Thames & Hudson, £35
Review by: Matthew Symonds
The story of Greece from the Minoans to the arrival of the Romans is one of great powers rising and falling, trade networks flourishing and fading, and artistic highs set against the darker work of the arts of war. It is a story every bit as epic as the Homeric poems that overshadow the archaeology of late Bronze Age and early Iron Age Greece, and still have scholars scratching their heads about where mythology ends and history begins. Our guide through this labyrinthine subject is Prof. Jeremy McInerney from the University of Pennsylvania, who has penned an engaging personal perspective on this extraordinary period.
Throughout, the reader has the sensation of sitting in on an undergraduate course led by a gifted communicator who has deftly anticipated his audience’s questions. Results from recent excavations are repeatedly thrown into the mix, while the lavish selection of illustrations would be a boon to any lecture theatre. The end result is as fascinating as it is thought-provoking. Along the way, McInerney skewers the macho cuisine favoured by Homer’s warriors with the observation that ‘spare ribs are more heroic than salad’, and exposes Athenian democracy as little more than an old-boy network.