1) Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History

1) Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece – Robin Waterfield
Oxford University Press | 2018 | EPUB

“We Greeks are one in blood and one in language; we have temples to the gods and religious rites in common, and a common way of life.” So the fifth-century historian Herodotus has some Athenians declare, in explanation of why they would never betray their fellow Greeks to the enemy, the “barbarian” Persians. And he might have added further common features, such as clothing, foodways, and political institutions. But if the Greeks knew that they were kin, why did many of them side with the Persians against fellow Greeks, and why, more generally, is ancient Greek history so often the history of internecine wars and other forms of competition with one another? This is the question acclaimed historian Robin Waterfield sets out to explore in this magisterial history of ancient Greece.

With more information, more engagingly presented, than any similar work, this is the best single-volume account of ancient Greece in more than a generation. Waterfield gives a comprehensive narrative of seven hundred years of history, from the emergence of the Greeks around 750 BCE to the Roman conquest of the last of the Greco-Macedonian kingdoms in 30 BCE. Equal weight is given to all phases of Greek history — the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods. But history is not just facts; it is also a matter of how we interpret the evidence. Without compromising the readability of the book, Waterfield incorporates the most recent scholarship by classical historians and archaeologists and asks his readers to think critically about Greek history. A brilliant, up-to-date account of ancient Greece, suitable for history buffs and university students alike, Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens presents a compelling and comprehensive story of this remarkable civilization’s disunity, underlying cultural solidarity, and eventual political unification.

2) By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire – Ian Worthington
Oxford University Press | 2014 | PDF

Alexander the Great, arguably the most exciting figure from antiquity, waged war as a Homeric hero and lived as one, conquering native peoples and territories on a superhuman scale. From the time he invaded Asia in 334 to his death in 323, he expanded the Macedonian empire from Greece in the west to Asia Minor, the Levant, Egypt, Central Asia and “India” (Pakistan and Kashmir) in the east. Although many other kings and generals forged empires, Alexander produced one that was without parallel, even if it was short-lived.

And yet, Alexander could not have achieved what he did without the accomplishments of his father, Philip II (r. 359-336). It was Philip who truly changed the course of Macedonian history, transforming a weak, disunited, and economically backward kingdom into a military powerhouse. A warrior king par excellence, Philip left Alexander with the greatest army in the Greek world, a centralized monarchy, economic prosperity, and a plan to invade Asia.

For the first time, By the Spear offers an exhilarating military narrative of the reigns of these two larger-than-life figures in one volume. Ian Worthington gives full breadth to the careers of father and son, showing how Philip was the architect of the Macedonian empire, which reached its zenith under Alexander, only to disintegrate upon his death. By the Spear also explores the impact of Greek culture in the East, as Macedonian armies became avatars of social and cultural change in lands far removed from the traditional sphere of Greek influence. In addition, the book discusses the problems Alexander faced in dealing with a diverse subject population and the strategies he took to what might be called nation building, all of which shed light on contemporary events in culturally dissimilar regions of the world. The result is a gripping and unparalleled account of the role these kings played in creating a vast empire and the enduring legacy they left behind.

3) The Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece – Jennifer T. Roberts
Oxford University Press | 2017 | PDF

In 431 BC, the long simmering rivalry between the city-states of Athens and Sparta erupted into open warfare, and for more than a generation the two were locked in a life-and-death struggle. The war embroiled the entire Greek world, provoking years of butchery previously unparalleled in ancient Greece. Whole cities were exterminated, their men killed, their women and children enslaved. While the war is commonly believed to have ended with the capture of the Athenian navy in 405 and the subsequent starvation of Athens, fighting in Greece would continue for several decades. Sparta’s authority was challenged in the so-called Corinthian War (395-387) when Persian gold helped unite Athens with Sparta’s former allies. The war did not truly end until, in 371, Thebes’ crack infantry resoundingly defeated Sparta at Leuctra, forever shattering the myth of Spartan military supremacy.

Jennifer Roberts’ rich narrative of this famous conflict is the first general history to tell the whole story, from the war’s origins down to Sparta’s defeat at Leuctra. In her masterful account, this long and bloody war affected every area of life in Athens, exacerbated divisions between rich and poor in Sparta, and sparked civil strife throughout the Greek world. Yet despite the biting sorrows the fighting occasioned, it remains a gripping saga of plots and counter-plots, murders and lies, thrilling sea chases and desperate overland marches, missed opportunities and last-minute reprieves, and, as the war’s first historian Thucydides had hoped, lessons for a less bellicose future. In addition, Roberts considers the impact of the war on Greece’s cultural life, including the great masterworks of tragedy and comedy performed at this time and, most infamously, the trial and execution of Socrates. A fast-paced narrative of one of antiquity’s most famous clashes, The Plague of War is a must-read for history enthusiasts of all ages.

4) Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece – Robin Waterfield
Oxford University Press | 2014 | PDF

The 53-year period Polybius had in mind stretched from the start of the Second Punic War in 219 BCE until 167, when Rome overthrew the Macedonian monarchy and divided the country into four independent republics. This was the crucial half-century of Rome’s spectacular rise to imperial status, but Roman interest in its eastern neighbors began a little earlier, with the First Illyrian War of 229, and climaxed later with the infamous destruction of Corinth in 146.

Taken at the Flood chronicles this momentous move by Rome into the Greek east. Until now, this period of history has been overshadowed by the threat of Carthage in the west, but events in the east were no less important in themselves, and Robin Waterfield’s account reveals the peculiar nature of Rome’s eastern policy. For over seventy years, the Romans avoided annexation so that they could commit their military and financial resources to the fight against Carthage and elsewhere. Though ultimately a failure, this policy of indirect rule, punctuated by periodic brutal military interventions and intense diplomacy, worked well for several decades, until the Senate finally settled on more direct forms of control.

Waterfield’s fast-paced narrative focuses mainly on military and diplomatic maneuvers, but throughout he interweaves other topics and themes, such as the influence of Greek culture on Rome, the Roman aristocratic ethos, and the clash between the two best fighting machines the ancient world ever produced: the Macedonian phalanx and Roman legion. The result is an absorbing account of a critical chapter in Rome’s mastery of the Mediterranean.

5) The Wars of the Maccabees: The Jewish Struggle for Freedom, 167-37 BC – John D. Grainger
Pen and Sword | 2012 | EPUB

By the early second century BC, Israel had long been under the rule of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. But the policy of deliberate Hellenization and suppression of Jewish religious practices by Antiochus IV, sparked a revolt in 167 BC which was led initially by Judah Maccabee and later by his brothers and their descendants. Relying on guerrilla tactics the growing insurrection repeatedly took on the sophisticated might of the Seleucid army with mixed, but generally successful, results, establishing the Maccabees as the Hasmonean Dynasty of rulers over a once-more independent Israel. (It is Judah Maccabee’s ritual cleansing of the Temple after his victories over the Seleucids that is celebrated by Jews every year at Hannukah). Internal disputes weakened the revived state, however, and it eventually fell victim to the Romans who replaced the Seleucids as the local superpower. John D Grainger explains the causes of the revolt and traces the course of the various campaigns of the Maccabees, first against the Seleucids and then the Romans who captured Jerusalem in 63BC and partitioned the kingdom. The last chapters consider the continued Jewish resistance to Roman rule and factional fighting, until the crowning of Herod, marked the end of the Hasmonean dynasty.