Scholia Reviews ns 14 (2005) 7.

Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society and Culture. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. xxiii + 360, incl. over 100 illustrations, 16 maps, a glossary and an index. ISBN 0-19-515681-1. UKú19.99

Stephen Evans
University of Turku, Finland

This is a new, abridged version of the authors' earlier book with additions, transpositions, inversions, corrections, and slightly different emphases.[[1]]

The authors have for the most part taken heed of reviewers' and readers' criticisms.[[2]] Many of the alterations are cosmetic, stylistic, or superficial, although colloquialisms have been allowed to stand. No cross-referencing has been introduced, so that Euripides is introduced solely on the merits of his tragedy Medea (p. 188), even though his Trojan Women is referred to (p. 223). An introduction has been added, incorporating elements of the earlier first chapter. From each of the twelve chapters, the opening paragraph on sources has been removed. Chapter Seven, 'Greece on the Eve of the Peloponnesian War' (pp. 166-99), has undergone considerable revision with all information on the Acropolis moved forward, and coverage of the birth of tragedy and fifth-century literature pushed backwards.

Despite the reduction in size from 512 pages in the earlier version to the present book's 360 pages, the span of history is once again extremely generous, from the Stone Age to the Battle of Actium. Few histories of Greece have such a beginning and such an end, and even fewer incorporate the most recent research in archaeology, comparative anthropology, and social history. Newer book references have been adduced, though some notable publications have been omitted.[[3]] Tips for further reading on literature are few and far between.

Multiple authorship has recently become popular in Greek historiography, with up to 27 different contributors in the same volume. This condensed version sees a more streamlined treatment of political and military history but an expanded coverage of women and family life, religion and athletics. There is new material on homosexuality in Greek culture and there are generous references to primary source material in numerous 'document boxes'.

The text has been painstakingly revised, sometimes with minor additions, such as the linguistic calques 'Parnassos' and 'melissa' backing up earlier examples, more often with lines excised or reading recommendations reduced, including the slashing of the Iliad and Odyssey as texts in translation and the end of Chapter Two. It is correct to say that this more concise, cut-and-paste version introduces the history and civilisation of ancient Greece in all its complexity and variety and steers us away from monolithic, Grotean interpretations towards multiple authorship stressing social and cultural history.


[[1]] Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, Ancient Greece: A Political, Social and Cultural History (Oxford 1998). Reviewed by Anton Jensen at

[[2]] Daniel Ogden, <i>CR</i> 50.1 (2000) 176-78, and Mischa Meier at However, their criticisms of the choice of Macedonian history books have fallen on deaf ears.

[[3]] Laconophiles will miss P. A. Cartledge's Spartan Reflections (London 2001) and S. Hodkinson and A. Powell's Sparta: New Perspectives (London 2000). Suggested readings for Chapter 11, pp. 270-93 (Alexander the Great) could have included Brill's Companion to Alexander the Great, edited by J. Roisman (Leiden 2003) and for Chapter 12, 'The New World of the Hellenistic Period' (pp.294-325), F. Chamoux' book 'Hellenistic Civilisation', translated by M. and M. Roussel (Oxford 2002) might have been mentioned.