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on 13 December 2009
I have just finished this long book, and it was not until a few pages from the end that I began to grasp the destination towards which the enormously detailed text was travelling. I think that Robin Lane Fox is saying that the different myths mentioned in the works of (a) Homer and (b) Hesiod are accounted for by the influence or not of different groups of itinerant Greeks, and middle eastern traders, crucially contact (or not) with eighth century BC travelling Euboeans.He also wishes to refute the views of some scholars who in his opinion have overemphasised the influence of middle eastern narratives on Homer, and for this he makes an apparently convincing case.

The first half of the book covers the archaeological evidence for Euboean journeys in two parts of the Mediterranean world,in the east around the Asian coast near Cyprus, and in the west, towards the Italian coast and in particular the islands of Sicily and Ischia. The next major section deals with myth, and I personally found this extremely interesting in itself, though it was rather like starting another book entirely, despite some references to the first section. Finally, Lane Fox discusses Homer and Hesiod's use of myth, ending with a very interesting postscript about the dating of Homer.

The book contains over 130 pages of notes and bibliography, put together from a wide range of international scholarship published in many languages, such as befits a highly academic work. However, as I read the Penguin popular edition, I would have valued the addition of a shorter bibliography of readily available works in English.

It is not long since I re-read the Iliad and the Odyssey, but I have to confess to never having read more than extracts from Hesiod. To remedy this is now a task towards which I must turn, together with further reading about the Hittites, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and planning a visit to Evia, to see the sites mentioned in this book.

If I were advising the publisher about a further edition, I would suggest that Lane Fox be asked to make his overall thesis more explicit, particularly at the beginning, and then revisit it in each chapter, in order to guide his readers more directly through the massive volume of evidence that he puts before them. This would enable them to gain more from this remarkable book.
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on 30 July 2016
After struggling for 147 pages in the hope that this book might finally begin am suddenly incandescent at how bad it is. Badly written, repetitive, speculative. This page (147), for instance, is half taken up with a paragraph of 11 sentences. The first is a question. The next nine profess to answer it but all hinge on words like " might even....may....may...would then...if...may also...perhaps.... may...may" (at least one qualifier in every sentence). Only the final sentence, being the conclusion based on these speculations is presented as fact..
How this has managed to masquerade as either well written and scholarly (let alone both) beats me.
However it does make a good if muddled case for its basic thesis that the "dark ages" of Greece were not so dark
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on 7 December 2009
This a fascinating attempt to bring together traditional analysis of the Homeric texts with up-to-date regional archaeology connecting early Greek civilisation with its neighbours.

The texts left to us by most Eastern Mediterranean cultures (e.g. Egyptian, Hittite, Assyrian, Biblical, classical Greek) are strikingly self-centered, so connecting up, say, late Bronze Age Greek and Assyrian places and events is not easy. Nor do many textual experts go looking at pottery evidence for cultural spread to back up their cultural explorations. Finally, RLF manages to do all this without getting embroiled in the rumbling controversies about absolute dates in the centuries leading up to 1000 BC. It is not an especially easy read - mainly the complexity of the subject matter, partly the style - but for anyone interested in these matters it is highly recommended.
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on 10 July 2011
As a layman interested in all areas of ancient Greek culture I saw this and bought it without hesitation. Lane Fox's reputation is such that he needs no words from me but I must say this was a disappointment. It seems neither to be detailed or focused enough to satisfy academic readers or concise or dramatic enough to interest the general reader. Several times I asked myself what exactly is this book about? I still don't know. The discussion of what physical phenomenon or travel contacts may have led the Greeks to formulate the myths they did surely deserves a more gripping treatment.
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on 18 March 2010
Robin Lane Fox has written an excellent book throwing much necessary light on the so-called Greek `Dark Ages'. The light he shines illustrates what a wonderful amount of knowledge there is for this period from the archaeological, historical and literary persepctives. Unlike many other historical studies this oozes richly with fascinating and detailed information both in the main text and the wonderful notes. But the detail is like a finely worked tapestry presenting this forgotten world and its trade links, luxuries, interests and developments; and also its legacy to us. Well worth every penny. If you like history, buy it and indulge yourself.
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on 28 June 2011
Mistakenly verbose and repetitious, lacking in clarity of purpose, the editor should have cut through 75 percent of this and we might have had a book worth the trouble.
Publishers should not permit authors, particularly academics, to wrte in such a tediously unchecked manner.
Even the most classically informed general reader will be crushed by the weight of exhaustive and unrevealing examples of evidence that may support the author's thesis (on the rare occasions that it struggles to emerge from the overwhelming dark cloud of research), which really should have remained as references rather than paraded exhaustively and unproductively as here.
An interesting subject utterly lost in extremely poor authorship and neglectful / non-existent editing
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on 31 January 2015
A very good history of the period immediately after the Greek dark age. Well worth a read
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on 12 February 2009
this is a tour de force - it covers an expanse of time and space quite remarkably.
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on 8 June 2015
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on 25 October 2011
Robin Lane Fox's admirers should be compelled to read what a real scholar, Ernst Badian, commented on his biography of Alexander the Great. Fortunately for Fox and his publishers, Badian's article -- appeared in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 96 (1976), pp. 229-230 -- is known only to specialists. Otherwise, Fox's reputation among the general public would be destroyed.

Nevertheless, it is always amazing to realize that most readers do not understand what a bad researcher Fox is, what arrogance he shows in his judgements, how disjointed his narrative is, how poorly he knows what he writes about.

But perhaps this should not be surprising. If Fox retains reputation and admirers even after his pitiful involvement in Oliver Stone's appalling "Alexander", one is forced to conclude that what he unrightfully has gained, he is going to keep forever.
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