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From Democrats to Kings: The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great Hardcover – September 16, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover (September 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590203917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590203910
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,233,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Accessible and punchy... a wide readership cannot fail to be entertained as well as instructed about a world that is both familiar and alien, modern as well as ancient."
-Paul Cartledge, author of Thermopylae

"It''s admirable of Michael Scott to shine a light on the forgotten 4th century, and he''s engaging about the culture that bloomed as Athens faded."
-The Daily Mail

About the Author

Michael Scott, 27, is currently Moses and Mary Finley Fellow in Ancient History at Darwin College, Cambridge. During 2007 and 2008 he was a guest lecturer aboard the easyCruise tour of Classical Greece. He is an on-screen historical consultant for the History Channel's new series of Ancient Discoveries, due for broadcast in March 2009. From Democrats to Kings is his first book. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants a clearer understanding of this fascinating period.
Ronn Berrol
With his casual style and a sense of drama, he has put together a fascinating story of a period that is generally under-researched and little understood.
Prince Marko
I mostly didn' like the way the author presented it (although I like the pieces on Isocrates, for instance), but he does know his topic.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
First posted om on 1 January 2012

I was prepared to love this book, jusy because of its topic which, as another reviewer aptly called it, is "the Bit in between". However, the way it is written (and I don't only mean the poor quality English) is annoying and simply unbearable at times. To force myself to finish it, and not throw it away, I even started counting how many gripes I had: it added up to a grand total of 128 for a book that has 255 pages.

Now I won't go on to describe all of them but will only present a sample, so that you know what to expect and are not surprised.
- First of all come the multiple anachronisms, with the author coming up with whatever comparison with modern events that crosses his mind, even if many of the parallels are deeply flawed. One of his favorites seem to be "the tearing down of the Berlin Wall", which is compared, rather ineply given the very different contexts, to the Athenians having to tear down theirs at the end of the Great War against Sparta. Another one, which I personnaly found rather difficult to stomach, was to compare Athens after the end of the war and "Germany after the fall of Nazism." A third was Athens fighting its Viêtnam War against Macedonia in Northern Greece. And the list could go on, and on, and on...

- Second is the tying in of multiple modern expressions, such as the "final nail in the coffin" or the "fan club" of such and such, or comparing orators to rock stars and actors and playrights to "superstars" with their own trades unions and who were sent on embassies just as today famous actors or often (really often?) recruited as goodwill ambassadors by the UN.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Antis on December 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
VenusInScorpio may have read almost every single book that survives written in Greek or Latin before the Fall of Rome, but I'm not sure s/he has actually read the book under discussion. I found From Democrats to Kings to be readable and well-paced. The judgments that Dr Scott makes about the Spartans being "bullies" or Alexander being a "mummy's boy" are not central themes of what is essentially a narrative history. They were, however, two aspects of the book that received widespread press coverage when it was published, notably in the review that appeared in the Independent. It appears that VenusInScorpio's assessment might have been based on the content of the reviews rather than the book itself.

From Democrats to Kings is a "popular" history book. Books in this category are always open to the criticism that they do not refer often or explicitly enough to the primary sources. But Dr Scott's book is not trying to break new academic ground: it is a survey of the period, designed to be accessible to non-specialist readers. Apart from a couple of mildly irritating references to recent Hollywood films, the book works extremely well - Dr Scott has a gift for telling a story and an ability to deliver pithy summaries of characters or places at just the right moment in the text. As others have commented on this site, the book is also very well produced, with a helpful index, bibliography and timeline.

If we want to debate Dr Scott's credentials as a writer of "serious" academic history, I note that Cambridge University Press are publishing a book of his next year on his research at Delphi and Olympia. I look forward to reading it.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Valmont on December 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The 4th Century has long been difficult period of Greek history to penetrate. Full of fascinating characters and the extreems of democracy and monarchy it has generated Hollywood epics (300 and Alexander) together with dry scholarly works dealing with one element or the other.

What has been lacking is one continuos narrative that charts the progress of democratic Athens to a Macedonian empire rulled by one man. Dr Scott's book fills that gap and tells the story from the perspective of a single lifetime - that of Isocrates' impressive 98 years.

I liked this book. It didn't preach from the academic pulpit or set out to demonstrate the genius of the author. For me, the narrative flowed from beginning to end injecting the pace of a novellist with the accuracy of a scholar.

The key players are quoted in a way that brings the subject to life and small details interplay well with the big historical drama. For example the Athenian prisoners arrogant request for their clothes and bedding after their crushing defeat at the battle of Chaeronea, twinned with Philip's jovial reaction, sets the scene for the broader political reaction across Greece.

For those who want to delve into this period in more detail there is a heap of source material at the back together with an excellent timeline and some really useful maps.

Hats off to Dr Scott for writing a book that allows both an enthusiastic amateur and a university undergraduate to navigate a relatively uncharted period of history with confidence. The many pieces of the 4th Century jigsaw have now fallen into place.

I look forward to reading more by this author.
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