Ancient Greece

Review by Antony Keen

The Queen's University

Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents from Archaic Times to the Death of Socrates (c. 800- 399 BC) by Matthew Dillon and Lynda Garland. London, New York: Routledge, 1994. Pp.xv+481. Hb [[sterling]]40.00 ISBN 0 415 11366 0, pb [[sterling]]14.99 ISBN 0415 113679.

One of the main developments in ancient history over recent decades has been the rise of the sourcebook; collections directing the student towards relevant passages of ancient material for the subject they are working on have become more important as the expectation that the student will be able to read documents in the original languages (or indeed will have the time or inclination to read widely at all) has become less. So the Greek historian now has a wide range of such volumes to choose from, from the general collections of Michael Crawford and David Whitehead and Peter Rhodes [1] to more specialised works dealing with minor sources [2] or specific areas. [3] A new sourcebook attempting to enter the market must, therefore, have something distinctive to offer.

What Dillon and Garland's volume has to offer is a solid structure that betrays the work's origins in teaching support material; chapters are offered on `Colonization', `Tyrants and Tyranny', `The Law-Givers: Drakon and Solon', `Peisistratos and his Sons', `Kleisthenes the Reformer', `Sparta', `The Persian Wars', `The Delian League and Pentekontaetia', and `The Peloponnesian War', and then chapters more directed to socio-economic history, on `The Polis', `Labour', `Religion in the Greek World', and `Women and the Family'. Dillon and Garland also offer a level of comprehensiveness not present in their rivals; so, for example, `Tyrants and Tyranny' includes forty-five documents rather than the fifteen each of Crawford and Whitehead and Rhodes. Exact comparisons are somewhat invidious, however, as material subsumed under one chapter in one work are sometimes under a different heading in another -- so for instance the colonisation of Taras is dealt with under `Colonization' by Dillon and Garland, but under `Sparta' by Crawford and Whitehead. Nor do Dillon and Garland always cover the same material as the other collections; Rhodes, for instance, has thirty-one items in his chapter on Sparta (excluding items relevant solely to the period after 400 BC) that do not appear in Dillon and Garland.

Nonetheless, there is enough material within this volume to illustrate all the important points of the history of the Archaic and early Classical periods, and to allow a student to begin to compare pieces of evidence with each other. It is best for students to avoid using a sourcebook as their only textbook, without a basic narrative history to put the sources into context, but Dillon and Garland would fulfil such a role better than most. Comments on the texts (usually in the form of a general introduction of the passage, often avoiding direct comment on specific points) and full bibliographies are provided, usually of equivalent or superior nature than those of Rhodes or Crawford and Whitehead.

For example, one can turn to the discussion of Thucydides' account of the beginning of the Delian League (1.96ff., discussed at pp.219ff.). Dillon and Garland give this passage a couple of lines of introduction, after a general section introduction to `The Origins of the Delian League' which goes on for the best part of a page, and then thirty-two lines of detailed commentary. Crawford and Whitehead give a five-line introduction (covering a larger passage, 1.89ff.), and then twenty-three lines of commentary, whilst Rhodes (who treats the passage in two sections) has fourteen lines of introduction. On the other hand, Crawford and Whitehead note points passed over by Dillon and Garland, such as the implication of the Tribute Lists, in contrast to Thucydides, that the Hellenotamiai did not become Athenian officials until 454/3 BC

Dillon and Garland do not shy away from modern controversy. In the treatment of the dating of Attic inscriptions they come down firmly on the side of those who reject the three-barred sigma and other letter forms as rigid dating criteria, and the Coinage Decree (IG i3 1453), the Miletos decree (IG i3 21) and the Egesta decree (IG i3 11) are all placed in the 420s and 410s, probably rightly so (the Phaselis decree [IG i3 10], however, remains placed in the 460s or 450s, again probably correctly, as in this case the arguments for a later date are weak).

There are weaknesses, however. The first is the rather traditional time period covered. Ending one's coverage of Greek history with the fall of Athens and the death of Sokrates, as Victor Ehrenberg did, [4] is a somewhat old-fashioned approach; the modern tendency is not to neglect the fourth century as something of a lesser quality than the fifth, but to threat the two centuries as a unit, and to place any break of coverage at the Persian Wars. Clearly Dillon and Garland have had to sacrifice breadth of coverage to achieve the depth that the have, but one wonders whether a work on 479 to 323 might not have been more attuned to modern students' needs.

Secondly, for a work that asks on its back cover the question `Was there more to Ancient Greece than Athens?' it is at times remarkably Athenocentric. Not only are three of the six chapters on the Archaic period devoted exclusively to matters Athenian, but because of the decision to avoid texts dealing with the narrative of the Peloponnesian War and instead choose documents illustrating the war's socio-political effects, the final stages are seen largely through the Athenian point of view. More than fifty percent of the socio-economic material in the second half of the work is also of an Athenian origin, though this is to a large degree dictated by what material survives. It is also Hellenocentric in general -- there is little discussion of Greek relations with the Persian empire outside the chapter on the Persian Wars, and Dillon and Garland have not seen it necessary, as Crawford and Whitehead did, to include a chapter on the rise of the Persian empire.

One also has qualms about some of the translations when they lapse into colloquialisms; to translate Thucydides, hardly a writer of colloquial Greek, as saying that Hipparchos `got nowhere' with Harmodios (6.54.4, translated on p.106) looks odd, and conveys the wrong impression of the author. One might also criticise the occasional lapse where an introduction to a passage repeats what is clearly there in the text itself, as when the meaning of the term phylarch is spelt out twice (p.124).

As noted in the volume's publicity, a significant proportion of the documents included in here have not been translated into English before (though only a fifth of the selections from IG i3 do not appear in Fornara), and for this reason alone the work is valuable; students should at least have access to the work through university and departmental libraries. Whether Ancient Greece will be able to establish itself as a standard student textbook, however, is a more debatable question, the answer to which will largely depend upon the individual designers of courses and their personal preferences.


1M. H. Crawford and D. Whitehead, Archaic and Classical Greece (Cambridge, 1983); P. J. Rhodes, The Greek City States (London, 1986).

2E.g. C. W. Fornara, Archaic Times to the End of the Peloponnesian War2 (Cambridge, 1983).

3E.g. G. R. Stanton, Athenian Politics (London, 1990).

4V. Ehrenberg, From Solon to Socrates2 (London, 1973).

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