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The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization Paperback – December 22, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0520209350 ISBN-10: 0520209354 Edition: First Edition, With a new preface and bibliographic essay

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

"Exhaustively documented and developed, beautifully reasoned, clearly and--for the most part--calmly stated."

Review

"Brilliant and moving. . . . Hansons informed exploration of the crucial role of the small farmer in the creation of Greek civilization is a much-needed reminder that the artistic and intellectual splendor of Athens great age did not spring to life fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus; it has its base in the countryside." -- Bernard Knox, Washington Times
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 596 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, With a new preface and bibliographic essay edition (December 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520209354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520209350
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,241,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Greek and Director of the Classics Program at California State University, Fresno. He is the author or editor of many books, including Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (with John Heath, Free Press, 1998), and The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999). In 1992 he was named the most outstanding undergraduate teacher of classics in the nation.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 82 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Over the years I have read many books on the ancient world, but always came away dissatisfied, feeling as if I could not quite grasp what these ancient Greeks were all about. Sure, these books all covered the various battles and the struggle with Persia. They all dealt with Athenian democracy, Spartan militarism, and the various philosophical schools. We all know how the Macedonians eventually put an end to "Greek freedom." But just what was it that made these Greeks so different? How and why did they emerge with a polis culture that gave us so much of our Western heritage? Why were these Greeks so different than the orientals and the Romans? Finally, we have a book that goes a long way in explaining what it was that made the ancient Greeks so unique. At last we have a work that provides some answers as to "what these Greeks were all about."
I would agree with Donald Kagan who wrote, "The Other Greeks, is the most original and important contribution to an understanding of the ancient Greeks I have ever read." Here Victor Hanson explains how the rise of intensive agriculture and the independent farmer put an end to the Greek Dark Ages and he explains why this was an entirely new phenomenon in history. The rise of the polis, this egalitarian community of farmers now producing its own food, fighting its own wars, and making its own laws was something entirely novel in history. This Greek agrarianism became an ideology that infused Greek life with new energy and creativity.
Hanson details how the shift to private ownership and intensive cultivation by individual farmers gave birth to Western values and created the hoplite army.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By parmenides on September 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author of the book claims that the city-states of southern Greece were agrarian democracies the agricultural surplus
of which together with the democratic spirit made possible the birth and growth of philosophy-science, history and art.

Victor Hanson has written a number of wonderful books I have enjoyed in the past; unfortunately this is not of the same
standards of exposition because:

(1) the text is not well worked; he repeats himself in many places
making the text too long for the ideas and analysis it contains;
even a book of half size could make very clearly the points of this book

(2) despite the long text, the author fails to make his case transparent;

for example he does claim that the Persian wars acted like an excitation to the Greek polis that initiated growing resonances that eventually destroyed the fabric of the city state; In his view this made the poleis (Athens in particular)
more capitalistic and urbanised destroying in this way their reliance in terms of economy and military on the agrarian population; once the latter diminished the Greek polis was virtually over;

I do find all these plausible but the author never really answers
successfully the following: when the Atheneans and Thebans
fought the Macedonians at Cheronia they fought an old style hoplite battle; their infantry proved as powerful as during the Persian wars; at the time of their defeat their agrarian population was intact and especially the Theban polis was a typical city state (while Athens admittedly not);

that is the major question of why in the all-Greek struggle for the domination of Greece the Macedonian Kingdom conquered the
Theban-Athenean polis?
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21 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book had its good points, many of them: lots of information on Greek farming -- everything from its history to its connection to the hoplites, an engaging enough writing style, some interesting speculation on the effect of farming on Athenian democracy and law, and more. Also, like the title says, it was talking about the "other" Greeks, the ones usually ignored. Unfortunately, because they were also ignored by the Greeks except for some minor discussion, which Hanson duly talks about, a lot of this is speculation based upon modern farming. This has its points, but isn't necessarily anthropologically sound. Still, it's an interesting piece of speculation, and there's a lot of information here. Also, large portions of this work deal with the author's own experiences as a vintner in California, as well as those of his grandfather and neighbors. While interesting and amusing, there is often a wide digression from the alleged subject of the work. Read this for some interesting ideas and some information on Greek farmers elsewhere uncollected but don't expect the entire work to concentrate on the subject. There's almost as much on the author's personal philosophy and views on modern farming policy and practice in the USA as there is on those in ancient Greece. I'm rating this as 3 stars as far as scholarly value, but I think it's probably more like 4 as far as entertainment. It kept me busy on several airplanes, anyway.
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28 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Brian Donovan on January 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hanson's thesis is that the hoplite class of landowning small family farmers originally created the autonomous city-state, in their own image and to serve their own interests, and thus more than anyone else shaped Greek culture from the time of Homer to that of Alexander. It is a pioneering treatment of an immensely important and hitherto scandalously neglected subject, so that this is a "must read" for any student of ancient Greece. I only wish it were a better read.
Hanson's own oft-cited membership in the family-farmer class can be an asset, since he illustrates in his own voice the characteristic mindset that he also aims to describe: opinionated, pessimistic, and contemptuous of seemingly all non-agrarian institutions, customs, persons, and ways of thinking. But these mental characteristics are also very limiting. Hanson himself admits as much, applying such terms as "narrow" and "chauvinism" to his ancient predecessors; but to see and acknowledge such limitations in them is not necessarily to transcend them himself.
There are several other problems with the book as well. Hanson's passion for his subject all too often overwhelms his organizational planning for the book, as he reiterates favorite points in any and all contexts. He is also excessively given to braving out any inconvenient gap in the available evidence with an imperious "must have" or "could only have". And finally, the dots remain unconnected between the agrarian foundations and the enduring contributions of ancient Greek civilization. At one point, Hanson admits that the artistic and intellectual achievements that we call the "Greek miracle" only arose when and because Athens turned away from the agrarian ideal in various ways.
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