What an epic book “The Greeks” by Roderick Beaton turned out to be! I picked it up on the appeal of the cover and a reflection of late that my history lessons at school were decidedly selective and predominantly focused on what the English did and didn’t do. The Greeks, having had a massive impact on religion, culture and language, piqued my interest.
Beginning right at the beginning may seem logical but is often not the way of historical books and I so appreciated the context set in this one. The formation of what is now seen as “Greek”, it’s influences and why it came about are given an unbiased account. Equally I liked how the writer, at times, admits we don’t know before offering the current theories.
Despite being considered by some a dry topic, I found this book scintillating especially when it covered elements of how our language today was formed and elaborated on global happenings which I was unaware of. Each chapter is a chunk of time, an era for the Greeks, unpacked whilst still keeping the holistic thread. It makes them long so I found setting time to finish each section in one go helped me follow the history especially with all the unfamiliar names and places.
The book doesn’t focus on the Greece of today or the land it now covers but the history of the Greek-speaking people and where they have been and are now. It goes right through to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the refugee crisis. Better understanding the past has helped me comprehend the complexity of the those seeking asylum in Greece and why accepting the volume arriving is so challenging.
As it is the Greeks, the book is made up of artistic reflection and war strategy, massive upheaval and beautiful poetry. The contrasts are amazing and interesting, I am most grateful I read this one and if you enjoy a well-told historical overview with nuggets of interesting facts tucked in this is one for you! It’s a five out of five on the enJOYment scale.
I received a complimentary copy of the book from Perseus Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the back cover:
A sweeping history of the Greeks, from the Bronze Age to today
More than two thousand years ago, the Greek city-states, led by Athens and Sparta, laid the foundation for much of modern science, the arts, politics, and law. But the influence of the Greeks did not end with the rise and fall of this classical civilization. As historian Roderick Beaton illustrates, over three millennia Greek speakers produced a series of civilizations that were rooted in southeastern Europe but again and again ranged widely across the globe.
In The Greeks, Beaton traces this history from the Bronze Age Mycenaeans who built powerful fortresses at home and strong trade routes abroad, to the dramatic Eurasian conquests of Alexander the Great, to the pious Byzantines who sought to export Christianity worldwide, to today’s Greek diaspora, which flourishes on five continents. The product of decades of research, this is the story of the Greeks and their global impact told as never before.