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Athens, a History: From Ancient City to Modern Ideal
Synopses & Reviews
Perhaps no other city looms larger in our cultural and historical imagination than Athens. For two and a half millennia, people have looked to the city's past as a beacon of genuine democracy, artistic expression, and the classical ideal. In this engaging narrative, noted classicist Robin Waterfield traces the life and history of Athens, a city whose idealized past continues to inspire the present.This is the only book to cover the entire history of Athens, from its brief period of classical greatness through its decline under a series of occupying empires-Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Turkish-to its resurrection in the modern era. Waterfield brings the city vividly to life through the colorful and varied individuals who shaped her history, from Solon, the founder of her democracy, to Pericles, Socrates, Euripides, and the other geniuses of the fifth century, and right up to more recent figures, such as Lord Byron and Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics.As Waterfield shows, the memory of Athens' glorious past-even if that memory is a myth-has inspired generations, and offers vital lessons for the current era.
"Athens will host the Olympic Games in 2004, perhaps restoring some glory to a city that, according to Waterfield, has seen better days. In this fast-paced history, Waterfield, who has translated many works from ancient Greek, chronicles the rise and fall of Athens, from ancient days (the bulk of his narrative) to the political revolutions of the 19th century. Legend has it that the great Theseus, who killed the Minotaur, was one of the city's founders and fostered its democratic spirit. Athens's location near the coast (facilitating trade) and its fertile land attracted migrants from the Mediterranean world. For Waterfield, the period of Athens's greatest glory came in the fifth century B.C., when Pericles overturned its aristocratic rule and established a democracy. For 30 years (446 — 416 B.C.), Athens reached a glorious pinnacle during which philosophy, religion, art and architecture flourished. The grandest accomplishment was the building of the Parthenon, completed in just nine years. During its peak years, Athens also attempted to reign over neighboring states, and its increasingly arrogant imperialism and materialism eventually resulted in war with Sparta and other Greek states that destroyed Athens's splendor. As Waterfield observes, Athens would never again achieve such glory, and it became a territory ruled over the years by Persia, Rome and Turkey. Waterfield sandwiches his helpful history between an opening section on the ancient Olympics and a closing one on the forthcoming games, which jars readers out of their pleasant excursion though the ancient city. 8 pages of b&w photos, not seen by PW. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this engaging narrative, noted classicist Waterfield traces the life and history of Athens, a city whose idealized past continues to inspire the present.
As Waterfield shows, the memory of Athens' glorious past-even if that memory is a myth-has inspired generations, and offers vital lessons for the current era.
About the Author
Robin Waterfield is a full-time writer and has translated about twenty ancient Greek works. He has been a university lecturer at Williams College and at St. Andrew's. He divides his time between London and the southern Peloponnese in Greece.
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