From Alexander to Cleopatra : the Hellenistic world

by Michael Grant

Paper Book, 1982




New York : Collier Books, 1990, c1982.

User reviews

LibraryThing member zette
(History Book Club Edition, 1982)

I have never been disappointed with a book by historian Michael Grant, and this one lived up to all expectations. I knew bits and pieces about the Hellenistic age, but this book did a masterful job of pulling it all together, with separate sections on history, art and culture.

Grant has a masterful hand for making history understandable. This section of Greek history -- between the death of Alexander and the rise of Rome -- is an area filled with an incredible amount of diversity as the Successors took their areas of Alexander's Empire and made them into bastions of Greek culture in foreign lands. One of the most interesting was the short-lived Bactrian lands in northern India, where Greek influence held out, cut off from all the other Greek-held lands, for some time. And, of course, the Ptolemy Empire in Egypt, from start to finish, is always fascinating.

It was a mesmerizing time to study about, filled with experimentation in art and philosophy as the Greeks came into contact with other powerful nations and began to adopt and adapt what they learned. The confluence of so many inputs created a diversity of thought and imagination that blossomed so quickly that it was difficult for anyone to keep up with the changes.

This book is well worth reading for an overview of the Hellenistic Age that doesn't skimp on details and lays out everything so that it's easy to follow the history of each section. I highly recommend reading it for anyone who is interested in the time period.
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LibraryThing member tnilsson
I've greatly enjoyed similar books by other authors about the Roman and the Byzantine ages. And I looked forward to learning more from this book about the Hellenistic age. But the book never captured my attention. The introduction moves much too quickly, creating a veritable whirlwind of people, places, and events. While that may be okay for an introduction, that whirlwind never settles down much throughout the remainder of the book.

To give the author credit, I did get the feeling that he knows his subject matter very well. But I got the impression that no one knows as much about the people during the Hellenistic age as we do about the Romans or Byzantines, presumably making it difficult for any author to paint a very deep picture of anyoen who lived during this age or why they acted as they did.

So while my displeasure with this book may be due to our lack of knowledge about the people portrayed in the book, in the end, I felt it was little more than a running recitation of names and events with little effort to bring those people alive in a way that distinguished one actor in this drama from another or that helped me understood why the events mentioned took place and why they were important.
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