Scholia Reviews ns 12 (2003) 23.

Simon Hornblower, The Greek World 479-323 BC. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Pp. xix + 396, incl. thirty-six halftone illustrations, six maps, and an index. ISBN 0-415-15344-1. UKú15.99.

Philip Bosman
Classics, University of South Africa

This is the third edition of Hornblower's well-known and respected history of Classical Greece, also reissued by the Folio Society as part of a four- volume History of Greece. According to the author, the new edition is a completely rewritten version of the first edition (1983) and its 1991 revision. Those familiar with the book and those prescribing it as a textbook may need to take note only of the improvements. Particularly new are a chapter on Argos (pp. 75-88, receiving fourteen pages of attention compared to the seven pages devoted to Sparta, although the latter is a recurrent theme throughout the book), and a replacement of the previous section on the Peloponnesian War (pp. 150- 209). The work now has nineteen chapters to the previous eighteen, but they are in some cases named differently: for example, an 'Introduction' (pp. 1-8) replaces the old heading 'Xerxes' Legacy', 'Athens Imposes her Will' has become 'Empire' (pp. 19-38). Chapters are internally supplied with sub-headings to improve readability. The bibliography (pp. 348-70 -- the previous editions had separate bibliographies to the various chapters) and comprehensive set of endnotes (pp. 314-47) are updated to include works published up to the year 2001, and the index has been expanded with sub-entries for easier reference. The font type has a fresh, modern appearance, and the six beautifully redrawn maps greatly improve those of the previous editions. The text is interspersed with numerous high quality black-and-white illustrations (the photograph of Delphi on p. 21 is reversed). Finally, the book sports an attractive new cover photograph of a marble bust of Athena, perhaps indicating the dominant role which the city of Athens still occupies, despite the author's claim to be 'even less parochially Athenian' in his approach to classical Greece than in previous versions (p. xv). This is of course a praiseworthy ideal, but for obvious reasons difficult to realize, even more so when the approach in the first part of the book remains largely within the confines of the Thucydidean perspective.

Taking the Persian defeat of 480/79 BC as starting point, Hornblower treats the beginning of the Delian League (pp. 9-18) from the perspective of how the Athenians became independent of Sparta, and how they proceeded to create an empire (pp. 19-38). Chapters on South Italy and Sicily, treated as a unit (pp. 39- 56), Kyrene and Egypt (pp. 57-65), the Persian Empire in Asia Minor before the war (pp. 66-74), Argos, and the mainland regions of Macedon, Thessaly and Boiotia (pp. 89-102), are a consequence of the attempt to be more even-handed in dealing with Greece at large, but one cannot avoid the feeling that even these serve as mere back-drop to the Peloponnesian War, to Hornblower the pivotal point in the history of the era (pp. 150-52). The same criticism applies to the chapters on Corinth (pp. 111-15), Sparta (pp. 116-23) and Athens (pp. 124-49), but may be tempered when the presentation is regarded as flowing from another design of the author, namely to cast the history of the era in a narrative mould (p. xvi). After sections on the Peloponnesian War (pp. 150-83) and its effects (pp. 184-209) follow discussions of the Corinthian War (pp. 210-26), the King's Peace and the Second Athenian Confederacy (pp. 227-45). The history between the Spartan defeat at Leucra, the revolt of the satraps and the battle of Mantineia (pp. 246-60) are treated before attention finally shifts to Macedon and the figures of Philip (pp. 261-82) and Alexander (pp. 283-312). The study ends with Alexander's Indian conquest.

Writing a comprehensive history for the purpose of an undergraduate textbook[[1]] is an act of bravery for which the academic world ought to be grateful. One cannot but wonder, though, whether coverage of the whole classical Greek world between the covers of a single volume is still viable. It would be hard to fault the author on that which he does include, but choices about inclusion and omission are difficult to make and even more so to defend. The book's title is misleading for any definition of the concept 'world' that includes more than political alliances, structures, and personalities, settled by power struggles and military campaigns. Of course, Hornblower takes his cue from the ancient historians themselves, employing other sources mostly to fill the gaps, to corroborate or to criticize the views of his ancient counterparts. To mention but one example: the treatment of 'elite values and democratic ideology' consists of a mere two pages, devoted exclusively to athletic glory and horse breeding (pp. 140f.). The reader must rely on -- admittedly abundant -- asides for observations on social aspects, religious and cultural activities, women, slaves, and the like. Within his paradigm, however, Hornblower writes with authority and skill. He treats his sources, Thucydides in particular, like intimate old friends, with circumspect understanding and anticipation of their slants and omissions.[[2]] Involving the reader in weighing the evidence, he thoroughly respects the ancient authors for the often obscured windows they are, but nonetheless forces open a view on that particular aspect of the ancient Greek world deemed important by the canons of traditional Ancient History.

Hornblower's excellence as historian, and his wide and responsible use of sources, together with an attractive packaging, reestablishes the book's position as a benchmark for histories of this particular category. It is packed to the brim, not merely with historical information, but with an abundance of erudite observations about the 'Greek World', its sources and what and how they communicate. The book's lingering effect is one of astonishment about the varied, rich, and complex world of the ancient Greeks about which our sources allow extraction.


[[1]] If that is indeed the purpose. Even advanced undergraduates would in my view experience difficulties in distinguishing between core and periphery. This problem is aggravated by Hornblower's continuous discussion of the sources themselves within the text, a strength in itself, but giving the work a schizophrenic tension between being a textbook and scholarship aimed at a specialist readership.

[[2]] Cf. p. 46: 'Diodorus' information then was possibly false, but his insight was correct' -- one of numerous such observations.