Book reviews: Ancient Greece | James Cook


THE "glory that was Greece" was not just singular, but of its essence, plural – myriad, even: in a thousand self-governing city-states a thousand flowers bloomed. That's the beauty of Paul Cartledge's approach: he traces the emergence of Greek consciousness and civilisation via lively essays on 11 different cities. Rather than hopping straight from the Minoans to Mycenae, and on to Periclean Athens, he stops to consider such archaic centres as Argos and Miletus, as well as overseas colonies like Massalia and Syracuse. It says something about how Athens-skewed our appreciation has been that even in these short sketches we find so much that seems new about Sparta and Thebes, for example, or the later flowerings of centres such as Byzantion and Alexandria. Even on Athens, though, Cartledge has much that is fresh and stimulating to say.



(Thames & Hudson, 27.50)

"IS CAPTAIN Cook still alive?" a native of Vanuatu recently asked in all seriousness. The explorer is very much a living presence in the imagination of the Pacific's peoples. In these more northerly latitudes, too, he has had a continuing (albeit increasingly controversial) fame, but the scale of his achievements has been lost to sight. This beautifully illustrated, ambitiously wide-ranging book goes a long way towards setting the record straight, considering Cook's exploits in the context of their own time and re-examining them from the perspective of our own. The Enlightenment's answer to the moon landing, these voyages opened up the world to itself, introducing north to south, transforming things for discoverers and discovered alike, for better and for worse.