11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Where it all began,
This review is from: Greek and Roman Political Ideas: A Pelican Introduction (Mass Market Paperback)
Even if we have never formally studied the ancient world, or for that matter the history of politics, most of us are uncomfortably aware that western thinking about politics is very largely a series of footnotes to Greek and Roman authors. Even the words themselves- democracy, republic, constitution, politics itself - are borrowed from Greek and Latin. Yet trying to engage with the original authors, even in translation, can be a daunting and confusing exercise.
One of the virtues of Melissa Lane's little book is that it helps to explain why this is so: the adventures of words like "democracy" and even "politics" itself have been so various that they now have little or no connection with the concepts the Greeks and Romans knew; Wisely, therefore, the author makes few attempts to relate Greek and Roman thinking directly to modern ideas and controversies, and thus avoids confusing the reader with fake similarities.
In addition, the author has elected, wisely it seems to me, not to offer potted summaries of great thinkers, but rather tackle eight more general themes, illustrated by examples from different writers. This provides a satisfying and evolutionary approach to the development of political ideas, as well as, inevitably, making one wonder whether the Greeks, in particular, didn't have all the answers already. (To which a proper response would be, no they didn't have all the answers, but they asked pretty mulch all the right questions.)
In summary, an excellent introduction, clear and well written, which places the Greek and Roman thinkers correctly in their times.