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Citadel to City-State: The Transformation of Greece, 1200-700 B.C.E. Paperback – January 21, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The case studies, on quite recent archaeological findings, are finely nuanced and well reasoned. Thomas and Conant fairly describe various schools of thought on interpretation of the archaeological record and put forward some new hypotheses.... Upper-division undergraduates and above." ―Choice, March 2000



There are two ways of assessing this study of the Dark Ages in Greece: as a collection of six studies of Dark Age sites at different chronological points within the period and as an attempt to illuminate stages in the transformation of Greece in the Dark Ages through these six temporally spaced examples intended for a broad readership interested in the processes of change. The book is quite successful from the first perspective but fails in the latter one. The case studies, on quite recent archaeological findings, are finely nuanced and well reasoned. Thomas and Conant fairly describe various schools of thought on interpretation of the archaeological record and put forward some new hypotheses. Although the discussion takes little for granted in the reader's background, those conversant with earlier literature on the Dark Ages will gain the most from these detailed studies. On the other hand, the book is less successful in meeting the needs of the broader intended audience, who may not be able to see the forest for the trees. Perhaps a concluding chapter might have helped. Upper―division undergraduates and above.R. P. Legon, University of Baltimore, Choice, March 2000

About the Author

Carol G. Thomas is Professor of Ancient Greek History at the University of Washington. Her books include Decoding Ancient History: A Toolkit of the Historian as Detective (with D. Wick); Myth Becomes History; Progress into the Past, 2nd Edition (with William A. McDonald); and Paths from Ancient Greece. She is two-time president of the Association of Ancient Historians.

Craig Conant is a long-time student of ancient Greek history and works as a records manager for the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle, Washington.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (January 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253216028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253216021
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carol T. Johnson on February 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
As one of the authors of Citadel to City State, I believe that it is inappropriate for me to rate it. However, Amazon's format forces me to assign a rating to the book and since I am proud of it, I gave it a high rating. I can confess that work invested in the book was rewarding and even pleasant, at least most of the time. And I was happy to learn that the publisher judged it worthy of a paperback edition so that our picture of early Greece might reach more people.
Its focus is the centuries between the collapse of the heroic Mycenaean civilization and the Classical Age of Greece, i.e. from a civilization based on citadels to one founded on city states. Once thought to be a long, bleak period in which little of significance occurred, new evidence shows it to be a bridge of transformation from one way of life to another. We track that process by focusing on five individual places that demonstrate the steps in the process, a Plutarch's Lives of Places rather than of People.
A recent and suprising token of the appeal of our approach was an invitation to speak to a joint meeting of the local Sigma Xi chapter and the Puget Sound American Chemical Society. The inviter wrote, "recently I read your book, Citadel to City State...It was intriguing about how, in the absence of writing, that it was possible to piece together the social events of that period." The book showed, he continued, "the synergy between the sciences and the humanities." Lessening the divide between the sciences and humanities was not a conscious goal of our book but it is an unexpected and welcome result. Growing specialization has produced such tight compartments of fields over the past half century that collaboration has been difficult. The new spirit of cooperation and interest is vital to an understanding of the base.
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This book covers the 500 years from the collapse of Mycenean domination of the Greek mainland, through the dark ages, to the beginnings of the polis, or city-state. Due to lack of sources beyond archaeology and the occasional reference in later literature, the treatment is of necessity academic and technical in detail. Thomas structures the book to cover a single city or geographical area in some detail as the embodiment of each of these stages.

The book begins with Mycenae (think Agamemnon), which dominated almost the entire Greek world during the Bronze Age. This was the time of the citadel, an elite administrative enclave of palaces, food storage facilities, and workshops with walls to bar commoners from access. Residences of the majority of the population (peasants and slaves, who doubled as cannon fodder) were outside and obscure. The workshops produced a wide range of goods, principally for export to the other elite enclaves of the Bronze Age, in such places as Egypt, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia. There was a rudimentary system of writing, Linear B, for keeping accounts, though its inflexibility as a syllabic system made the composition of poetry difficult if not impossible.

For unknown reasons, this civilization completely collapsed some time during the 12C BCE. Thomas reviews the possible causes - invasion, revolt, climate change, plague, natural catastrophe - and chooses the current consensus view that it was a "systems failure", whereby whatever it was sparked a self-reinforcing downward spiral. The result was a near-complete breakdown in trade (and artisanal production), the complete loss of literacy, and a precipitous decline in population, probably due to starvation and violence.
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An interesting look at the apparent diversity and complexity of post-Bronze Age evolutions of Mycenaean population centers in Greece, as inferred from archaeological data, with reference to (variously problematical) ancient sources of later times. The archaeological data, unfortunately, are in most cases not as extensive and cogent as we might wish; as a consequence, some inferences of the authors (one an amateur) are perhaps less than self-evident, or too confidently stated. (One of the five sites treated in this work is Ascra, which had not even been excavated when the book was published! The inferences are based solely on surface finds.) I've learned from this book (although I find it rather unseemly that senior author Thomas has deigned to post her own high rating of it).
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This is a well organized work of an understudied era - Greece between the collapse of the Bronze Age and the beginnings of the Classical era. This so-called Dark Age may lack a literature or the intriguing art and sudden collapse of the bronze age, but is interesting nontheless.

This work is pleasant to read, and I recommend it to anyone interested in ancient history.
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Format: Paperback
Citadel to City-State: The Transformation of Greece, 1200 - 700 BC (1999) Carol G. Thomas and Thomas Conant (Indiana University Press: Bloomington)

The World of Odysseus (1954, [1974]) Moses I. Finley (New York Review of Books: New York)

Classicists are an odd bunch. They took a specific geography and a specific time period handed them by Renaissance Italians and created an academic discipline divorced from other segments of archeology, architecture, history and literature. This discipline is "Classics." Classicists are often territorial. Mary Lefkowitz's Black Athena Revisited pays lip service to the idea that a non-classicist could study the period but then blasts anybody who does (especially Martin Bernal) as "amateurish." The non-classicist historian, Michael Parenti, questions even the motives of classicists. In the appendix on sources to his 2003 The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Parenti states: "Most present-day historians of antiquity seem determined to make [classic sources] inaccessible, a fact that itself might be indicative of the pedantic and elitist nature of their training" (223).

This elitism and inaccessibility creates a false image of the classical world. Everything from the Fall of Troy (c. 1200 BC) to the Sack of Rome (476 AD) exists at one time. Homer, Socrates and Caesar would hangout together and grab a beer! M.I. Finley comments "The human mind plays strange tricks with time perspective when the distant past is under consideration: centuries become as years and millennia as decades" (7).

Fortunately, I have just read two works that seek to break down ivory walls of classicists and try to build a real image of the timeframe from The Fall of Troy to the rise of Archaic Greece. M.I.
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