The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (The Princeton History of the Ancient World)

The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (The Princeton History of the Ancient World)

Josiah Ober

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0691173141

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Lord Byron described Greece as great, fallen, and immortal, a characterization more apt than he knew. Through most of its long history, Greece was poor. But in the classical era, Greece was densely populated and highly urbanized. Many surprisingly healthy Greeks lived in remarkably big houses and worked for high wages at specialized occupations. Middle-class spending drove sustained economic growth and classical wealth produced a stunning cultural efflorescence lasting hundreds of years.

Why did Greece reach such heights in the classical period--and why only then? And how, after "the Greek miracle" had endured for centuries, did the Macedonians defeat the Greeks, seemingly bringing an end to their glory? Drawing on a massive body of newly available data and employing novel approaches to evidence, Josiah Ober offers a major new history of classical Greece and an unprecedented account of its rise and fall.

Ober argues that Greece's rise was no miracle but rather the result of political breakthroughs and economic development. The extraordinary emergence of citizen-centered city-states transformed Greece into a society that defeated the mighty Persian Empire. Yet Philip and Alexander of Macedon were able to beat the Greeks in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, a victory made possible by the Macedonians' appropriation of Greek innovations. After Alexander's death, battle-hardened warlords fought ruthlessly over the remnants of his empire. But Greek cities remained populous and wealthy, their economy and culture surviving to be passed on to the Romans--and to us.

A compelling narrative filled with uncanny modern parallels, this is a book for anyone interested in how great civilizations are born and die.

This book is based on evidence available on a new interactive website. To learn more, please visit:

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need to explain how cooperation in a Greek polis, or even between poleis, might be well enough motivated to enable the mechanism of information exchange to gain traction among many individuals who were not closely related to one another genetically and who were quite capable of distinguishing individual from common interests. 66 P ol i t ic a l A n i m a l s Mot i vat i ng Coope r at ion a mong Non r e l at i v es All ants of a given nest are daughters of the queen, either sisters or half-­

and thereby to establish themselves as an exclusive and closed order of rulers and warriors. Other Greek communities, however, rejected the claims of local elites to special status, choosing to retain, reinstate, or even to strengthen egalitarian norms that had arisen after the fall of the Bronze Age palaces. These more citizen-­centered regimes were stabilized when rules (in the form of social norms) were adopted that allowed citizens to coordinate their actions against violators (see ch. 7, on

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with fine Athenian olive oil. The symbolism was clear enough: Athens was being promoted as an exporter of specialized agricultural products, fine pottery, and high culture.56 Ci t i z e n Stat es By the middle of the sixth century BCE, much of the Greek world had moved toward citizenship. The world of the poleis had become remarkable on two dimensions of decentralization. First, there was the proliferation of a great number of peer polities within a single extensive culture zone. Next, many

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