With a title as general as this, you can imagine that there is going to be a boatload of history offered in this book. Just choosing either Greece or Rome could fill volumes, so it is easy to appreciate the task author Tony Spawforth set for himself.
I chose to read this book because my knowledge in this area of history was limited to a few of the main stories – The Trojan Horse, King Leonidas and the 300, etc. – and I wished to fill in all the blanks. Mr. Spawforth’s book was more than sufficient to fulfill this goal. The history moved back and forth between Greece and Rome, first telling of Greece until a certain point in history before switching to what Rome was doing during that same time period. At times the focus switched to another country and the effect that country had on Greece or Rome.
The pace was quick, slow enough for me to grasp the essentials but fast enough to keep the book moving at a steady pace. The author did not overfill the book with every tedious detail. He gave me enough facts to understand without inflicting sensory overload. I also appreciated that Mr. Spawforth did not insist on pushing his own historic agenda. If historians were not in agreement about a moment in history, the author explained both sides without interjecting his personal feelings. Thus, I felt I received a fair and balanced account.
Mr. Spawforth told the story in a conversational style, as if we were sitting around and he was relating this incredible tale of what had gone before. Rather than place footnotes at the bottom of each page, much of the supporting background was mentioned in the text. This enabled me to learn while receiving verification at the same time. This method certainly made the retelling livelier, warding off the feeling of reading some stuffy college textbook.
Those who are not interested in history may find this a difficult book to read. Although there are tales of action and intrigue, there are also descriptions of the art, engineering, education, methods of government, and all those things that can cause history to be a fascinating subject, which is more than enough for those of us who seek knowledge and enlightenment about the people and countries that came before. Five stars.
My thanks to NetGalley and Yale University Press for an advance complimentary ebook of this title.