• Thebes

  • The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece
  • By: Paul Cartledge
  • Narrated by: David Timson
  • Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (115 ratings)

Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks, and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Plus plan is $7.95 a month after 30 day trial. Upgrade or cancel anytime.
Thebes  By  cover art

Thebes

By: Paul Cartledge
Narrated by: David Timson
Try for $0.00

$7.95 a month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $24.47

Buy for $24.47

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

The riveting, definitive account of the ancient Greek city of Thebes, by the acclaimed author of The Spartans.

Among the extensive writing available about the history of ancient Greece, there is precious little about the city-state of Thebes. At one point the most powerful city in ancient Greece, Thebes has been long overshadowed by its better-known rivals, Athens and Sparta. In Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece, acclaimed classicist and historian Paul Cartledge brings the city vividly to life and argues that it is central to our understanding of the ancient Greeks' achievements - whether politically or culturally - and thus to the wider politico-cultural traditions of western Europe, the Americas, and indeed the world.

From its role as an ancient political power, to its destruction at the hands of Alexander the Great as punishment for a failed revolt, to its eventual restoration by Alexander's successor, Cartledge deftly chronicles the rise and fall of the ancient city. He recounts the history with deep clarity and mastery for the subject and makes clear both the differences and the interconnections between the Thebes of myth and the Thebes of history. Written in clear prose and illustrated with images, Thebes is a gripping listen for students of ancient history and those looking to experience the real city behind the myths of Cadmus, Hercules, and Oedipus.

©2020 Paul Cartledge (P)2020 Blackstone Publishing
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Thebes

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    68
  • 4 Stars
    29
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    76
  • 4 Stars
    13
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    54
  • 4 Stars
    24
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Why is this author considered an expert scholar of Ancient Greece?

This is the second Paul Cartledge book I’ve read and as the saying goes: Fool me twice, shame on me.
My criticism is purely along academic and somewhat esoteric philosophical lines, though. The man can write very well. His clear prose flows smoothly and effectively enough to be entertaining. But he’s always in the way of his own narrative —he can’t resist adding his own witty(ish) subjective commentaries into what is largely a re-telling of ancient sources. Some might say this livens the material. I think it’s an irritating distraction, not least because his affected and often borderline offensive air of English bigotry. He calls all Persian attributes “oriental” for example, and does so with a relish that seems woefully out of place and willfully racist in a distinctly English way.
But even more problematic are his errors. He makes a lot of them. Perhaps worst here in his broad overview of the Persian wars. He makes mistakes no one should make and he does so at the cost of extremely important historical context (i.e. Athens refusing the generous Persian offers of monies and territories in exchange for free passage across their territory and then their tremendous sacrifice of leaving their polis to the mercy of Persian invasion. It was this astonishing act of Greek solidarity that set the tone both for the ultimate Greek victory but also for everything that came after. He doesn’t even mention it in passing)
The other annoying omission is his bizarrely subjective take on Thermopylae —which he has apparently and sadly written a whole book about... just one example of his failure would be a grossly negligent choice to ignore the fact that Sparta knew they were sending a suicide squad. Leonidas was only there to slow the Persians down and give the allies time to muster, further south. That this author does not acknowledge this is beneath contempt.

How do men like this get published and hold high positions in our academic institutions? It galls me.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Really wish we could reply to reviews

I really hate how Amazon doesn't let us reply or comment on reviews here.

This is in response to the top review of this page which is woefully ignorant of many of the terms it employs, particularly the phrase 'historical context.'

Athens did not refuse any 'generous Persian offers of money or territory.' This is post-war Athenian propaganda. A big part of the point of the Persian Invasions of Greece was to explicitly punish Athens for the Ionian Revolt and the burning of Sardis. Why would you bribe a power you hated with more power? Weird right? Well, that's probably why it never happened which is precisely why Cartledge never mentions it. Why would a great scholar pay lip service to something that didn't happen?

Just because Athens would go on to claim credit for saving Greece doesn't mean we should believe them. Persia wouldn't attempt to bribe Athens until much later, decades after the invasions. By that point, Athens appeared a defeated power and Sparta was the one the Persians were viewing as a thorn in their side. Reestablishing the fallen Athenian Empire seemed like a good idea at the time, but not during the invasions.

Most of central Greece (what we now see as modern Greece) refused Persia's offers to surrender, at least until the Persians were at their doorstep. That's why Leonidas marched to Thermopylae with thousands of men behind him. Cartledge doesn't have a subjective take on Thermopylae, rather the public at large does. We remember Leonidas and his 300 fighting a hopeless last stand. We forget this was the end of a military disaster. Leonidas did not march to Thermopylae to die, and it is grossly incorrect to claim the Spartan contingent was a 'suicide squad.' The Greeks planned to win at Thermopylae and they had a solid plan; stall the Persian Army's southern advance until the fighting season ended. They assumed, probably correctly, that if they did this Xerxes would be forced to leave Greece. It took years to mount the invasion. He likely wouldn't ever muster the massive resources to make another attempt.

Just because the Spartans decided decades later that Thermopylae was a great victory doesn't mean we should believe them. Thermoplyae was a disaster for the Greeks. Leonidas was a brave man. So were the Spartans and Thespians who stayed to die with him. Their rear guard action let the main Greek army escape and fight another day. But Spartan and her allies abandoned mainland Greece to its fate after this defeat. They preferred to hide behind the Isthmus of Corinth and reattempt the Thermopylae strategy there. Athens would have to blackmail the Greek allies by threatening to surrender to Persia and take it's navy to Xerxes side to force them to come out and fight. This would be the second time Athens did that. The first was when it threatened to surrender to Persia to get the Greeks to fight in northern Greece to begin with.

These matters of context are a big part of why this book and more like it are needed. Our view of Classical Greece is dominated by the Athenians and the Spartans. It's not surprising. Most of the sources that survived to our age were written by exiled and expatriated Athenians who disliked the Democracy and viewed Sparta as an enlightened aristocracy. Both cities, for reasons that are still very obscure, viewed Thebes as a 'bad egg.' And it's Thebes this book is about. Thebes who, along with many Boetian city-states, sided with Persia. Thebes who opposed the rise of Athens and vied to rival Corinth and Sparta. Thebes, who despite defeating Spartan on the cusp of the Hellenic Age, has largely been forgotten in time alongside many other Greek cities who were not prolific writers like Athens.

Cartlidge is very much something of a living relic. He has an old sort of sensibility and it comes through here. It's charming at times, a bit vividly out of time and place in others. The narrator seems to specifically want that to shine through, so take it for what it's worth. Cartledge's efforts are worth something. Herakles, Plutarch, Hesiod, Oedipus. I'll bet you know those names, but did you know that Thebes looms large in their stories and lives? Historians and archaeologists have fought a long and uphill battle to peel away thousands of years of cultural memory and a spotty historical record to look beyond Sparta and Athens. The cultural memory of those two great cities gets so many basic elements of the past wrong. That's precisely why this is a pleasant book. If it has any weakness, it's that it's not long enough, it ends too soon and barely discusses Thebes' apogee in the wake of their defeat of the Spartans, and often struggles to work around the holes in our knowledge of Thebes, holes Cartlidge doesn't come out and admit to his small discredit. Particularly, much of Thebes' early history is hard to see. How it became the black sheep of the central Greek powers, even more so. This reputation seems to have been in place very early, before the Classical age. Those weakness admitted, we're not exactly spoiled for choice on this topic. Cartlidge does his best though with what he has, and it makes this book a good overview. I would say it is written to a degree on the assumption that the audience already has a base of knowledge in the Classical era, but it shouldn't be a problem as long as you don't assume you know more than you really do.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

terrific study of a city list in time

I never knew all this and it turned out to be a remarkable study not only of Thebes but of classical Greece. I half-knew a lot of this stuff but he tied it all together.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good work, but has a lot of holes

I enjoyed the reading and gleaned a lot of information I had missed in my study of Thebes. However, skipping the Theban hegemony almost completely was incredibly disappointing.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

very informative

I got a lot more information out of this book then I origami thought I would I learned a lot about things I knew nothing about. that's why I enjoy reading books like this it took me longer than I wanted to finish but I read over it a few times but it shows times never change man will always be locked in the same issues with war and peace.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Not an Easy Listen

I can’t put my finger on it, but I felt at times like this narrator might as well have been speaking a different language. Good narrations just seem to ‘download’ the information in the text automatically to my brain, whereas with this release, I kept having to remind myself to pay attention. Little things like a pause between ‘athenian’ and ‘domination’ would get my brain focused on the first word, like broad aspects of athenian culture, geography, etc., and then I would have to reroute my thoughts toward ‘domination’, and then that small slice of time playing catch-up would result in losing whatever information came next. It would just be easier to string ‘athenian domination’ together. This is just one example, but similar things kept happening to the point where I realized that I’d just have to read this text the old fashioned way.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

lovely book on forgotten Thebes!

loved it and very happy with narration, I recommend to those Greek history lovers. You will not regret it!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and well written

The story of ancient Thebes is presented in a well- researched and well- written presentation such that a clear and easily understood rendition. Highly recommended.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Possible error

I believe there is one possible error, which I noticed. Cassander is the son of Antipater, not Antigonus Monopthalmus. Demetrius Poliorcetes is the son of Antigonus Monopthalmus, whose son was Antigonus Gonatas, who bequeathed the family name to the Antigonid successor kingdom.