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Publisher's Summary

Continuously inhabited for five millennia and at one point the most powerful city in ancient Greece, Thebes has been overshadowed by its better-known rivals, Athens and Sparta. 

According to myth, the city was founded when Kadmos sowed dragon’s teeth into the ground and warriors sprang forth, ready not only to build the fledgling city but to defend it from all comers.  

It was Hercules’ birthplace and the home of the Sphinx, whose riddle Oedipus solved, winning the Theban crown and the king’s widow in marriage, little knowing that the widow was his mother, Jocasta.

The city’s history is every bit as rich as its mythic origins, from siding with the Persian invaders when their emperor, Xerxes, set out to conquer Aegean Greece, to siding with Sparta - like Thebes an oligarchy - to defeat Pericles' democratic Athens, to being utterly destroyed on the orders of Alexander the Great.

In Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece, the acclaimed classical historian Paul Cartledge brings the city vividly to life and argues that it is central to our understanding of the ancient Greeks’ achievements - whether politically or culturally - and thus to our own culture and civilisation.

©2020 Paul Cartledge (P)2020 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

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  • David
  • 22-11-2020

Excellent general account, poor readibg

The pronunciation of Greek names and places is truly awful. The book itself is a good general account of the history of Thebes and for anyone who has already read Thucydides but is less familiar with the playwrights like Sophocles and Aeschylus, Cartledge marshals their evidence very effectively, in addition to the odd snippets of epigraphy, although it rather lapses into Athenocentric history of the wars of 431-404.

I hope, however, that it does not seem undue criticism to disparage the pronunciation of proper nouns. “Simon” for “Kimon”, “Calsis” for “Khalkis” and my twin pet hates “Desealian” for “Decelean” and the indescribable way that Tegea is pronounced. Now, anyone with a passing familiarity knows the eclectic way in which classical Greek is transliterated into English, usually being latinised with K’s written as C’s. We don’t say “Thoukydides” generally, we use a soft “c” and say Thucydides, so common usage is inconsistent, but but that’s just no excuse for the truly ignorant pronunciations here.

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