on 24 February 2000
This is an immensely readable and accessible book. Whereas many other studies of Ancient Greece focus on one aspect only - the dynamism of 5th century Athens, or the 'triumphs' of Alexander - this account traces the entire Greek experience form the heroic Homeric Bronze Age to the final entwining of Greek culture with nascent Christianity in the early centuries AD. This could be tedious - a bland, superficial general history - but in fact the vivid prose and the helpful throwaway modern parallels - Demosthenes delivers 'Churchillian' speeches, for example - make for an incisive, relevant history. Charles Freeman makes no attempt to conceal the downside of the society - the appalling, unthinking reliance on endemic slavery, the marginalisation of women, the unedifying political infighting - but he admires the upside too (and so do we, reading his descriptions) - the fantastic art; the intellectual leaps in philosophical and scientific thinking which still underpin much of Western though; the fine, if faltering, experiment with early democracy. No time machine available yet to take us to Ancient Greece, but this book is not a bad substitute.