The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great
Athens, 404 BC. The democratic city-state has been ravaged by a long and bloody war with neighbouring Sparta. Less than 100 years later, Athens and the rest of Greece, not to mention a large part of the known world, has come under the control of an absolute monarch, a master of self-publicity and a model for despots for millennia to come: ‘megas alexandros’, Alexander the Great.
Michael Scott explores the dramatic and little-known story of how the ancient world was turned on its head - from democratic Athens to King Alexander the Great - in this superb example of popular history writing.
From Democrats to Kings also gives us a fresh take on the similar challenges we face today in the 21st century, a world in which many democracies - old and new - fight for survival.
This is book is well worth listening too - even for people who think history is boring. Familiar names, Pluto, Aristotle, Socrates are brought alive. It is a great help that the author reads the text - so he is able to put the stress where he intends it to be. There are witty remarks inter-spaced throughout keeping the story interesting (although this might not be to everyone's taste). It sounds as though the author is presenting a lecture rather than reading his book out loud.
I know very little about Ancient History - not something we covered at school - apart from the Battle of Thermopolae and a sanitised version of Alexander the Great (he is only 'the Great' in European cultures - the Iranians think otherwise). The author covers the vast sweep of Greek history and the way democracy flowered and perished. The power struggle between the city states of Thebes, Athens and Sparta - there are lessons for our present day society here. Sparta declined because it would not allow outsiders to become Spartans and it's population declined because its men died in battle. It is a history of men - women didn't seem to play much of a role in public life - unless you got to be the Delphic oracle.
I find it fascinating that people 2500 years ago travelled beyond their own city when there were no metalled roads and boats would have been small. Pluto went from Athens to Scilly twice - a journey which might prove a bit of a challenge today!
What I would like to have known more about - and this is the disadvantage of an audio book - is the sources for this book. How accurate does the author think the picture he paints is? Nevertheless, it is a fascinating story and I recommend it.
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