming from even more unfamiliar languages, which drives me crazy whenever I see a super-long name that's essentially I had a relatively hard time reading this, and did spend a large amount of time doing it, despite all the effort trying to read just a bit faster. Two things that slowed me down: 1. Novel names of places or people. There are simply so many of them, you can simply find dozens just denoting those tiny islands in the Aegean Sea. And that's not all, most of them are either Greek or stemming from even more unfamiliar languages, which drives me crazy whenever I see a super-long name that's essentially jibberish to me, for I can neither pronounce nor remember. 2. I don't know if I'm not skilled in reading history books, but this book just made it even harder for me because I'm quite certain that it's a scholarly work. It's simply crammed with facts and dates and names that I didn't know whether to toil through this paragraph or simply just skim through or even skip it. Overall, I'm not satisfied.

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