Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece

Paul Cartledge. Abrams, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4683-1606-3
Historian Cartledge (Democracy: A Life) explores the mythic origins and enduring legacy of the ancient Greek city of Thebes in this comprehensive account. Though frequently overshadowed by rival city-states Athens and Sparta, Thebes played an integral role in the achievements and culture of ancient Greece, according to Cartledge, who brings the city back to life through the myths of Oedipus and Heracles, the dramas of Pindar and Sophocles, and the histories of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, and Plutarch. Cartledge also notes that, though Thebes committed the treacherous act of “medism” by siding with Persia in its invasion of Greece in 480 BCE, Theban soldiers fought alongside the Spartan army at the Battle of Thermopylae. Liberated from Athenian rule by Sparta’s victory in the Peloponnesian War, Thebes became the “single greatest power and power broker of mainland Greece” between 371 and 362 BCE, Cartledge writes. Though it was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 335 BCE, Thebes was eventually refounded and flourished in relative peace under Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule. Cartledge concludes with an illustrative rundown of Theban influences on Western culture, including Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the theories of Sigmund Freud. Diving deep into centuries’ worth of scholarship, Cartledge manages to make the ancient world accessible to modern readers. This deeply informed and richly detailed chronicle restores Thebes to its rightful place in history. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/24/2020
Release date: 08/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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