The best books on a neglected period: post Classical Athens

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Athens from Alexander to Antony

Ian Worthington Why did I love 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.

By Christian Habicht, Deborah Lucas Schneider,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Athens from Alexander to Antony as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The conquests of Alexander the Great transformed the Greek world into a complex of monarchies and vying powers, a vast sphere in which the Greek city-states struggled to survive. This is the story of one city that, despite long periods of subjugation, persisted as a vital social entity throughout the Hellenistic age. Christian Habicht narrates the history of Athens from its subjugation by the Macedonians in 338 BC to the battle of Actium in 31 BC, when Octavian's defeat of Mark Antony paved the way for Roman dominion over the Hellenistic world. For nearly three centuries Athens strove unsuccessfully for…


Book cover of An Economic History of Athens Under Roman Domination

Ian Worthington Why did I love 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!

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

Ian Worthington Why did I love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Agora of Athens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The subtitle, The History, Shape and Uses of an Ancient City Center, suggests the general character of this volume, which provides an overview of the area that served as the civic center of Athens from about 600 B.C. to A.D. 267. After a general resumé of the historical development of the Agora, the monuments are treated in detail, grouped by their use and purpose. Each monument is discussed in the light of both the literary and the archaeological evidence for its identification and its restoration. In the light of the topographical conclusions the route of Pausanias is traced. A chapter…


Book cover of Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution

Ian Worthington Why did I love 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.

By A.J.S. Spawforth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book examines the impact of the Roman cultural revolution under Augustus on the Roman province of Greece. It argues that the transformation of Roman Greece into a classicizing 'museum' was a specific response of the provincial Greek elites to the cultural politics of the Roman imperial monarchy. Against a background of Roman debates about Greek culture and Roman decadence, Augustus promoted the ideal of a Roman debt to a 'classical' Greece rooted in Europe and morally opposed to a stereotyped Asia. In Greece the regime signalled its admiration for Athens, Sparta, Olympia and Plataea as symbols of these past…


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Book cover of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

John Kenneth White Author Of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

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Why am I passionate about this?

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Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

What is this book about?

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