on 5 September 2013
This is a work by an author with a tremendous grasp of the detail who eschews general description and drawing out of themes, preferring detailed facts. This approach, while giving a sense that you are getting an objective view and not opinion, is hard to follow. The author clearly chose the facts but what he was trying to illustrate is not that clear. I do not think he is trying to do more than recount what happened, as he sees it, and that contrasts to some historians who have an argument to make; for example to illustrate the forces shaping the development of democracy in Greece. But it does all feel a bit relentless. In contrast, the Fontana history of ancient and classical Greece is more general, though some of the authors' writing styles are also hard work. The Fontana series is cheaply available second-hand.
And another thing: his writing is sometimes hard to follow. Example: he refers to Thucydides describing something Pausanias has done. The author then goes on to refer to he again. but it is not absolutely clear on first reading if the author means Thucydides or Pausanias. This habit of referring to "he", "they", without it being clear who is meant occurs quite frequently. In Greek the grammar would make it clear which "he" was meant and perhaps the author forgot that in English these matters are ambiguous!
Another major criticism is the absence of adequate maps. For example: early on, and later, there is a reference to Phocis, a city, but it does not appear on any of the maps at the front. The same criticism can be levelled at a number of history, but where place is important it is vital for the reader to see the relative positions of the different, in this case, cities.
Overall, not easy to read, despite what the professional reviews say, but the structure is clear and there are detailed bibliographies at the end of each chapter. Not a book for the general reader and definitely not popular history, but very thorough and supported by lots of detail; stick at it and it gets better. As I have read more, the more am I impressed with the author's tremendous grasp of detail, including expressing doubt where sources are not clear.
It would be worth buying an atlas of historical Greece to make sense of all the places mentioned.