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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Primer on the Classical Historians, January 4, 2009
In this collection of ancient historians writing in Greek and Latin, Grant selects all the historians anyone who casually exposed to Ancient Greek or Roman history would be likely to have heard of: Livy, Thucydides, Plutarch, Polybius, Herodotus, Caesar, Xenophon, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus (translations of his Greek writing). To those he adds a more obscure roster: Hecataeus, Hellanicus, Nepos, Diodorus Siculus, Sallust, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Velleius Paterculus, Appian, Arrian, Dio Cassius, Eusebius, and Ammianus Marcellinus. Luke of the Gospels is also thrown in for his historical material.

There are three main purposes behind this collection.

First, Grant simply wants you to read these historians who are so important as primary source on the classical world, see where some of the famous anecodotes so often repeated in cable documentaries actually come from, get a sense of the character of their writing. Second, Grant gives some basic information about each historian - when they lived, the works they wrote and which ones survived to our time, the extant of their personal involvement in what they write about, the merits and defects of their histories, and a bit on their political and literary influences on the modern world. Finally, by arranging the book in chronological order of the historians' lives, and not by language or order of their subjects, Grant develops an argument about how the art of history developed in the classical world and which writers were regarded as particularly admirable.

Besides his own translation work (primarily on Tacitus and Suetonius), Grant has selected many other translators and all are fully credited if the reader wants to follow up and get their entire translation of a work.

Grant's introduction and timeline puts the selections in a rough context for events in the ancient world. The book is extensively footnoted, and Grant often gives, in the titles to individual selections, the date of the event described.

As to the span of time covered here, we have the migration of the Etruscans from Lydia and the founding of Thebes to the death of Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Readings in the Classical Historians, March 22, 2014
Joseph T. Krause "Central European reader" (West Lafayette, Indiana United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Readings in the Classical Historians (Hardcover)
Michael Grant's Readings in the Classical Historians provides a relatively accessible way for ordinary folks like me to get an overview of major classical historians ranging from Herodotus and Thucydides to the earliest Christian historian Eusebius. Grant's formidable background as a classical scholar is evident in the brief essays prior to excellent selections from the Greeks (Xenophon and Polybius), Roman historians such as Sallust, Livy, Tacitus and side trips to another (to me) lesser known historians and biographers.
I am hopeful I can find a similar source for the next phase of a historiography course I am teaching at the Spring 2014 session of the Wabash Area Lifetime Learning Association in Indiana. (that is Medieval scholars up to the Enlightenment).
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reshelved For A Later Reading, November 21, 2013
Don Reed "Don" (Cliffside Park NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Readings in the Classical Historians (Hardcover)
Readings in The Classical Historians, Michael Grant, Ed. [1914-2004]; Charles Scribner's Sons (hardcover 1992)

"Nor is the Introduction... particularly distinguished. My recommendation is to skip it & plunge directly into the novel..." --- From R.M. Peterson's review of the Transylvanian Trilogy (Volume I).

Also my sentiment, but expanded to pertain to a good deal of what Michael Grant pitched into "Classical Historians," which offers samples from the historians ranging from Herodotus to Ammianus Marcellinus (twenty-two in all).

Now, for a partial score: Cleveland 7.

"Readings" also gets an Incomplete; at about page 100, the jig was up. Back went the book on the shelf, saved for a later date. The four stars is a pre-emptive act of faith that most of the rest of the unread material will be exemplary - as long as the historian being read isn't someone who had passed away in the twenty-first century.


"Hi there. I'm currently drowning in Michael Grant's 'Readings in the Classical Historians' & re-reading Charles Glass's excellent 'The Deserters'...

"I've read Grant before & do not remember having had a disagreeable time of it. This time, there is much to be disagreeable about.

"His introduction & prefaces to the selected historians that I've read so far are horrid: 'Moreover... thus... indeed... Not only... but also... moreover... therefore...' appear like clockwork (from a cuckoo clock) & too many sentences start with The Pedantic Ands & Buts (dozens of these & other conjunctions also appear in ridiculous proliferation).

"Overall, the writing is so wooden, it should have been printed on pine; the lengths of the sentences are so excessive, they need to be braced with scaffolding."

It's not too late. Someday, our government might run a "Cash For Clunkers" program in an effort to get these badly designed & written books off the road.


What should Grant have done, other than selecting the best work of these various historians? What could another editor have done?

Introductions et al should be indispensable enhancements to histories, not things from which to recoil in distaste, even scorn.

See "Lantern Slides, The Diaries & Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1904-1914" (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1996), edited by Mark Bonham Carter & Mark Pottle.

Pottle's superb Preface & Editorial Note is supported & beautifully enhanced by Roy Jenkins's penetratingly candid Introduction.

"Lantern" is the first of a trilogy. The second in the series, "Champion Redoubtable, The Diaries & Letters of [VBC] 1914-45" (W&N 1998), is also defined as a classic, with its Preface & an Editorial Note written by MP & an equally informative & touching Introduction contributed by John Grigg.

These two volumes reveal that Mark Pottle's talents & standards are equal to those cherished by William Shawn, editor of the New Yorker Magazine between 1952 & 1987.

Copy editor Peter James is also gratefully thanked for his role in the creation of these remarkable & cherished books.


Other considerations: The historians sampled so far often came off as gold-plated bores; inept translations are suspected.

"Reading's" chronology (time-line) of events is appreciated.

The map of the Mediterranean & surrounding countries could be mistaken for bathroom graffiti.

Finally, the editor thought it a good idea to create a back-of-the-book section for the Footnotes (spanning 29 pages) --- instead of logically locating each one on the bottom of the page being read.

If you don't mind being forced to flip pages from the front to the back of a physically heavy book & then returning to the page last read, you're not likely to object to having your reading interrupted... 696 times.

What nonsense.
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Readings in the Classical Historians
Readings in the Classical Historians by Michael Grant (Hardcover - Mar. 1993)
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