The Rise of Athens : The Story of the World’s Greatest Civilization
This book explores the history of the ancient city of Athens and its rise to greatness. It is mainly the story of the Peloponnesian War, that protracted, bloody conflict between Sparta and Athens, although it begins with the Greeks’ fight against Persia. After Persia’s defeat, Sparta and Athens (and their many shifting and unreliable allies) fought for supremacy over land and sea, while Persia lurked in the background, interfering whenever it seemed advantageous. Eventually all three powers were diminished, but Athens remained a golden city, winning the ideological war even after losing militarily.
This is a fascinating story, although the shifting alliances and fickle politics are confusing and difficult to keep up with. Author Anthony Everitt tells the story well; he includes the plots of plays and myths that influenced and were shaped by the Greek worldview, and introduces the major politicians and leaders, from Pericles to Alcibiades to Socrates and many others, who had an oversized effect on Athens’ fate. There are many important lessons that still resonate, about hubris and bellicosity, about democracy and power; but even independently, it is a story full of intrigue and interest that will engage anyone interested in this wonder of the Ancient World.