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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of Classical Europe
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...
Published on 11 Nov. 2010 by E. Newman

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but Kindle edition flawed
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...
Published on 20 Dec. 2011 by J. E. S. Leake


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of Classical Europe, 11 Nov. 2010
By 
E. Newman - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amateur ( but enthusiastic) Historians thoughts, 7 Oct. 2010
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the light of the Classical world, 23 July 2011
This review is from: The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine (Paperback)
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.
The writers have also provided a helpful measure of size (p.9) utilising the normal archaeological unit of the hectare (perhaps unfamiliar to non-specialist readers?) in easily-visualised equivalents, viz., a British football pitch is roughly one hectare, an American one half a hectare. If you wish to think in terms of acres, double the number of hectares (or, to be more precise, multiply by 2.5). They also tell us Windsor Castle occupies just over 10 hectares or 26 acres. This kind of small but telling detail, even if only a rule of thumb for ancient settlements, is useful.
Myths are also debunked: Rome did NOT plough salt into the soil of fallen Carthage to make it infertile ~ that particular canard, which has a curious longevity, was invented by an historian writing in 1930. Carthage was dismantled after its defeat in 146BC, its population sold into slavery. In the previous year Corinth had also revolted, and the Romans sacked it the same way they did Carthage ~ it was 'devoted' to the gods of the underworld.

The funniest thing I came across in the book was J. Caesar's writing on the Hercynian forest and the hunting of elk. Elks could not bend their legs, so they slept leaning against trees. Hunters covertly weakened the trunks so, when resting elks subsequently pushed over the trees, they could thus capture the fallen animals! I laughed out loud.

The style has an easy fluency, and there are sidelights on received opinions and assumptions, and lots of challenges to things like post-event 'alterations' of history, as well as small gobbets of information missed out by many Classical Studies courses, e.g., the Alexandrian scholars' selection of what was 'canonical' and what was not, and how the Romans referred to the authors selected by Aristophanes of Byzantium as 'classici' ('of the first class') from which we derive our concept of the 'Classical'. I'm fond of this sort of trivia.

This is a really seriously good book. I'm impressed with it. Tho' the lack of footnotes / endnotes is unusual in a volume of this type, the authors did at least insert an index. It's so well-ordered one can follow it with ease. Clarity in perception and in writing is evident ~ the one is not always mirrored in t'other, especially where Classicists are concerned!
Definitely five + 5 stars!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but Kindle edition flawed, 20 Dec. 2011
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, even better than I expected from the reviews, 29 Aug. 2014
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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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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Introduction, 25 Oct. 2011
By 
Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine (Paperback)
Before reviewing the book I'd like to discuss the series which it is a part of. The problem with the Penguin History of Europe series is that they are terribly inconsistent. This book is designed as a basic introduction for beginners while others attempt a serious overview of the era in question. The book immediately following this one (even though it was written before it) was The Inheritance of Rome. It covered the Dark Ages, or more precisely the period from 400-1000 AD. This book covers 1750 BC-425 AD. That's 600 years vs. 2175! Admittedly most of the Bronze Age material is dismissed in a chapter, but the section on Classical Greece doesn't even start until page 113. So after covering over 1200 years of history in 100 pages they have 200 pages in which to cover 900 years. The later ones cover even less time than Inheritance. Europe in the High Middle Ages covers about 300 years while The Pursuit of Glory covers about half that. I know it makes sense to spend more time on fewer years as we get closer to the present since the quality and number of the sources increase, but they have seriously limited the value of the Classical era and relegated it to little more than an introductory volume to their series. In my opinion, if you're going to do something then do it properly. If you don't want to cover the Classical Era then you don't have to.

This brings us to the question of intent. What is the purpose of these books? What audience are they written for? This one will never be used by scholars as a serious source. Which is fine, except that the other books don't match. The Inheritance of Rome is a very detailed book which, while comprehensible for a beginner, is useful for the scholar as well. The Pursuit of Glory is even less like this in that it is divided up by topics instead of being a narrative. The length is also a difference. While this book clocks in at under 400 pages, both Inheritance and Glory are around 700. That is despite the fact that they cover smaller time periods. While enforced and absolute consistency is not to be desired in a series such as this, a basic agreement on the target audience and depth would seem essential.

So having said that, what do I think of the book? It's alright. It serves its purpose which is to detail the early history of Europe as a background to the later books in the series. As an introduction it's pretty good too. It is easy to read and includes the material expected of it. As you might guess I'm not particularly enthused about this book, but if I have little praiseworthy to say then similarly I have little to condemn. The book does serve its basic purpose well, and anyone who's read little or nothing on this period could read far worse books on the topic than this.

One of the good features about this book is how up-to-date it is. I don't just mean that it is a new book, but that it includes the most recent scholarly information on this period. Generally books such as this are a decade or so behind the times, but this one manages to stay on top of its sources and for that it should be praised. Another good feature is that it connects the events of the Bronze and Dark Ages to the Classical Age. A lot of general books start with the Trojan War and then jump to the 500s and deal with the Classical Greeks. Which has always seemed somewhat cheap. As if nothing happened in between! It may not cover that period in much detail but it does cover it and this definitely makes it easier to understand the connection. Another major plus is the number of illustrations. These consist of maps, diagrams and photos and show up all over. The maps are particularly useful while the photographs are very nice and provide images of many of the places discussed. The description under the photos are good as well. Each photo usually demonstrates something with only a few thrown in there just as a nice view.

A feature of this book which I don't remember seeing in the others of this series are the digressions on various topics. These sections are highlighted and pop up as separate blocks of text. This is similar to what they include in modern textbooks, which seems to confirm my theory about the intended readership. These sections are usually interesting points that would be irrelevant and distract from the narrative if they were included in the main text. I'm not completely convinced of their effectiveness. In a textbook with its bigger pages and denser printing its possible to have these digressions on the side without interrupting the text. Since this is a shorter book it takes over the book completely until it is finished. On the whole I think that these sections should have been deleted or streamlined into the text. I liked the way that Wickham in his 'Inheritance of Rome' book did it. He put these quotes and digressions at the beginning of the chapter to serve as an introduction to the subject. Something like that would have served him better here.

I honestly don't understand the purpose of books like this. They cover too wide a period in too short a space and are bound to be superficial. I guess they provide a basic outline, but even so being a little longer would help. If I were the publisher I'd have made room for two books of this length and covered the Greeks and Romans separately. That would at least have given them room to get into a little depth. As it is it seems like a series of isolated incidents thinly connected together. They could easily have written twice as much and still only have cracked the surface. While I can't blame the authors for not splitting their topic into multiple books since the nature of the series prohibited it, I still feel that they should have written much more. If this book had been as long as those other two it might have achieved something. As it is they cover about six and a half years with every page. It feels diluted almost to the point of uselessness.

So there you have it. If you want a general history of Ancient Europe then this is an excellent place to start. If you've read up on the era before then this work will provide nothing new for you.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Birth of Classical Europe, 10 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine (Paperback)
The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine
I was really disappointed reading this book. I think that it lacks depths, has much too few useful pieces of information. It contains instead some incorrect statements, such as, e.g. 'Vandals, a tribe originating in Poland' (p. 328).
In my opinion it is much worse than Tim Blanning's 'The Pursuit of Glory" which I regard as the best in the series.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a history of Europe, 2 May 2010
By 
B. Smith "Comrade Smith" (Shetland Islands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The book is elegant and interesting, but it isn't (as the series title states) a history of Europe. Usually the authors deal with matters distant from Greece and Rome by recommending books by Barry Cunliffe. There is a huge contrast between the book and its successor in the series, Chris Wickham's The Inheritance of Rome. I fear that Allen Lane has made a big mistake - perhaps they could commission a volume 1a!
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classical Europe only, 8 Jun. 2010
'Comrade Smith' is correct, this book largely ignores any of the early history of Europe that is not directly related to that of Rome or Greece. This is disappointing. However, tBoCE provides a succinct and enjoyable history of the foundation of civilisation in the Mediterranean, the rise of the Greek city states and the war with Persia, Alexander the Great and emergence of Rome.

In my opinion, the authors place too much emphasis on how the peoples of the region defined their own identities and this is made more frustrating when some significant events are given very scant coverage indeed, for example the Roman destruction of Carthage covered in half a page. There is also very little mention of the influence of the nearby Egyptians.

In summary, a good read but you'll have to look elsewhere if pre-Roman British and Northern European history interests you too.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A review of a bit of the book, 27 Nov. 2011
By 
R. Herriott "casalingua" (Denmark) - See all my reviews
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My first impression is that this is not the book to start with if you want an insight into ancient Greek life other than the usual round of kings and wars and population movements.

While I have learned about Linear A and Linear B scripts (used on Crete and apparently it is an early form of Greek), for example, and the extent of various Middle Eastern kingdoms, there is nothing about the social structure, daily way of life or economic base of the societies of either Crete or the mainland of Greece in 3500 BC. What did they farm? What did they make? On the other hand there is a lot of space given to meta-history and archaeological history. I don't think that dwelling on the antics of gentleman archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 19th century is the sort of thing to allocate space to, not in the main body of the text. The book provides little insight on what the ancient Greeks did in between building palaces and waging war on one another. Halfway through the book one reaches the transition from Greek to Roman supremacy of the Meditterranean. The second half of the book deals with ancient Rome. Apart from a section on the administration of the empire (which used remarkably little manpower), the book fails to bring to life any of the main characters of ancient Rome and says little about the way of life of ordinary Romans. It is colourless and detailed in the wrong way.

Rather than drawing in broad, scene-setting strokes the authors use a succession of details which fail to gel into an overview one can grasp. What one fails to get either is a sense of the fabric of the societies: how these people lived and thougth and what they valued culturally. The wars that make up the bulk of the events in the book seem to take place without very much reason or purpose. As a result one gets the impression that this is a "pointiliste" narrative: many small bits of information are presented and perhaps they can be seen to part of a bigger whole but it is hard to discern. If it were a painting it would be a Seurat when perhaps one wanted a Monet.

The authors themseleves say this book looks at how the people of the classical Graeco-Roman era used and understood their history in their own affairs. There is a lot of space given to description of how the people of various cities in the classical world used their understanding of their past to justify their actions and political decisions. So we have here a meta-history: our understanding of their understanding of their history. This is not an invalid theme but it's too derivative. What I (and maybe other readers) want was to find out how the Romans and Greeks affected us, not how they were affected by their past. In this sense, I stand by my original view that The Birth of Classical Europe is not really the right book to begin a study of classical culture nor to understand how our values are still shaped by those of the classical world. The book does not live up to claims made on its cover.
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