The best books on a neglected period: post Classical Athens

Ian Worthington Author Of Athens After Empire: A History from Alexander the Great to the Emperor Hadrian
By Ian Worthington

Who am I?

Ian Worthington, FSA, FRHistS, is a Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University, and has written and edited 21 books and over 100 articles on Greek history, oratory, and epigraphy. He also has a Great Courses DVD and CD course titled The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World. Away from academic work, he is addicted to reality TV and is an unpaid taxi driver for his two children.


I wrote...

Athens After Empire: A History from Alexander the Great to the Emperor Hadrian

By Ian Worthington,

Book cover of Athens After Empire: A History from Alexander the Great to the Emperor Hadrian

What is my book about?

What was Athens’ place in the long Hellenistic period (323-30 BC), during which the Mediterranean world open up to the east like never before and Greek culture spread as far afield as India? Usually post-classical Athens is viewed as a postscript to its great classical self, a dreary picture of decline and fall. I argue that view is wrong. Athens continued to be a vibrant city, respected in the Greek world and by the Romans, who appropriated aspects of its culture for their own civilization. Later Athens should no longer live in the shadow of its famous forerunner.

The books I picked & why

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Athens from Alexander to Antony

By Christian Habicht, Deborah Lucas Schneider,

Book cover of Athens from Alexander to Antony

Why this book?

The late Christian Habicht was one of the foremost authorities on Hellenistic Greece. His book is both a synthesis of his research and publications on this period and an incisive and in-depth narrative of Athens down to 30 BC, anchored in the ancient, especially inscriptional, evidence. He shows among other things how Athens remained a vital city in Greece and how its intellectual and social life continued to flourish but how limited its democracy was. Habicht’s book could not take into account recent and much-needed epigraphical publications of the city’s major state decrees and laws and new insights into chronology, but it is still an indispensable read.


An Economic History of Athens Under Roman Domination

By John Day,

Book cover of An Economic History of Athens Under Roman Domination

Why this book?

This book is about eighty years old. I’m probably not far wrong in saying almost every other page is obsolete thanks to archaeological finds and interpretations of existing material, epigraphical, and literary evidence since it appeared. But it’s a wonderful book to read and appreciate how the author uses the evidence available to him to paint a brilliant image of Athenian and indeed Greek economic and commercial life in this period with many fascinating insights. The subject matter might seem unexciting, yet the author brings it alive and makes it really interesting!


The Agora of Athens: The History, Shape, and Uses of an Ancient City Center

By Homer A. Thompson, R.E. Wycherley,

Book cover of The Agora of Athens: The History, Shape, and Uses of an Ancient City Center

Why this book?

Another book getting on in years, but which remains an essential resource for the history and topography of the Agora, the economic and social heart of Athens. Here people came to shop, trade, chit-chat, discuss political affairs, attend some public institutions including the law courts, and ‘hang out’. The time period covered is very wide, from 600 BC to AD 267. The authors’ discussion of the buildings and monuments in the Agora with copious and detailed drawings brings alive what this vital area was like and what its architecture tells us about the Athenians.


Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution

By A.J.S. Spawforth,

Book cover of Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution

Why this book?

Rome appropriated many aspects of Athenian (and Greek) culture for its political and cultural needs – so much so that the poet Horace spoke of ‘captured Greece capturing the rude conqueror’. This book discusses the ‘Romanization’ of Greece and the impact that Greek culture or Hellenism had on the Romans, and by extension, how the Romans (or at least educated ones) came to view the Greeks. In this cultural interaction, Athens played a key role, as the author shows. This book is an important balance to the ‘usual’ political and military approach to the period, and shows the importance of Athens beyond the terminating Hellenistic era date of 30 BC.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Athens, classical Athens, and the Hellenistic age?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Athens, classical Athens, and the Hellenistic age.

Athens Explore 35 books about Athens
Classical Athens Explore 5 books about classical Athens
The Hellenistic Age Explore 7 books about the Hellenistic age

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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