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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ancient Greece by Eric D. Nelson

The problem is that this book is trying to be two things at once - a resource book to be used as a quick reference (When was Alexander the Great born? What did the Epicureans believe?) or is it a basic history of the Ancient Greeks? Other books in the series that I have reviewed, such as The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions were clearly meant to be a quick reference guide.

King Pyrrhus (319/318 BC–272 BC)
So, as a history, this is sort of a frustrating read. The story of the Ancient Greeks is told in fits and starts. As a quick reference, it is good. The facts are solid and told in an understandable, interesting manner. I wasn't using it as a quick reference, rather I was reviewing the topic so as to be better prepared for the next time I teach ancient history. You can never tell what interesting tidbits you can pick up to spice up your presentations - even from the most basic of sources. For example, I learned that King Pyrrhus - the king that inspired the term "pyrrhic victory" was killed by a woman that threw a pot out of her window during a street battle (although further research shows that some claim he was only stunned by a roofing tile and this allowed him to be killed by a soldier. Either way, it's a good story).

So, as a narrative history - this is a 3 star book. As a reference, it is a 5 star book. So, split the difference and call it 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on March 30, 2010.

Other works referenced in this review:

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