The best books on Greece

35 authors have picked their favorite books about Greece and why they recommend each book.

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The Histories

By Herodotus, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Book cover of The Histories

If one wanted to understand the study of the galaxy, they might start with Galileo. Something similar could be said about starting with the historian Herodotus to understand ancient peoples (and the study of them). Was he serious about his craft? Yes. Was he a product of his time? Yes. Should you take everything he writes as fact? Absolutely not. So why read Herodotus? Because he was the first person (as far as I know) to study the Scythians for the purpose of scholarship. Moreover, his work contains many of the stories that scholars since his time have tried to prove, disprove, or reinterpret. In short, if you want to join a conversation, it can be helpful to know how it began.


Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

I wrote...

The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

By David Austin Beck,

Book cover of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

What is my book about?

The Greek Prince of Afghanistan follows the early life of Demetrius, prince of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan. He lives in a world of cultural fusion and conflict, and he faces threats from every direction. From the west, an army approaches under the banners of Antiochus, a Hellenistic monarch obsessed with ruling the lands once conquered by Alexander. From within, tensions build between the kingdom's Greek elite and non-Greek subjects. In desperate need of allies for the imminent war, Demetrius rides north to secure an alliance with the Scythians, a people rumored to eat their prisoners and feed their elderly to the dogs. But with his kingdom divided, their help may not be enough.

The Landmark Arrian

By James Romm, Robert B. Strassler,

Book cover of The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander

Arrian is one of the few primary sources used to illuminate the campaigns of Alexander the Great. It is also one of the few primary sources to focus directly on the Scythians – in this case, the Saka (an eastern group of Scythians). After conquering the Bactrian region, Alexander faced war with the Scythians, as well as local rebellions, which the Scythians played a role in. Arrian’s account is an important source for understanding the Scythians as it speaks directly to the clash of an army built for pitched battle against an army build for more mobile warfare.


Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

I wrote...

The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

By David Austin Beck,

Book cover of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

What is my book about?

The Greek Prince of Afghanistan follows the early life of Demetrius, prince of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan. He lives in a world of cultural fusion and conflict, and he faces threats from every direction. From the west, an army approaches under the banners of Antiochus, a Hellenistic monarch obsessed with ruling the lands once conquered by Alexander. From within, tensions build between the kingdom's Greek elite and non-Greek subjects. In desperate need of allies for the imminent war, Demetrius rides north to secure an alliance with the Scythians, a people rumored to eat their prisoners and feed their elderly to the dogs. But with his kingdom divided, their help may not be enough.

The Derveni Papyrus

By Gábor Betegh,

Book cover of The Derveni Papyrus: Cosmology, Theology and Interpretation

The Derveni papyrus (500 BC), an ancient Macedonian papyrus that was found in 1962, and was finally published, just recently, in 2006. Derveni Papyrus, is now at Thessaloniki Museum, Greece. This version was published in 340 BC and it is an Orphic book of mystical initiations.

The scroll was carefully unrolled and the fragments joined together, thus forming 26 columns of text. which was used in the mystery cult of Dionysus by the 'Orphic initiators'. It is a philosophical treatise written as a commentary on an Orphic poem, a Theogony concerning the birth of the gods, compiled in the circle of the philosopher AnaXagoras.

The scroll contains a philosophical treatise on a lost poem describing the birth of the gods and other beliefs focusing on Orpheus, the mythical musician who visited the underworld to reclaim his dead love. The Orpheus cult tells us of a single creator god, of the…


Who am I?

Nataša Pantović holds an MSc in Economics and is a Maltese Serbian novelist, adoptive parent, and ancient worlds’ consciousness researcher. Using stories of ancient Greek and Egyptian philosophers and ancient artists she inspires researchers to reach beyond their self-imposed boundaries. In the last five years, she has published 3 historical fiction and 7 non-fiction books with the Ancient Worlds' focus. She speaks English, Serbian, all Balkan Slavic languages, Maltese and Italian. She has also helped build a school in a remote village of Ethiopia, and has since adopted two kids, as a single mum!


I wrote...

Metaphysics of Sound: In Search of The Name of God

By Nataša Pantović,

Book cover of Metaphysics of Sound: In Search of The Name of God

What is my book about?

Join Nataša Pantović on a mind-boggling tour of history and sounds - from the Ancient Sumerian Priestess Sin Liturgy right up to the development of Ancient Greek and Cyrillic alphabet. This new novel contains a dialogue between two European cultures, Roman and Greek from an Ancient Slavic perspective, an intimate encounter of Balkan, its history and culture, a glimpse into the evolution of Ancient Egyptian’s, Ancient Maltese, Ancient Greek - Yonic and Slavic sounds. A Brief History of the world Beyond the Usual (the subtitle of the book) contains the historical overview of the development of people, sounds, and symbols as frequencies.

Monarchy in Modern Greece

By Costas M. Stamatopoulos,

Book cover of Monarchy in Modern Greece

How do monarchies begin and why do they fail? Remarkably few serious studies of Greece’s deposed royal family have appeared in print. Monarchy in Modern Greece, now available in this excellent English translation, offers readers a highly informative and thoughtful account of Greece’s experiment with “crowned democracy.” Written in essay form, scholars and general readers alike will find much to illuminate and entertain as Costas Stamatopoulos judiciously reviews the reigns of the seven monarchs whose reigns were buffeted by domestic and international crises. The lengthy footnote section is a veritable gold mine for anyone wanting to explore further and dig deeper.


Who am I?

Andrew Scott Cooper, Ph.D., is passionate about researching and writing narrative history books. He holds a doctorate in history, masters degrees in journalism and strategic studies, and his work has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, NPR and MSNBC. Earlier in his career, Andrew worked as a researcher on landmines at the UN and at Human Rights Watch on behalf of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.


I wrote...

The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran

By Andrew Scott Cooper,

Book cover of The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran

What is my book about?

In this remarkably human portrait of one of the twentieth century's most complicated personalities, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Andrew Scott Cooper traces the Shah's life from childhood through his ascension to the throne in 1941. He draws the turbulence of the post-war era during which the Shah survived assassination attempts and coup plots to build a modern, pro-Western state and launch Iran onto the world stage as one of the world's top five powers.

Readers get the story of the Shah's political career alongside the story of his courtship and marriage to Farah Diba, who became a power in her own right, the beloved family they created, and an exclusive look at life inside the palace during the Iranian Revolution. Cooper's investigative account ultimately delivers the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty through the eyes of those who were there: leading Iranian revolutionaries; President Jimmy Carter and White House officials; US Ambassador William Sullivan and his staff in the American embassy in Tehran; American families caught up in the drama; even Empress Farah herself, and the rest of the Iranian Imperial family.

Intimate and sweeping at once, The Fall of Heaven recreates in stunning detail the dramatic and final days of one of the world's most legendary ruling families, the unseating of which helped set the stage for the current state of the Middle East.

Ghost on the Throne

By James Romm,

Book cover of Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the Bloody Fight for His Empire

It is this book, about the successors of Alexander the Great, that inspired me to write my first novel, the Atlantis Papyrus. It is a great read—the pages feel less like an academic paper and more like an action novel and keeps one’s interest until the very end. I learned about so many fascinating figures in Alexander’s world I had never really known about and the tumultuous years following his death. In my work, I drew inspiration from some of the characters and events depicted in this book.


Who am I?

The genre I specialize in is Ancient Historical Fiction. I have always been fascinated by history, and my vacations often involve visiting ancient ruins. I’m an avid reader on various periods of our past, especially Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, and India, and I enjoy writing about them. On the topic of Egypt and Cleopatra — Egypt is one of my favorite civilizations, and Cleopatra is one of the more interesting figures. I wanted to give her a treatment I felt she deserved—as a capable administrator, brilliant, ruthless, and fighting the circumstances of her times.


I wrote...

The Last Pharaoh - Book I: Regent: Rise of Cleopatra

By Jay Penner,

Book cover of The Last Pharaoh - Book I: Regent: Rise of Cleopatra

What is my book about?

51 B.C., Alexandria, Egypt. With her father sick and her sister dead by his hands, sixteen-year-old Cleopatra is poised to assume the heavy mantle of power and exercise the divine authority vested in her by the gods of Egypt. But the gilded arches and marble columns hide a grim reality and the gathering of storm clouds. A surly Rome is banging on her doors for debt repayments, the kingdom is on the verge of a civil war, and the dying king's powerful advisors seek to discard her like a rag and control the kingdom through her brother. Now, the young regent must confront her adversaries and walk the tightrope over an abyss of treachery and conflict, because one wrong move means ending three thousand years of Pharaonic rule and turning up as a corpse in the Alexandrian marshes.

Persian Fire

By Tom Holland,

Book cover of Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West

Tom Holland is one of the most famous popular historians alive, and also one of the most famous polymaths, writing on topics ranging from Islam to medieval and classical history. He’s also dabbled in fiction and playwriting, and those chops come shining through in Persian Fire, an entirely fresh look at one of the most studied conflicts in ancient history – The Greco-Persian War. Holland effortlessly eviscerates the tired “east versus west” narrative and treats the Persians with an honestly and empathy that is made even more rich by his gifts as a storyteller.


Who am I?

I’m a lifelong warfighter, law enforcement officer, intelligence officer, and emergency services worker, intimately familiar with the crisis response and what makes conflict so fascinating to students of history. I’m also a popular novelist with an in-depth understanding of story arcs and what makes great prose. I’ve previously published narrative military history myself – Legion Versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World. My short nonfiction, much of it based on military history and crisis work, has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Ancient Warfare Magazine.


I wrote...

The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy

By Myke Cole,

Book cover of The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy

What is my book about?

The Spartan hoplite enjoys unquestioned currency as history's greatest fighting man. The last stand at Thermopylae made the Spartans legends in their own time, famous for their ability to endure hardship, control their emotions, and to never surrender - even in the face of impossible odds, even when it meant certain death. Was this reputation earned? Or was it simply the success of a propaganda machine that began turning at Thermopylae in 480 BC?

The story of the Spartans is one of the best known in history, from their rigorous training to their dramatic feats of arms--but is that portrait of Spartan supremacy true? I go back to the original sources to set the record straight.

Greece and the Allies 1914-1922

By G.F. Abbott,

Book cover of Greece and the Allies 1914-1922

 A scathing and detailed analysis of the Ango-French invasion of Greece and the military, political, and strategic debacle that ensured as they attempted to open a third front against the Central Powers. If you’ve ever wondered why this isn’t much talked about, or even mentioned, Abbott explains it.


Who am I?

Currently a full professor at Loyola University, he entered college at 16, studying chemistry, economics, and literature. He did graduate work in German, Russian, and Philosophy, held a double fellowship in music and literature, and wrote his dissertation on the relationship between historiography and epic poetry. In 2001, his 10th book, The Myth of the Great War was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in history.


I wrote...

The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I

By John Mosier, Ltd Literary Agency East,

Book cover of The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I

What is my book about?

Based on previously unused French and German sources, this challenging and controversial new analysis of the war on the Western front from 1914 to 1918 reveals how and why the Germans won the major battles with one-half to one-third fewer casualties than the Allies, and how American troops in 1918 saved the Allies from defeat and a negotiated peace with the Germans.

The Landmark Herodotus

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Book cover of The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

For anyone wanting to find out not just what happened in the Graeco-Persian Wars (490–479 BC) but how their participants viewed the world, Herodotus’ Histories are a treasure trove. Writing a generation after the event, Herodotus travelled widely, interviewing as many people as he could from veterans to Egyptian priests. But readers must be wary: Herodotus wasn’t writing history as we understand it. Instead, he blended fact, anecdote, and moralizing to demonstrate why in his view the Greek way of life (especially Athenian democracy) was superior to Persian totalitarianism, and why Persian hubris merited divine punishment. While the Landmark edition’s translation of Herodotus’ seductive prose may not be the best (Tom Holland’s, for example, is better), the number and clarity of its maps make it invaluable.


Who am I?

Ever since my father introduced me to the Greeks, I’ve been passionate about the ancient world and bringing it alive. I read Classics at university and taught for eleven years, during which time I founded the award-winning theatre company, Actors of Dionysus, dedicated to performing Greek drama in translation. A highlight was staging my adaptation of Trojan Women not just in Ephesus Theatre but besides the walls of Troy. From 2010, I’ve divided my time between writing books and articles on wide-ranging classical subjects, editing Bloomsbury Academic Press’ ‘Looking at…’ series on Greek drama (which include my translations), book-reviewing, lecturing, and directing theatrical performances (most recently with Dame Sian Phillips).


I wrote...

Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

By David Stuttard,

Book cover of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

What is my book about?

Phoenix is a vivid, novelistic history tracing the rise of Athens from relative obscurity to the edge of its so-called ‘Golden Age’, told through the lives of Miltiades and Cimon, the father and son whose defiance of Persia vaulted Athens to a leading place in the Greek world.

According to author and classicist, Daisy Dunn, Stuttard writes with such passion and verve of these vibrant years in Athens's history. Such is the power of his storytelling that Miltiades and Cimon – both so often overlooked – soar as triumphantly as any phoenix from the ashes of antiquity.”

Aphrodite's Tortoise

By Lloyd Llewellyn Jones,

Book cover of Aphrodite's Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece

Fifth-century BC Athenian society was male-dominated, so most of our evidence comes from – and is about – men. Elegantly written, immaculately researched, and pleasingly illustrated, Aphrodite’s Tortoise goes a long way towards restoring the gender balance, uncovering the complex role that women played in Greek society, whether as wives, priestesses or slaves. At the heart of the book is the use of the veil, which not only protected women from the male gaze as they ventured outside (hence the title) but could convey a variety of visual signals depending on how it was worn. It’s a really stimulating book, the kind that makes you sit up and think about not just the ancient world but our own.


Who am I?

Ever since my father introduced me to the Greeks, I’ve been passionate about the ancient world and bringing it alive. I read Classics at university and taught for eleven years, during which time I founded the award-winning theatre company, Actors of Dionysus, dedicated to performing Greek drama in translation. A highlight was staging my adaptation of Trojan Women not just in Ephesus Theatre but besides the walls of Troy. From 2010, I’ve divided my time between writing books and articles on wide-ranging classical subjects, editing Bloomsbury Academic Press’ ‘Looking at…’ series on Greek drama (which include my translations), book-reviewing, lecturing, and directing theatrical performances (most recently with Dame Sian Phillips).


I wrote...

Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

By David Stuttard,

Book cover of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

What is my book about?

Phoenix is a vivid, novelistic history tracing the rise of Athens from relative obscurity to the edge of its so-called ‘Golden Age’, told through the lives of Miltiades and Cimon, the father and son whose defiance of Persia vaulted Athens to a leading place in the Greek world.

According to author and classicist, Daisy Dunn, Stuttard writes with such passion and verve of these vibrant years in Athens's history. Such is the power of his storytelling that Miltiades and Cimon – both so often overlooked – soar as triumphantly as any phoenix from the ashes of antiquity.”

The Spartans

By Paul Cartledge,

Book cover of The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece

Of the over 1,000 independent city-states that made up the Hellenic world -- and competed in the Olympic Games -- Sparta is today the most notorious and influential (after Athens). This book provides a wonderful insight into its extraordinary culture, where Spartan males were brought up in a strict, even ruthless regime of military training, discipline, and self-sacrifice for the communal good -- but where women were given unexpected freedom and power.

Who am I?

As a historian, journalist, and travel writer, Tony Perrottet has made a career out of bringing the past to vivid life. Born in Australia, he started writing as a foreign correspondent in South America, where he covered guerrilla wars in Peru, drug running in Colombia, and military rebellions in Argentina. He continues to commute to Athens, Iceland, Tierra del Fuego, and Havana, while contributing to the Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, amongst others. He has written six books on subjects ranging from classical tourism to the Pope's "pornographic bathroom" in the Vatican, and most recently, ¡Cuba Libre!, an anecdotal account of the Cuban Revolution. His travel stories have been selected seven times for the Best American Travel Writing series, and he is a regular guest on the History Channel, where he has spoken about everything from the Crusades to the birth of disco.


I wrote...

The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games

By Tony Perrottet,

Book cover of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games

What is my book about?

While researching a book on ancient Roman tourists, Pagan Holiday, I discovered that the classical Olympic Games were history's longest-running festival, held without fail, every four years for nearly twelve centuries. It's an astonishing record given that the modern Olympics have been canceled three times due to wars since they were restarted in Athens in 1896, and the 2021 Tokyo Games were delayed a year due to the Covid pandemic. I also realized that the ancient Greek Olympics were chaotic and sprawling events -- the Woodstock of Antiquity -- where 40,000 sports fans crowded in wretched conditions, punished by searing summer heat, plagues of flies, endless dust, and dehydration. But they were also unforgettable spectacles, combining sports with religious rituals, cultural tourism, political grandstanding, and a level of debauchery that impressed Emperor Nero when he competed in the chariot race.

In The Naked Olympics, I set out to recreate what it might really have been like to visit the festival as a competitor, a sports fan, or an official, using firsthand reports and obscure sources, including an actual Handbook for a Sports Coach used by the ancient Greeks. My aim was to peel away the layers of myth that cloud our vision of the classical world to understand the experience itself, including the round-the-clock bacchanal inside the tents of the Olympic Village, the all-male nude workouts under the statue of Eros (all athletes went naked in the Greek world), and history's first corruption scandals involving competitors. 

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