This book is designed to share with readers a rich and complex vision of ancient Greece that has been forged by the collaboration of four scholars with different backgrounds and varying interests. We undertook it because of our frustration in the search for a single volume that provided readers with a comprehensive history of Greek civilization from its first beginnings in the second millennium BC through the Hellenistic era. It has been more than a quarter of a century since the last attempt to tell this story in depth; all recent textbooks have either focused on political and military developments or omitted the Hellenistic era. We hope that what we have written will be useful and will give pleasure both to the general reader and to the student who is asked to read it in college. We have strived for a pace and a length that are suitable for a course lasting for a semester or a quarter devoted to the history and civilization of Greece--long enough to provide depth and detail, and short enough to enable the instructor to assign primary sources that will expand the student's understanding of a world that is both familiar and alien. Incorporating the fruits of the most recent scholarship, we have aimed for a balance between political, military, social, cultural, and economic history. The Athenian lawgiver Solon, who sought to reconcile the feuding political parties of his day, lamented that in trying to please everybody he seemed to have pleased nobody. We are optimistic that we will not be driven to such lamentations by the challenges we faced in our quest to integrate the various aspects of Greek civilization.
Greek culture was forged in the crucible of the Bronze Age civilizations that cropped up in worlds as diverse as unified Egypt and fragmented Mesopotamia. Absorbing key skills from these highly developed neighbors--metallurgy, for example, and writing--the Greeks built a distinctive culture marked by astonishing creativity, versatility, and resilience. In the end this world dissolved as Greek civilization, having reached from France and Italy in the west to Pakistan in the east, merged with a variety of other cultures--Macedonian, for example, Syrian, Iran-