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About this book

Greek-speaking people have occupied the Aegean region continuously since the Bronze Age, while Greek culture has been a feature of the Eastern Mediterranean dating back to the Age of Alexander. But what do Greeks today have in common with Homer, Plato and Aristotle? What are the links between the people who built the Parthenon and those who currently conserve it? Drawing on the latest research into ancient, medieval and modern history, Nicholas Doumanis provides fresh and challenging insights into Greek history since early antiquity. Taking a transnational approach, Doumanis argues that the resilience of Greek culture has a great deal to do with its continual interaction with other cultures throughout the centuries.

Ideal for the undergraduate student, or anyone keen to find out more about Greek history, A History of Greece provides a unique and fascinating account of the fortunes and many transformations of Greek culture and society, from the earliest times to the present.

Table of Contents

1. Prehistory to 500 bc: Beginnings

Abstract
Historic Athens lies at the heart of a triangular-shaped plain that widens as it slopes gently towards the Saronic Gulf. The plain barely contains the modern capital’s burgeoning urban sprawl, while the four mountains (Parnes 1413 m, Pentelikon 1106 m, Hymettos 1037 m, Aegaleos 470 m) that form the landward perimeter rise so sharply that air pollution gets trapped and generates a lingering haze – Athenians have dubbed it to nefos (the Cloud). Around the centre of the plain lie a series of hills that include the cone-shaped Likavitos, which rises to 227 m above sea level and is crowned by a small, whitewashed church. The ancient city was founded a short distance away, at the foot of a 70-metre-high plateau large enough to fit a small settlement. In antiquity it served as a citadel (acropolis), but to this day the world knows it simply as the Acropolis. First-time visitors come essentially to see the Parthenon that now sits in splendid isolation on the plateau, but it is the plateau, this striking physical protrusion, where Athena and Poseidon did battle for the city, that enhances the temple’s majesty and allows it to dominate the cityscape.
Nicholas Doumanis

2. Classical Greece (500–359 bc): The Golden Age of the Polis

Abstract
In 480 bc, the Great King Xerxes (519–465 bc) marched his massive multi-ethnic army into Greece. Herodotus claims that the Persian expedition was the greatest the Greek world had ever seen: ‘For what nation of Asia did Xerxes not lead to Hellas? What body of water did his forces not drink dry except for the greatest of rivers?’ (7.20–21).1 With an estimated land force of some 100,000 men, perhaps many more, Xerxes proceeded slowly through Macedonia and Thessaly, deliberately so because he expected many poleis to capitulate without a fight, and many indeed did. However, 31 refused to yield. Led by the Spartans, these poleis engaged the enemy first at Thermopylae (literally, the ‘gates of fire’), the narrow passage to southern Greece and where Persian numbers might not be an advantage. After two days of heavy fighting, however, the Greeks abandoned the pass once the enemy had found a way to circumvent their position. A small force of 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas, along with a number of Thespians and Thebans, fought on to face inevitable death. Herodotus says of Leonidas that he ‘perceived that it would be ignoble for him to leave the pass, and that if he were to remain, he would secure lasting glory and assure that the posterity of Sparta would not be obliterated’ (7.220.2).2 After Thermopylae, the Greeks mustered more formidable numbers and managed to defeat the Persians and drive them out of Europe.
Nicholas Doumanis

3. The Hellenistic Era (359–327 bc): From Philip II to Augustus

Abstract
One of the greatest monuments of antiquity, listed among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was the great Mausoleum that dominated Halikarnassos (modern Bodrum), a major polis on the southwest shoreline of Asia Minor. As with many overseas colonies, the inhabitants of Halikarnassos were a blend of Greek and indigenous peoples: here, the local rulers actively promoted Greek and Karian culture. The Mausoleum itself was also a synthesis of different cultural influences. While it featured 36 Ionic columns and an elaborate series of sculptures to rival the Parthenon frieze, this massive structure, 45 m high with a 38.4 × 32 m base, was the tomb of Mausolus, the local satrap and effective ruler of a large region that included nearby islands and Crete. When Mausolus made Halikarnassos his capital in 370, he also had built a magnificent palace. The city also had an agora, a gymnasium, a theatre and other quintessential features of the polis; and its urban plan followed the Hippodamian grid pattern. But it was the Mausoleum that gave the city its distinction; and, although it looked Greek, it served a decidedly un-Greek function. That Mausolos could build something so ostentatious and grand was clear testimony of his enormous personal power. He was sufficiently ‘Hellenized’, as many Karians were by this stage, but Halikarnassos was as much his city as it was the community’s. The day-to-day running of the city remained in the hands of the citizenry, but they were no longer sovereign.
Nicholas Doumanis

4. The Greek Roman Empire I (27 bc–ad 500): From the Pax Romana to Late Antiquity

Abstract
Cornelius Sulla taught the Athenians a lesson they were never meant to forget. In 88 bc, Athens had thrown its support behind Mithradates of Pontus (120–63 bc), the last Hellenistic king to challenge the might of Rome, and perpetrator of a mass slaughter of Romans and Italians resident in Asia Minor. The ‘city of Theseus’ had got off lightly for previous breaches of Roman fealty, but this time it faced the wrath of the most ruthless Roman of his era, and one not particularly enamoured with things Greek. According to the biographer Plutarch (c.ad 50–120), Sulla besieged and starved the city of Athens and then he let loose his soldiers on its famine-stricken population: ‘to this day their number [the dead] is estimated by the area of ground covered in blood … many people say it flowed out through the gates and washed out into the suburbs’ (Sulla, 14).1
Nicholas Doumanis

5. The Greek Roman Empire II (c.500–1200): The Triumph of Orthodoxy

Abstract
This much was conceded to the emperor Anastasius by the great Ostrogoth King Theodoric (471–526). Although the ruler of a vast Germanic kingdom that included the city of Rome, Theodoric generously acknowledged that the East Roman Empire was the empire, and that he, at least in a nominal sense, was a mere viceroy. Until the rise of the Carolingian empire of Charlemagne in the late eighth century, western Christians, including the bishops of Rome, continued to accept the emperor in Constantinople as the ultimate sovereign.
Nicholas Doumanis

6. The Greek Oikoumene (1200–1700): Living under Frankish and Ottoman Rule

Abstract
Soon after the death of Manuel Komnenos in 1180, the Byzantine court degenerated into a farcical display of court intrigue, murder and palace coups. The esteem enjoyed by the empire under the early Komnenoi dissipated quickly as Manuel’s querulous successors allowed foreign armies to rampage through the provinces and the state to slide into bankruptcy. The Byzantine Empire finally collapsed. In 1204, Constantinople was seized and plundered by a Crusader army seeking to recoup outstanding debts; the provinces were broken up into a series of minor principalities.
Nicholas Doumanis

7. The Making of Modern Hellas (c.1700–1910): Ethnicity and State Building

Abstract
The Ottomans came to appreciate their dire predicament only belatedly, when the empire was dealt an uncharacteristically devastating defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774. The Russians attained access to the Black Sea and posed a direct threat to Constantinople. Subsequent wars had further revealed the Ottomans lacked the capacity to resist further encroachments. In fact, the empire’s fate was now a problem to be resolved by Christian European powers, and one that was to be revisited many times over: it came to be known as ‘the Eastern Question’. That the Ottoman Empire survived as long as it did was a function of the balance of power that was arranged between Christian states, which seemed to depend on keeping the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ alive.
Nicholas Doumanis

8. Greece in the Twentieth Century: The Age of Extremes

Abstract
In 1900, the great majority of Greeks inhabited a domain that could hardly be described as ‘modern’. The average person lived in a village or hamlet, where the typical family dwelling was nothing more than a single room with few amenities, and where everyday life followed timehonoured social preoccupations and cultural traditions. Since time immemorial, annual social events were fused with the religious calendar, particularly Lent and the various saints’ day commemorations. Popular devotional practices revealed an obsession for the supernatural, the healing powers of saints and angels, and the malign presence of demons. All believed in the power of the ‘evil eye’. The priest was usually a figure of influence, as were the handful of archontes who dispensed patronage and dominated the offices of the koinotita. Behaviour was also governed by values centred on female fidelity and male moral worth to uphold honour and avert shame. There was also grinding poverty. Farming techniques and technologies were primitive and yields were low. For the average peasant, zoi (life) was a euphemism for travail, a journey laden with personal sorrows and dominated by the ceaseless struggle to stave off ruin. As a moral community, the village could certainly provide comforting familiarity, but it was also seen as a dead end. As ever, the solution was emigration, and in 1900 the most likely destination was Athens or America.
Nicholas Doumanis
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