The Greek Experiment. Imperialism and Social conflict 800-400 BC.
Thames and Hudson, London, n.d.(>1974). 180p. ills. Cloth wrps. Series: Library of European Civilization. Until recently the tendency of historians to dwell on the cultural achievements of ancient Greece has obscured other aspects of the Greek experience. Most importantly, the Greek city state, the polis, romanticized since Plato and Aristotle as an ideal social unit for mankind, is now seen to have been politically a failure. Its history is one of disunity within states and between them, while its inflexibility prevented the Greeks from adapting successfully to the challenges of rapid population growth, trade and colonization. Political and social chaos were endemic, and by the fourth century BC not even the descending armies of Philip of Macedon could force the Greek cities to stand together. In this survey of four centuries of Greek history Dr Littman concentrates on the factors which engendered this disunity. He investigates the Greek character and the development of the city-state system, discusses the drive to colonization and its effects, and focuses on the internal stresses which existed within most Greek states. The result is a fascinating and unusually objective study, in which the author highlights the flaws that lay at the heart of Greek political and social life while never forgetting that the very factors which produced them also fostered an unequalled cultural and intellectual flowering. (Publisher's information).