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Athens in the Age of Pericles (Centers of Civilization Series) Paperback – March 15, 1971
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History To Repeat & Some To Not
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Athens at the beginning of its greatness was the creation of Cleisthenes who established it as a democracy following a period of particularly bizarre family politics that would be surprising even today. This ironically was the source of not only its greatness, but its destruction.
The second factor that was responsible for Athens to achieve greatness was its role in defeating the Persians. The Persians retreated from the Aegean and the Athenians formed the Delian League which city states contributed either ships or money for the common defense. Since the Persians had better things to do than to invade pockets of Greek city states, Athens had money for a cultural explosion that formed the basis of western civilization.
Architecture, drama, comedy, philosophy, and politics all came out of this development. Athens was not only the cultural center of the western world, it was the western world. What is sad is just how little survived from this period.
The source of the greatness of Athens was also its downfall. Maintaining the Delian League, turned Athens into an imperial power, whose citizens became victims of a series of incompetent and unscrupulous leaders who proposed policies that lead to its diplomatic isolation.Read more ›
This book (essay) serves as an okay introduction to Athens in the fifth century. I learned some interesting things, but the material is too brief to gain a real understanding of anything that is discussed. There were points where an illustration would have been helpful, such as accompanying the explanation of architectural concepts. But, for the most part, the author does a good job at describing things where an illustration would have been more effective.
The transition between topics isn't very smooth. This is possibly due to the fact that it was originally an essay. The author does write well, though, and it would have been nice to see what he was capable of had he written a longer work.
The work is also accompanied by long passages from ancient sources (Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato). While these can be fascinating and can provide additional insight into the events discussed, they do take up a signifcant portion of the text. If the author had provided more of his own voice, I think it would have made the book more enjoyable and compelling.
I. Strife, Faith, and Liberality
II. The Strength of the Democracy
III. An Imperial Democracy
IV. Art and Thought
VII. The Future