This book on ancient Greece focuses on the 2,000 years between 1500 B.C. and the conquest of Greece by Romewhen military adventures, artistic achievements, and philosophical breakthroughs paved the way for Western civilization. From Alexander the Great's conquests to Aristotle's rhetoric and Euclid's math, here are the Greek influences that shaped most everything from Shakespeare's dramas to Christian theology.
These are not your grandfather's Greeks, flawless creators of a world where, as Freeman writes, "the marble is always shining, the streets are clean, and there is a lot of time for passionate philosophical discussions about art, theater, or the meaning of life." Greek civilization was often bloody and brutal, sustained by conquest, slavery and the subjugation of women. Nonetheless, in demythologizing Greek civilization, Freeman (Egypt, Greece and Rome, etc.) clarifies its extraordinary achievements. His story stretches from the Mycenaeans (circa 1500 B.C.) to the late Hellenistic period (fourth century A.D.), exploring the enormous achievements of the archaic period on which the classical era was built, as well as the previously undervalued Hellenistic era. It's a difficult, complex story that highlights multiple cultural borrowings and transformations as often as it celebrates pure inventions. Drawing on archeology and literature, Freeman expertly illuminates the nature of Greek life. His main thrust is an integrated account that uses the evolving background of everyday concerns, class conflicts and external threats to make sense of Greek culture. He points out the spots where his story is necessarily speculative, and he usually offers competing viewpoints. Chapters focus on such issues as Athenian democracy, drama and philosophy, and Hellenistic science, mathematics and medicine. As a lively survey of a past civilization and the present's debt to it, this is on a par with Thomas Cahill's successful Hinges of History series (The Gifts of the Jews, etc.). But Freeman is a more rigorous historian than Cahill, and he never lets enthusiasm obscure the distinction between fact and myth, between events and their interpretation. Illustrations, maps. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.