From Democrats to Kings (Paperback)
The Downfall of Athens to the Epic Rise of Alexander the Great
Share this book
Athens, 404 BC. The Democratic city-state has been ravaged by a long and bloody war with neighbouring Sparta. The search for scapegoats begins and Athens, liberty's beacon in the ancient world, turns its sword on its own way of life. Civil war and much bloodshed ensue.
Defining moments of Greek history, culture, politics, religion and identity are debated ferociously in Athenian board rooms, back streets and battlefields. By 323 BC, less than 100 years later, Athens and the rest of Greece, not to mention a large part of the known world, has come under the control of an absolute monarch, a master of self-publicity and a model for despots for millennia to come: 'megas alexandros', Alexander the Great.
Michael Scott, Finley Fellow in Ancient History at Darwin College, Cambridge, explores the dramatic and little-known story of how the ancient world was turned on its head from Democratic Athens to King Alexander the Great in this superb example of popular history writing. From Democrats to Kings also gives us a fresh take on the similar challenges we face today in the 21st century – a world in which many democracies – old and new – fight for survival, in which war-time and peace-time have become indistinguishable and in which the severity of the economic crisis is only matched by a crisis in our own sense of self.
England's answer to Indiana Jones.
The period after the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC often gets passed over by historians, so it is great to have Michael Scott's lively account of a period that has its own fascinations. States rose and fell, brilliant generals had their moments of glory, ill-considered foreign expeditions crashed to defeat. Lots of lessons for today. When the Greek states failed to get their acts together, the brilliant Philip of Macedon sorted them out. Scott's vivid narrative takes us through Alexander and then into the kingdoms that followed. Perhaps the Hellenistic period will be his next subject. It has just the sort of drama and big personalities that grip his, and our, imaginations so I hope he considers a follow-up as entertaining as this one.
Dr Michael Scott, a research fellow at Cambridge, is making a big splash with his first book – it is on a major historical theme, the transformation of ancient Greek political practice and public discourse from a broadly democratic to a largely monarchical frame, and the storyline is handled with verve and original insights. The treatment is as accessible and punchy as its chapter-titles – 'The Vegetarian Philosopher and the Body-Building Philanthropist' is one of the tamer ones – and a wide readership cannot fail to be entertained as well as instructed about a world that is both familiar and alien, modern as well as ancient.
You never know what you're going to get on a 'budget' tour of mythological Greece, but there was nothing cut-price when it came to Michael's knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject. He was able to bring to life the story behind the statues, temples, sites and myths of a long-gone civilisation, and present it with a freshness and relevance to contemporary society.
A real-life Indiana Jones.
An admirably written chapter from the past that illustrates history's ability constantly, often tragically, to repeat itself.
Deft and accessible overview of one of the most crucial periods in Western history, covering from the fall of Athens to the rise of Alexander by Cambridge research fellow Scott.
I really enjoyed Michael Scott's DEMOCRATS TO KINGS – fascinating and exuberant on Ancient Athens, bringing their politics to life and right up to date, making Ancient Greece relevant for today.