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!