The best books about Athens 📚

Browse the best books on Athens as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The History of the Peloponnesian War

The History of the Peloponnesian War

By Thucydides

Why this book?

Widely regarded as the first detailed written account of a plague outbreak. Thucydides describes an infection that struck Athens in 430 BC -it may have been typhoid or Ebola. His description of the flailing of doctors in response, and of subsequent social disorder became a model for later writers. The plague was a big factor in Athens’ defeat by Sparta.
From the list:

The best books on historic accounts of plague outbreaks

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Book cover of The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome

The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome

By Peter Connolly, Hazel Dodge

Why this book?

This book has the best illustrations of the two main cities of antiquity that l have ever seen. Besides superb photographs (all in colour) of the ruins today, they include Peter Connolly’s brilliant reconstructions of buildings of all sorts: houses, palaces, baths, temples, forums, hippodromes, theatres, amphitheaters, insulae (blocks of flats), bars and aqueducts, plus styles in furniture, clothing, and hair. All are shown in colourful detail, many with cutaway illustrations that recreate city life of 2000 years ago with wonderful vividness. They are complemented by Dr. Hazel Dodge’s lucid, informative text. The first part covers Athens at its…

From the list:

The best books showing daily life in ancient Athens and Rome (at their respective peaks)

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Book cover of Athens from Alexander to Antony

Athens from Alexander to Antony

By Christian Habicht, Deborah Lucas Schneider

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,…

From the list:

The best books on a neglected period: post Classical Athens

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Book cover of An Economic History of Athens Under Roman Domination

An Economic History of Athens Under Roman Domination

By John Day

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!

From the list:

The best books on a neglected period: post Classical Athens

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

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

By Homer A. Thompson, R.E. Wycherley

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.

From the list:

The best books on a neglected period: post Classical Athens

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Book cover of Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution

Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution

By A.J.S. Spawforth

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…

From the list:

The best books on a neglected period: post Classical Athens

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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