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The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (Opus) [Paperback]

Paul Cartledge
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Oct 2002 Opus
This book provides an original and challenging answer to the question: 'Who were the Classical Greeks?' Paul Cartledge - 'one of the most theoretically alert, widely read and prolific of contemporary ancient historians' (TLS) - here examines the Greeks and their achievements in terms of their own self-image, mainly as it was presented by the supposedly objective historians: Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon.

Many of our modern concepts as we understand them were invented by the Greeks: for example, democracy, theatre, philosophy, and history. Yet despite being our cultural ancestors in many ways, their legacy remains rooted in myth and the mental and material contexts of many of their achievements are deeply alien to our own ways of thinking and acting.

The Greeks aims to explore in depth how the dominant group (adult, male, citizen) attempted, with limited success, to define themselves unambiguously in polar opposition to a whole series of 'Others' - non-Greeks, women, non-citizens, slaves and gods. This new edition contains an updated bibliography, a new chapter entitled 'Entr'acte: Others in Images and Images of Others', and a new afterword.

Frequently Bought Together

The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (Opus) + A History of the Classical Greek World: 478-323 BC (Blackwell History of the Ancient World)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; 2Rev Ed edition (10 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192803883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803887
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 179,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


a useful antidote to British sentimentality about ancient Greece (Philip Howard, The Times)

Paul Cartledge's sharp and unsentimental new introduction to [the Greeks'] mentality ... forcefully shows that freedom-loving citizens could live at ease among hordes of slaves. (Boyd Tonkin, New Statesman & Society)

the lively and succinct development of many ancient nad modern arguments makes (Times Literary Supplement)

a welcome and timely contribution to a number of continuing and important debates

lively, and very topical, book ... I know of no better book with which to introduce this 'portrait of self and others' to students at the sixth-form level or above. (Greece & Rome)

He adopts a lightly unusual approach and discusses the 'dominant' group - male citizens - in its relations with woman, slaves, barbarians and the gods. It is an interesting approach. (Contemporary Review)

With (Mnemosyne)

Cartledge has achieved an up-to-date synthesis of Hellenic central concepts, thus furnishing teachers of ancient history and civilization with a valuable instrument, as I experienced in Greece when teaching European youth about their identity.

About the Author

Cartledge's (The Sunday Times)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
My approach to the ancient Greeks is informed by that 'comparativist perspective' without which students of Greek antiquity will easily mistake, indeed can hardly fail to mistake, what may be distinctive, and what may be said to be in no way exceptional, either in the intellectual products of the society they study or in the circumstances and manner of their production. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction to Classical Greece 30 Sep 2002
This book is introductory because it does not require the reader to have any previous knowledge of ancient Greece. Initially it discusses the different approaches to the study of such an alien world (how much can we really relate to the people of that time?), which brings up many interesting questions I had not previously considered.
The book then proceeds to discuss the polarities in greek culture (these polarities are explained clearly in the introduction), Greek vs. Barbarian, Citizen vs. Alien, Man vs. Woman, Free vs. Slave, Gods vs. Mortals. These are discussed, primarily in relation to the historians (the first historians - there is some discussion of history and historigraphy) Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Aristotle and with reference to other important people of the time.
The book is written in a very readable style, with the occasional complex sentence being the only exception. It is well-structured, with information being provided in logical progression. I enjoyed this book because, unlike most academic books, it captured my attention and imagination - making it more like a novel (albeit a very educational one). Finally, the extensive "Further Reading" section and Bibliography provides excellent direction for further study of the sections of interest.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, lucid, explanitory and well written. 21 Sep 2003
By A Customer
Paul Cartledge is an expert on antiquity and nowhere is his expertise reflected more clearly than in this brilliant, concise portrayal of the Greek mental world. Cartledge's approach is extremely instructive, dividing the Greek mental set into various compartments, analysing their ideas on foreigners, slavery, religion, women, citizenship and other areas of the Greek world which interacted to compose their entire cosmology. Through the use of apposite examples he carefully deconstructs the organisation of their mental world, laying it bare and brutal and utterly fascinating. His written style is lucid and fluid and minimalist. For anybody searching for an easy to read and understand portrayal of the inner machinations of the ancient Greek world, this is a must.
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3.0 out of 5 stars How different from them 6 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Given the authors basic contention (supported by evidence it must be said) that the ancient Greek world-view was built around polar opposites (man/woman, slave/free citizen) etc, it's tempting to say that the book will provoke two kinds of reactions - positive and negative!
Yet that would not really be fair to the book, and indeed the book itself, whilst maintaining this simple scheme of polar opposites throughout, is obliged to admit that it did not actually apply all the time in practice. There were different classifications of men and women, foreigners could become citizens, slaves could have all sorts of different positions. In effect, therefore, what Mr Cartledge is describing is something like the official ideology of Greece (or Athens, he never seems sure), rather than the practice. And indeed neither, on the evidence presented, actually seems very special: most societies have divided themselves into "us" and "everybody else" (the Chinese, for example), most societies had slaves (one thinks of the Arab world, obviously), and virtually every society in the world had special treatment for men and women (even ours, though recently things have become somewhat reversed).
This illustrates a larger problem with the book. It is certainly a valuable idea to demonstrate that the Greeks, for all their fundamental impact on our culture, and their invention of various key western concepts, were not "like us". The book does this very well, and makes it clear that the Greeks were a civilization different from us in almost every respect - not surprising, in fact, for a culture two and a half thousand years distant.
But there's a bit of straw-man bashing going on here. No-one has ever really supposed the Greeks (even the Athenians) were exactly like us.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Useful 3 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Needed it for my course, and was really helpful right the way through. Decent quality, but it's a shame that the price was so high.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably hard to read but ------- 15 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Worth it because It explains in the only way I have found so far ,the underlying beliefs and principles of Greek life.You need a copy of Herodotus the Histories as well which I already had ,as it cross-references a lot.
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