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The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine (Penguin History of Europe #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  401 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
A stunning work of research and imagination that sheds new light of the ancient world.

The western world has long been fascinated by classical Greek and Roman cultures, whose ideas and achievements underpin our own. Yet little has been written about how those ancient societies existed in conversation with an even deeper past, reaching back to the world of the Trojans and th
ebook, 416 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Penguin Books (first published April 29th 2010)
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Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top10-2018
Reading a lot of historical fiction I’m starting to want to know more about certain periods in European history that I’m aware of but don’t fully understand & after a little search came across this epic series (I hope) by Penguin which covers 7 books entitled “Penguin history of Europe“

We start with the above titled which in it’s own words tells us “This history of classical Europe will travel from the so-called Minoan civilisation of Crete to the lat
Justin Evans
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
After reading two of the Penguin History of Europe volumes, which were bad and quite bad, why did I pick up this one? Honestly, because they're well designed and I love series. Luckily, this was much better than the other two. It's not in depth at all, but that's fine; that's the type of thing I want from books like this. It's well written, which is hardly a given these days even for supposedly accessible history writing. And it has a cogent argument: those who look to ancient Greece or Rome for ...more
David Williams
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are thousands of books about the classical world so one might ask if we really need another. The answer is yes we do. Our understanding of the past is constantly changing as new information is discovered. New writers have new ways of looking at old subjects. Most of all as the world we live in changes we need new books to help us connect with a past that is constantly moving.

The Birth of Classical Europe is a wonderful introduction to the ancient world. The authors focus on Greek history a
Alex Echevarria
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
In 400 pages, Simon Price gives a whirlwind tour of 1,500 years of European history. Obviously not meant for the serious scholar, this is a wonderful dip in the water, giving a very macro view of various currents in European history. The writing is breezy and devoid of jargon, and the book should make the reader want to delve more deeply into the stories it relates.
Ellana Rose Thornton-Wheybrew
An interesting book.

As a narrative, it was fascinating. The book covers a wide range of both time and place, covering most of Europe. However, I found a few conclusions to be inadequate, badly explained, or just plain wrong.

For example, in one chapter a burial of "The Doctor" is described, a Celtic person who was cremated, then the urn buried with trinkets and important items. The book casually says the burial was "probably of a man" but shows no evidence to say why. There were many of these lit
Justin Tapp
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine is a fantastic overview of Mediterranean and broader European history. One advantage of reading modern books on history is you have the latest thoughts coming from recent archaeology, technological development, discoveries about languages and migrations, etc.

I have read Freeman's Egypt, Greece, and Rome (my review) so this book was a good refresher for events but did a better job helping me understand the overall historical contexts
Carmelo Militano
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is slightly confusing at the beginning what with all this talk about pre & post Minoan palace periods but the picture that emerges is of a people and their self-awareness-based on legend and their knowledge of the Illiad and the Odysssey- and how this shaped both ancient Greek and Roman culture. This alertness to the heroic past is the the start of the idea of a Europe. But what I don't get is why the Romans were so keen on hooking up their past with Aeneas. Why have one of the foun ...more
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully done.
The first entry in the Penguin History of Europe analyzes the period of antiquity by focusing on the Greeks and Romans. While the text is fairly dense and complex, the authors provide a brief narrative that could have easily been extended by hundreds of pages. Would that have been necessary? No. If the reader is looking for an exhaustive narrative I would recommend the Cambridge Ancient History 2nd ed.

What the reader comes across is a general timeline beginning with the early migrations to Cret
Влад Головач
Excellent book on the political history of early Europe, especially on the changing of the meaning of the term. "Are those Syrian refugees to Gaul barbaroi?" etc. Nicely written too.
Anton Ivanov
A well researched book but unfortunately lacks analytical depth and understanding of the historical process. Roughly one third through the book but feeling a bit disappointed.

The level of skepticism towards the oral tradition and myths is a bit surprising. At least we can probably acknowledge that there might have been some historical ground behind the oral tradition, although, of course, over the course of the centuries it might had been distorted and additional colorful details might had been
Nicholas Smith
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic introduction to the History of Europe

This really is a great book and reflects how history should be written - good use of varied sources; driving narrative that takes account of convergent records; and interesting asides that add flesh to the bones. This is a book that should be hard to write given the scarcity of sources for the early years, but it never gets lost and makes superb use of the archaeological records to tell a multifaceted tale that might be European in focus but takes i
I was expecting a kind of narrative history of the ancient Mediterranean, and instead got something else, but I'm not quite sure what.

A strange book, as it seems to be both an overview/introduction and an analysis/thesis at the same time. Assumes lots of prior knowledge in places, skips all kinds of key moments, dwells on others I'd not consider that vital. Not the book I was looking for, but one I'll likely return to once I've found and finished reading the book I'm looking for.
So I've tried to read this book several times and it has never stuck. The first two chapters are almost impossibly dull. However, this time I powered through. I found the book to contain some good anecdotes about different scholars and archaeological finds, but generally skimmed over large historical moments. I was grateful for the description of the Hellenistic period, but found other chapters to be overly simplified.
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read. Before I started with this book I had some basic knowledge of the period covered (c. 2000 BC - 500 AD) and this helped to keep track of the 'story'. I think readers who lack some basic knowledge might find it very hard to follow at times.

In essence, this book tells us that all the different ancient civilizations wrote their own history (sometimes literally). They used their knowledge of previous civiliazations (gods, cultural practices, myths, etc.) and invented the
Nic Don
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starred reviews can be difficult. This is a perfectly satisfactory overview of classical European history, and measured by its accomplishing of its apparent goals, it deserves five stars. However, in comparison to other works by the same authors and to other books in the same series (The Penguin History of Europe), this volume is somewhat unsatisfying.

The occasional sidebars of "modern relevance" were often interesting, but contributed little to the depth of the book, which is limited.
Karen Cox
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book I finished in 2016. It is an excellent overview of the Classical world from its beginnings in the Bronze Age to the end of the Roman Empire. Others have criticized the lack of depth, but given the breadth of the subject the lack of scholarly discussion of each particular event or person is not a fault.

One thing I particularly liked was the inclusion of short digressions about how later periods have used the Classical past, or at least their interpretations of the past. T
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a solid read - it took me 3 months to finish. Its strength is it puts the whole era into perspective, so you can see how the Mycenaean world related to Classical Greece and to the Macedonians, to the Etruscans, and later to the Romans and Christianity. I knew something of these cultures individually, but not how one period related to and influenced the next. As a whole the Classical World was profoundly influenced by its own past, even when the early Christians are in the ascendency they ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
Despite the sheer scope of the work, I really found it to be quite enjoyable, informative and above all well researched and well written. A positive treasure trove of information ranging from hard archaeological evidence to more speculative research based assertions.

The writing style is inviting and accessible, as previously stated.This would make it a great book for an amateur in the subject of antiquity who is looking to get a decent overview of the subject. I read the book over a four day st
Een heel goede, deels nieuwe, kijk op het begin van de europese gechiedenis. Goed om dit soort boeken om de paar jaar opnieuw te kopen en te lezen. Door nieuwe opgravingen en nieuwe interpretaties van oude opgravingen verandert de kijk op onze geschiedenis toch regelmatig. Dit boek is vlot geschreven; wat het extra leesbaar maakt zijn de korte "uitstapjes" naar de meer moderne geschiedenis, waar die link te leggen valt.
Voor mij extra interesan, omdat ik nu voor het eerst ('s avonds voor ik ga s
Well written but way too sketchy for what it promises; I thought this kind of sketchiness is passe in history books, but it seems people still are in love with generalizations. The vignettes realting the classical world with the modern world and the treatment of the early period with Troy and the Minoan civilization are highlights, but the rest is not worth being way better book out there that treat the Greek-Hellenistic - Romnan era; I think that a focus only from 1200-600 BC would have made th ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good overview of the period with good maps.
Not really about what we would now call Europe due to a lack of data on the wider area during this period.
It does touch briefly on things outwith the Mediterranean but mainly about Greece and Rome with a seasoning of Hittite/Persian/Levant/Phoenicia.
Like any broad Hx it rarely covers anything in depth, but it was very good at helping me put some other things I've recently been reading into context. Also has a few wee asides on how the past has infl
Oct 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, this certainly read like it was published by two Ph.Ds at Oxford. It provided a very in-depth look into ancient Western civilization which I found fascinating...but this is definitely not a book you want to pick up if you've had limited exposure to this part of world history. It was very specialized and not as broad as I hoped it would be.

But, this is just my take on it. It's no doubt a great hit among academics.
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the Penguin History of Europe series and I enjoyed it quite a bit. As the title suggests, it tells the history of Europe from Troy (approx. 1200 BC) to St. Augustine. I find it quite interesting that despite the attention paid to Greece and Rome, these were essentially backwaters early on compared with the great empires of the East: Egyptian, Babylonian, and Assyrian in particular. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this period.
Christian Schoon
The two authors of this historical overview give you a hop-scotch approach to this period. Best for readers who already have the big picture on these classical times/personalities, but a rewarding read for those who are up to speed. Especially enlightening re: its take on the central role of Troy in the narratives of the societies that would, eventually, lay the foundations of Western culture.
Hazel Sun
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is an excellent book. Although the book doesn't provide enough details of the ancient time, it is organized in a way that both east and west, Mediterranean areas and Central Europe are introduced in parallel.
A not-so-bad overview of the history of Classical Europe, beginning with the pre-Classical Mycenaean roots of Greece through the post-Classical world of Augustine. It's a history of Classicism as much as of Classical history. Worth reading, but not a "must-have"
Lauren Albert
I read this book and I don't think I could tell you anything about it. I found it very hard to stick with it. Dry? Confusing? Both? I don't know. Perhaps it was too academic for me. It is definitely not for the general reader who doesn't already know a lot about the subject.
El Aguila
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was extremely enjoyable to delve back into my first true love: Classical European history. This was an excellent survey of the start recorded history to the the beginning of the post Roman Empire transformation into the Medieval era.
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