The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (The Princeton History of the Ancient World)

The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (The Princeton History of the Ancient World)

Josiah Ober

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0691173141

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Lord Byron described Greece as great, fallen, and immortal, a characterization more apt than he knew. Through most of its long history, Greece was poor. But in the classical era, Greece was densely populated and highly urbanized. Many surprisingly healthy Greeks lived in remarkably big houses and worked for high wages at specialized occupations. Middle-class spending drove sustained economic growth and classical wealth produced a stunning cultural efflorescence lasting hundreds of years.

Why did Greece reach such heights in the classical period--and why only then? And how, after "the Greek miracle" had endured for centuries, did the Macedonians defeat the Greeks, seemingly bringing an end to their glory? Drawing on a massive body of newly available data and employing novel approaches to evidence, Josiah Ober offers a major new history of classical Greece and an unprecedented account of its rise and fall.

Ober argues that Greece's rise was no miracle but rather the result of political breakthroughs and economic development. The extraordinary emergence of citizen-centered city-states transformed Greece into a society that defeated the mighty Persian Empire. Yet Philip and Alexander of Macedon were able to beat the Greeks in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, a victory made possible by the Macedonians' appropriation of Greek innovations. After Alexander's death, battle-hardened warlords fought ruthlessly over the remnants of his empire. But Greek cities remained populous and wealthy, their economy and culture surviving to be passed on to the Romans--and to us.

A compelling narrative filled with uncanny modern parallels, this is a book for anyone interested in how great civilizations are born and die.

This book is based on evidence available on a new interactive website. To learn more, please visit:


















east and north to Thrace (modern Bulgaria), to the shores of the Black Sea and western Anatolia; then south to eastern and southern 6 E f f l or e sc e nc e of C l a ssic a l Gr e ec e outposts in Syria and North Africa (map 1). By Alexander’s day, the total population of Hellas—­that is, the residents of small states that were substantially Greek in language and culture—­was in excess of 8 million people.14 Individual Greek states varied tremendously in their size and influence. Athens,

Player 322 XI P r e fa c e I live in exceptional times. I can take for granted a global order defined by many independent states, some of them wealthy democratic federations governed ultimately by their citizens. Freedom, equality, and dignity are widely shared values. In states where citizens keep rulers in check, public authority protects individual rights and the rule of law pertains most of the time. These political conditions promote economic growth. The conjunction of democratic

principal meetings).57 The key point is that both in later fifth century BCE and, a fortiori in the later fourth century, Athenians who were engaged in unskilled as well as skilled labor (at least on construction of state-­sponsored buildings) were paid wages sufficient to elevate them to a decent, middling premodern standard of living: They no longer hovered at a subsistence level perilously close to bare survival. Based on data currently available, this was rare anywhere in the world before the

coordination-­promoting institutional innovations: A state that succeeded in developing a more effective way to capture the benefits of cooperation across its population gained a corresponding competitive advantage vis-­à-­vis its local rivals. Notably, as has recently been demonstrated in detail, and contrary to the “standard modern premise,” in the classical era many Greeks (and a fortiori the Athenians) had freed themselves from “the grip of the past” in that they were quite willing to embrace

Herakles. In addition to their core homeland in Laconia (also known as Lakonike, Lakedaimon), the 137 Chapter 6 Ober: Rise and Fall of Classical Greece Fig. 06-02 (Map 3) Text-Width (9-07-14 Approved) Delphi BO Corinthi Patrai an G AC u H Dyme A E Pellenelf A Chalkis EUBO Eretria E O T Thebes IA Lefkandi Plataea Marathon R I S Megara GA AT Sicyon M E Stymphalos CORIN Corinth Athens TH Isthmia Salamis Sa IA Nemea AR Aigina Mycenae CA Mantinea AR DI Argos GO ul A f Tegea Megalopolis n TI

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