Ancient civilisations fascinate me – from the Romans, to the Egyptians, to the Inca and Mayan – and of course – the Ancient Greeks. It goes beyond ‘how the hell did they survive without power’ or ‘how do you communicate across continents when communication is less than pigeon post’ – but for me it’s a bit more about day to day life.
How did women spend their day? What did they eat for breakfast? What kind of outerlayers would they wear when it got a bit chilly?
A slightly unusual view, but because of this, I always like to learn about the history of the people within places before I go. Knowing that I was heading to Greece in a few weeks, I decided to pick up this brief history rather than trying to plough through one of the many depressing tragedies or attempt to get through ‘The Odyssey’ or ‘The Iliad’.
It was an interesting read – brief enough to keep me mildly entertained (while rather verbose in style that meant that I had to tell myself to not skimread…).
Bits of it surprised me – particularly the concept of Greek politics within city states and that democracy was implemented in a sense back in the 6th Century. I find myself comparing to Greeks then and now, and the current state and financial climate and wonder were they not better off back then?
Maybe it’s the English style of writing (or the fact that it felt in a verbose sense like I was being talked down to by a professor, with him expecting me to keep up with every step – and me nodding and smiling while only catching 3 out of 4 sentences) but they come across as so incredibly civilised. I mean they ‘invented’ (if that’s the right word) drama, they developed philosophy based on reason and inquiry, creating an incredibly in depth religion attempting to answer questions man at the time couldn’t. Their influence on not only society at the time but also how this has filtered through even to modern society cannot be ignored.
Back to the book – well, iIguess it gave me such an interesting (albeit short) insight into ancient greek life, it made a lot of my travel quite a bit more interesting – so I really should give a positive two thumbs up. It particularly sparked my interest in a day I spent in Heraklion in Crete – looking through the town, heading out to Knossos, and seeing the Phaistos disk in the museum. I’ve spent a bit of time since looking through Wikipedia and should really read more specifically about their various historical periods before I head back sometime next year…