The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History

by Greg Woolf

Hardcover, 2020



Call number



OUP Oxford (2020), 528 pages


"This book offer a new account of the ancient cities of the Mediterranean world. We are used to thinking of Athens and Rome and Alexandria as great models of urbanism, and of the ancient world itself as a world of cities. In fact cities came late to this corner of Eurasia and were almost always tiny compared to those of neighbouring regions. Greg Woolf sets the slow growth of ancient cities in the context of our species great urban adventure which began six thousand years ago. He asks why, if as a species we are pre-adapted to live in cities, the Greeks and Romans, and Phoenicians and Etruscans and all their neighbours came so late to urban life. Answering this question involves probing questions of human evolution, of Mediterranean ecology, and of ancient imperialisms. Ancient cities emerged from a mixture of accident and entrepreneurship, from local projects of state building and the whims of kings and generals. The handful of ancient mega-cities will built and sustained at enormous cost and against the ecological odds and collapse as soon as imperial powers lost the will or power to keep them going"--… (more)


Original language


Physical description

528 p.; 9.45 inches


0199664730 / 9780199664733

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