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Hellenistic Civilization Paperback – December 1, 1974

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Plume (January 1, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452005973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452005976
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,860,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
A keen-sighted overview of a turning-point in the development of Western civilization, by an author with deep knowledge of the period.

I wish I’d got this book sooner, for it has provided me with a better orientation than any other work I’ve consulted for the period in which my own work in progress is set: the Hellenistic age. The name itself is not ancient; it was coined by the German historian J. G. Droysen in 1836 to denote the period following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, and ending about three centuries later. Scholars differ as to when to place that end-date, but a commonly accepted one is the date of the Battle of Actium, 31 BC, when Octavian defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and gained supremacy of the Roman world, making it effectively into an empire. From that point on, historians speak of the “Roman” period.

I can’t remember what made me decide to buy this book, even though that was only two months ago. I got a sturdy, well-worn, burgundy-bound ex-library book from London, the original 1927 edition, withdrawn from circulation after a meager record of borrowings (most recent date-due stamp: 19 Feb 1982). But as soon as I started reading I knew I was in the hands of a master—one who was passionate about his topic.

Tarn himself, in his 1-page preface, states that his book

"is neither a history nor a textbook, but an attempt to get a general picture of the civilisation of the Hellenistic period, covering all the main subjects and as detailed as space permits."

And that is an excellent encapsulation of what he achieved. The book comprises 10 chapters, the first of which is a 42-page outline of the history of the period.
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