Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 BC

Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 BC

Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 BC

Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 BC

Synopsis

'Athens and Sparta' is a handbook to the study of fifth century BC Greek history and society. It encourages the reader to engage critically with the evidence, presenting a wide selection of ancient source material along with clear analysis and narrative.

Excerpt

This work is intended as a handbook for the bright student beginning Greek history. It deals with method as well as with fact. It attempts to present an unusually large selection of the ancient evidence, and to provide clear analysis and narrative. We seek to highlight problems and to demonstrate explicitly some of the more important techniques of criticism and construction used by professional historians. It is hoped to suggest something of the contribution which Greek history can make to a liberal education, and to communicate the enjoyment to be had from careful exploitation of the Greek sources.

The shape of the book has been determined by the supply of good ancient literary evidence. Political history is studied in most detail for the period 478-411 BC, for which we have the evidence of Thucydides; the last years of the Peloponnesian War, from 410 to 404 BC, are treated in outline. Our review of social history covers the fourth century as well as the fifth. Important inscriptional evidence is dealt with. But, since the book presumes no knowledge of Greek in the reader, there is no attempt to treat the reconstruction of epigraphic fragments.

The playwright Tom Stoppard has a character say that journalists do not write for the public; they write for other journalists. The warning implied in this useful overstatement is one which historians, too, should keep in mind when we write textbooks. In selecting and arranging material for the present work, the author has tried to apply his own experience of the needs of students new to the subject. For example, a teacher should probably begin a course of Greek history by stressing that in this subject the required (and enlightened) procedure is, not to repeat or synthesise the arguments of modern writers, but to look at what ancient sources say and to use independent judgement in

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