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Josiah Ober


Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 2015, 416 pgs., index, huge bibliography, extensive notes, maps, figures


Reviewer Comments:
Dr. Ober views and discusses classical Greece in the manner proposed in his title, namely as a whole from a high observation point despite its fractionated division into hundreds (a thousand) of independent societies. Unfortunately he follows the modern way of terming all these polai as 'states' rather than as societies. Despite that terminology in his descriptions and analysis of events he treats them as the results of decisions made by individuals. But his approach enables him to bring a stronger sense of coherence to the story than one finds in many other treatments. He also uses modern sociological and political science academic tools in his analysis. For instance is his use of the term 'efflorescence' meaning the economic and cultural flourishing of the Greeks prior to the conquest by Macedon. Thus he takes the expansion of the classical period of Greek societies as a whole while also describing the unique as well as similar conditions in the major Greek societies. They recognized themselves to be locally independent while also being constituent members of a community of Greeks quite distinct from the 'barbarians' who surrounded them. Despite their agreement about being different they continually engaged in sometimes fratricidal conflicts among themselves. Their culture and economic basis reached its high point as he describes in chapter 8 "Golden age of Empire' which includes his excellent analysis of the culminating conflict that eventually led to their 'fall' to Macedon.


James Romm - Greeks and Their Gifts - a review of Dr. Ober's book in the WSJ, May 23-24 2015.




1 -The Efflorescence of Classical Greece


2 - Ants around a Pond: An Ecology of City-States


3 - Political Animals: A Theory of Decentralized Cooperation


4 - Wealthy Hellas: Measuring Efflorescence


5 - Explaining Hellas' Wealth: Fair Rules and Competition


6 - Citizens and Specialization before 550 B.C.


7 - From Tyranny to Democracy, 550 - 465 B.C.


8 - Golden Age of Empire, 478 - 404 B.C.


9 - Disorder and Growth, 403 - 340 B.C.


10 - Political Fall, 359 - 334 B.C.


11 - Creative Destruction and Immortality


Appendix I - Regions of the Greek World: Population, Size, Fame


Appendix II - King City and Elite Game


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