Tuesday, 17 November 2009

D2K reviews begin!

Keep up to date with reviews coming out about D2K via my website www.michaelcscott.com.

The latest is from History of war.org:

"The key to the success of this book is Scott's decision to focus on the individuals caught up in this period of change - the leaders, philosophers and soldiers and their reactions to fast moving events. Almost forgotten figures leap back into the limelight to give us a much larger cast of characters than is normally the case, reminding us that this period was much more complex than just the 'rise of Macedonia' or the 'fall of Athens'.

Scott has produced a very readable and enjoyable account of this period, bringing part of the ancient world vividly back to life”

Take a look also at the growing number of reviews on Amazon:


D2K goes on tour!

This past week I have been traveling around the country talking to school children about the themes and questions raised in From Democrats to Kings. Last Tuesday, I was talking at the Beyond Words Literary Festival hosted by University College School in London - first to sixth formers about D2K and then to 12-14 year olds about the development of the theatre and myth. On Wednesday I headed for Nottingham to speak at the East Midlands Association of Classical Teachers 6th form Classics conference held at Nottingham Girls High School. I delivered a plenary lecture on D2K and then led two seminars in the afternoon with the students on the character of Alexander the Great. On Thursday I was back in London again talking to the North Collegiate London School, thinking about the role of Sicily as the petry dish of experimentation for Greek political thought. It has been a pleasure to engage with the thriving classics community of school students across the country - their responses were thoughtful and aware - both of the ancient world and the modern world around them.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The law in 4th century Athens

Yesterday, I gave a short talk on From Democrats to Kings to an inter-disciplinary body of Cambridge graduates and academics at the Darwin College Art and Humanities lunch time seminar. The topic I decided to focus on was how Athens sought to put itself back on its feet after the debilitating period of revolution it suffered in 404-403BC - right at the beginning of the period covered by my book. What emerged from the talk, and more particularly from the discussion, was the importance of the development of the power of the law within Athens' democratic system in the aftermath of the revolution and the reinstatement of democracy. Specialists in law in the audience were throwing light on the cross-cultural phenomenon of a constant tussle between the organs of law and the organs of political activity within different societies across history. It became clear that one of the most important things Athens did was not necessarily to make law after the revolution, but to make the law they had more visible and more easily involved in civil discourse. This was combined with the building of new law courts, which increasingly through the 4th century, became the place for conducting both legal and political disputes.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Cambridge Launch and History Today Magazine

Last night, we gathered at the Heffers bookshop on Trinity Street in Cambridge to raise a glass of wine to the launch of From Democrats to Kings. About 80+ people, including Prof Paul Cartledge, Prof Anthony Snograss, Master of Darwin Willy Brown and acclaimed writer Charles Freeman came to listen to me give a 15 min discussion of the book's aims, its highlights and its place in the continuing wider debate about the ancient world. My thanks to Heffers for helping organising a most enjoyable evening and to everyone for coming. It was a great pleasure in particular to see so many undergraduate students at the event - both those who I have lectured in the past (and whose questions helped in the thought processes for this book) and those who I will be lecturing later on this year.

Today, I have an article appearing in History Today magazine. This article looks specifically at how the period of turbulent change in the 4th centurt BC affected the position of women in ancient society. I argue that the stresses and strains of the century brought a good number of new opportunities for women, across the Greek world, to take on new and important roles, which foreshadowed their more habitual rise to power in the Hellenistic period (which ended with the most famous woman ruler of them all Cleopatra of Egypt). History Today is available in W H Smiths and other good newsagents now.

In the next couple of weeks, I will be taking From Democrats to Kings on the road, talking about the book to school children from the ages of 10-18 in schools from London to Nottingham. I cant wait to hear their questions which are often fantastically insightful! In my last school encounter, I was asked why Clytemnestra, instead of killing her husband, had not gone to a therapy counsellor? Why not indeed!

Friday, 16 October 2009

BBC Histoy Magazine - pod cast is live!

BBC History Magazine website now contains a pod-cast interview on From Democrats to Kings: listen to the most in-depth interview yet on my new book, and see which places in Greece I would recommend as unmissable on your next tour!


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Putting the 4th century BC in the spotlight!

Today, TA NEA in Greece printed my responses to the articles circulated in the Greek press last week regarding my new book From Democrats to Kings.

Today's article consists of interview responses from me to a range of questions including what the book seeks to accomplish, what it says about Alexander and the Spartans, as well as what I understand the study of history to be about. The article can be seen here:


I am hoping that Proto Thema will also be running an interview with me this coming Sunday.

In the meantime, it appears that From Democrats to Kings has been reaching the news in countries from Brazil all the way to Russia. It seems that finally the 4th century BC is getting the attention it deserves as we seek to understand the crucial moments of the ancient world.

That debate continues here in Cambridge too - I was discussing this week with one of the Faculty's PhD students about her work on Lycurgus and the importance of theatre in Athens during the second half of the 4th century. Her work is really bringing into focus just how much Athens tried to put the cultural trump card of theatre and Attic tragedy at the centre of their attempts to stay ahead of everyone else in Greece at this time - particularly Macedon who were trying to claim the playwright Euripides as one of their own.

I will be talking about my book From Democrats to Kings at Heffers, Trinity St, Cambridge on 21st October at 6.30pm. Tickets available from Heffers - where I hope these discussions will only continue to flower!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Read the book!

I have been away from my computer for much of today traveling to Guildford, where I was talking about the ancient world with the school children of RGS. We had some fascinating conversations about the nature of death and death ritual in ancient Greece and Rome. This was followed by a discussion interview with BBC radio Wales (from the BBC Surrey studio!) about D2K

As a result, I have not had a chance to respond to yet more press that has come out today about From Democrats to Kings. Today the Greek newspapers TO VIMA and TA NEA, as well as apparently Greek radio, covered the book. Or rather they covered the Independent on Sunday journalist’s article about the book.

This is becoming something akin to Chinese Whispers. I have already laid out how the Independent article mis-represented the arguments in the book (see earlier blogs). Both Greek newspapers responded to the Indy’s arguments – without giving me a chance to say myself what my book is really about.

TA NEA then asked respected academics to respond to the Indy’s arguments – quite rightly they both were sceptical. But both also had the good sense to preface their comments with “I have not read the book itself”.

This is KEY. I am more than happy to debate and discuss the arguments I put forward in my book – as long as those are the arguments we are debating, NOT what somebody THINKS those arguments are which are then debated AS IF they were mine!

The solution is simple. Allow people to read the book and then let us have a proper debate, or at the very least ask me direct what my views are!

That at least is what TA NEA have agreed to do - I will be replying to their questions in a newspaper interview in the next couple of days.

But in the meantime, let me restate my case:

I do NOT “call into question the values and accomplishments of ancient Greece” as TO VIMA puts it. My goal in writing about this period is to put that great and complex world front and centre in people’s minds.

I do not say in the book that Isocrates “betrays” his city – I look at how Isocrates, just like the city of Athens, was affected by the transition in power within Greece towards the Macedonian kings.

I do not “dismiss” Alexander at all – the first family of Macedon gets a good deal of attention in my book and rightly so because they are crucially important for understanding the story of ancient Greece. I do not claim that Alexander’s successes were “exclusively” due to his father nor do I mean to insult him by pointing out the importance of his close relationship with his mother.

I do not call Leonidas’ 300 “thugs”. I am looking at the actions of Sparta about a 100 years about Leonidas’ time, when Sparta’s warrior men were supposed to be acting as peace-keepers – a job all the ancient sources agree they did not do very well at all.

From Democrats to Kings puts the spotlight on an important period of Greek history which, though well known to specialists, has not yet been, I believe, part of the wider public debate: not just democratic Athens or Alexander the Great, but how you get from one to the other in a single lifetime. That is the book’s purpose – pure and simple!

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