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By Josiah Ober

Lord Byron defined Greece as nice, fallen, and immortal, a characterization extra apt than he knew. via such a lot of its lengthy historical past, Greece was once bad. yet within the classical period, Greece used to be densely populated and hugely urbanized. Many strangely fit Greeks lived in remarkably enormous homes and labored for prime wages at really expert occupations. Middle-class spending drove sustained monetary progress and classical wealth produced a beautiful cultural efflorescence lasting countless numbers of years.

Why did Greece succeed in such heights within the classical period--and why basically then? and the way, after "the Greek miracle" had persisted for hundreds of years, did the Macedonians defeat the Greeks, probably bringing an finish to their glory? Drawing on an immense physique of newly to be had facts and using novel methods to facts, Josiah Ober deals a tremendous new heritage of classical Greece and an remarkable account of its upward push and fall.

Ober argues that Greece's upward thrust used to be no miracle yet fairly the results of political breakthroughs and fiscal improvement. the intense emergence of citizen-centered city-states reworked Greece right into a society that defeated the powerful Persian Empire. but Philip and Alexander of Macedon have been capable of beat the Greeks within the conflict of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, a victory made attainable by means of the Macedonians' appropriation of Greek recommendations. After Alexander's demise, battle-hardened warlords fought ruthlessly over the remnants of his empire. yet Greek towns remained populous and filthy rich, their financial system and tradition surviving to be handed directly to the Romans--and to us.

A compelling narrative choked with uncanny smooth parallels, it is a ebook for someone attracted to how nice civilizations are born and die.

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Whereas we can't resolution the comparative welfare query without delay, we will offer solutions to questions that might in flip provide us an oblique strategy to procedure the query of comparative monetary functionality: seventy seven Chapter four was once the speed of classical Greek monetary progress excessive or low, relative to different premodern economies? was once the classical Greek global roughly densely populated, and kind of urbanized, than different premodern societies? was once the distribution of wealth and source of revenue around the classical Greek inhabitants really kind of equitable than that of different premodern populations? What a part of the classical Greek inhabitants lived at a degree excessive adequate above subsistence to qualify as a minimum of minimally respectable? utilizing those questions as proxies for investigating comparative common welfare, the reply to the query, “Was classical Greece impoverished? ” is “obviously not”—­Greeks within the age of Plato and Aristotle weren't negative when put next to the Greek premodern norm or to humans in different historic or medieval societies. The Greek economic climate grew rapidly within the interval 800–­300 BCE. through the later classical interval, the Greek international used to be densely populated and hugely urbanized. A excessive percent of Greeks (or a minimum of of Athenians) lived conveniently above the near-­subsistence point of intake that has been the industrial destiny of most folks for many of human heritage. by means of the factors of alternative premodern economies, Hellas used to be filthy rich. in addition, regardless of the Demaratus–­Xerxes alternate and related passages within the Histories, there's cause to imagine that Herodotus (and by means of extrapolation, his unique classical Greek readers) knew it. The “Eastern monarch discusses comparative welfare with a sensible Greek” motif of the Demaratus–­Xerxes interchange is predicted in a scene close to the start of Herodotus’ Histories within which King Croesus of Lydia (in western Anatolia) interviews Solon of Athens. The imagined date of this (perhaps imaginary) interview might were it slow within the 6th century BCE. the topic in their dialog is human happiness, and the context is relative wealth. Croesus expects Solon to recognize that Croesus is exceptionally chuffed at the foundation of his superabundant wealth. yet to Croesus’ shock, Solon in its place names because the happiest individual ever to have lived Tellus of Athens, “who got here from a wealthy city . . . and the conditions of his lifestyles have been likewise filthy rich, via our criteria” (Herodotus, Histories 1. 30. 4–­5). Tellus isn't portrayed through Herodotus’ Solon as a member of a privileged elite knocking down enormous rents because of his violence power in a average nation. really on the contrary, he's depicted as a pretty yet no longer particularly well-­to-­do, Greek citizen of a pretty well-­to-­do Greek polis. Tellus used to be, in Solon’s pithy account, a typical Greek guy who were espe- seventy eight W e a lt h y H e l l a s cially lucky in his progeny (healthy and ideal youngsters and grandchildren) and in his dying (timely, heroic loss of life in triumphant conflict in protection of his homeland).

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