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The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine [Kindle Edition]

Peter Thonemann , Simon Price
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

To an extraordinary extent we continue to live in the shadow of the classical world. At every level from languages to calendars to political systems, we are the descendants of a 'classical Europe', using frames of reference created by ancient Mediterranean cultures.

As this consistently fresh and surprising new book makes clear, however, this was no less true for the inhabitants of those classical civilizations themselves, whose myths, history, and buildings were an elaborate engagement with an already old and revered past filled with great leaders and writers, emigrations and battles. Indeed, much of the reason we know so much about the classical past is the obsessive importance it held for so many generations of Greeks and Romans, who interpreted and reinterpreted their changing casts of heroes and villains. Figures such as Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar loom large in our imaginations today, but they were themselves fascinated by what had preceded them.

The Birth of Classical Europe is therefore both an authoritative history, and also a fascinating attempt to show how our own changing values and interests have shaped our feelings about an era which is by some measures very remote but by others startlingly close.

Product Description


An elegant and readable attempt to undertake the impossible and confine [Europe's classical] history within fewer than 400 pages. (Nick Rennison Sunday Times)

The Birth of Classical Europe combines a strong narrative with sophisticated thematic analysis and reflection ... Despite the immense ground covered, there is no impression of the breathlessness and superficiality which one might have thought unavoidable. (Simon Hornblower TLS)

They have presented a wide variety of both interpretative and expository material in accessible form. (Paul Cartledge History Today)

Simon Price and Peter Thonemann's attractive new book offers a seamless history across more than two millennia ... [and] by insisting on the unifying relationship between the present and what has gone on before, [they] place themselves in the same intellectual tradition as Augustine. (Christopher Kelly BBC History Magazine)

About the Author

From 1981 to 2008 Simon Price was a Lecturer at the University of Oxford, where he taught Greek and Roman history for Lady Margaret Hall and St Hugh's College. He has written, co-written, or co-edited books on ancient religions and rituals (Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor; Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies; Religions of Rome; Apologetics in the Roman Empire; Religions of the Ancient Greeks), and also co-edited The Greek City from Homer to Alexander. As part of his work on an archaeological field survey of Sphakia in south-west Crete, he jointly created a website and a film about the survey, and is now co-editing the final print publication.

Peter Thonemann has taught Greek and Roman history at Wadham College, Oxford, since 2007. He has published widely on the history of Asia Minor, and is director of the Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua XI project ( His first book, The Maeander, will be published shortly.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 39932 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (29 April 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.ą r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003P9XCPI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #150,128 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of Classical Europe 11 Nov. 2010
I really enjoyed A History from Troy to Augustine. It is not a period of history I am familiar with and this book is a helpful start! It is well written, easily readable and beautifully illustrated with wonderful cultural insights. It covers a period of over two thousand years and understandably important historical events may be dealt with swiftly.
I would strongly encourage others with even a passing interest in Classical Europe to read this book.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Overall, an informative, enjoyable if at times, discursive read. On balance,it was worthwhile. This said, the narrative was at times a bit laboured for my taste and lacked the elegance and fluidity of Robin Lane Foxes's longer inrtoductory ( in my view ) masterpiece - An Epic History of Ancient Greece and Rome ( don't have exact title to hand while typing this note). I would have appreciated elaboration on the tactical skills of Hannibal, a little more said about the Peleponnesian Wars, and a lot more detail about characters including Sulla, Cato, the colourful social life of Caesar and , generally, more about first century bc Rome a period which fascinates me personally. As to the bibliograppy, I was a little perplexed at the omission of Momsens History of Rome ( which I also enjoyed) a little dated I acknowledge but good enough to win the 1902 Nobel Prize for Literature!

As alluded to earlier and despite these thoughts , it was still an entertaining read. If I knew then what I know now, would I have proceeded with the purchase? Yes, absolutely!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the light of the Classical world 23 July 2011
By Jane-Anne Shaw VINE VOICE
I can't recommend this book too highly ~ I found it completely enjoyable, enormously informative as well as extremely readable. The back cover of the Penguin paperback edition says 'We still live in the shadow of the classical world' ~ I'd rather say we still live in the light of that world. In the same way that we look back to the Classical era to throw some light on our modern world, the Greeks and Romans harked back to times 'whose myths, history and buildings were an elaborate engagement with an already old and revered past'. Although Tacitus said 'Omnia, [...] quae nunc vetustissima creduntur, nova fuere' (All the things we now believe ancient were once new: Tac., Annals, 11:24) it's also true the ancient world still has resonance and is very much alive today: much we deem 'new' is old.
Price and Thonemann's chronological narrative is well-constructed, taking us from the so-called Dark Ages of the early Aegean civilisations of the Minoans, Mycenaeans and Trojans to the age of Augustine ~ from the mid-Second millennium BC to AD425. The sheer scope of the undertaking, the broad sweep of history, is underpinned by lucid clarity in the writing, meticulous research and a schema which can be easily understood by lay reader and Classics student alike, the general ideas firmly rooted in circumstances and events.
I like the inset boxes within the text, which explain or explore in depth or give more information on peripheral issues, e.g., Evans and Knossos, Black Athena, Hellenism in Asia Minor, Flaubert's 'Salammbo'...
Under the aegis of 'memory', the three themes of the work are communal identity and the spatial, conceptual and changing ideas of 'Europe' as a geographical entity and at the same time an historical and cultural construct.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent, even better than I expected from the reviews. It takes an effort to engage with the content, but is well worth the effort.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but Kindle edition flawed 20 Dec. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
While I'm not going to disagree with much of Jane-Anne's assessment (though I found the section on Republican Rome a little too much a mixture of a slightly patronizing presentation of basic info mixed with debunking views of scholarship that the general reader is hardly likely to be aware of, and it seemed quite misleading in places - someone being 'proscribed' doesn't mean his being 'put to death for [his] money', surely a 'simplification' that will seriously mislead) the main problem I have had with my Kindle copy this that neither the plates nor the page numbers would display. Most Penguins give page numbers; this apparently doesn't. More infuriating is the lack of plates (I'm reading on a Kindle app on an iPad). Come on, Penguin, update the files for us so we can read ALL the book we paid for.
Otherwise, if you'd like a slightly longer and more detailed view of the ancient world, try Robin Lane Fox's The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome (also from Penguin).
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