I was thrilled of course that the book was picked up and that the ancient world made it on to page 15 of the Indy - especially in conference party season! The tenor of the article was myth-busting. The Spartans were accused of being "thugs". My book does not call them such. Following the ancient sources, as well as several other respected scholars, I make the point solely that the Spartans were not very diplomatic in exerting their control of Greece at the beginning of the 4th century BC (100 years or so after the 300 at Thermopylae) and that many other Greek cities resented their un-diplomatic approaches.
The article went on to look at the reputation of Alexander the Great. Here I fear the journalist may have beefed up the text with some hype - while I think there is a case to be made for Alexander having a close relationship with his mother, that doesnt take away from his achievements in his own right. He certainly is not "dismissed" from my narrative as a result - 3-4 chapters are all about the first family of Macedon in my book! Nor were his successes "merely opportunistic exploitation of...his father". Sure again I think the role of Alexander's father, Philip, in making Macedon such a powerful force to be reckoned with has been understated BUT it takes two to tango! Alexander could not have launched such a campaign if Philip had not put the Macedonian house in order and equally Philip's re-organisation of Macedon and conquests of Greece would have gone nowhere after his death if it had not been for the ambition and skill of his son.
Isocrates doesnt "suffer under scrutiny" - in fact he has been suffering from not enough scrutiny in recent years! After all, who amongst the wider general audience (as opposed to academic specialists) has heard of Isocrates - and YET he was an incredibly important figure who wrote about the changing world around him and sums up the change from Democrats to Kings - a very painful transition for a man so in love with his home city Athens!
Last but not least, I would never "kick" Athens - ancient or modern! What I wanted to do was show how it was not direct confrontational war that kills Athenian democracy, its the strains and stresses of a fast changing century that make its system implode and force it, eventually, to accept a dictator. Equally I do think that the golden reputation of Athens as a place of peaceful philosophical dialogue and ever clean togas (or rather chitons) needs to be tarnished with a bit more mud and blood - Athens could be a very unpleasant place to be - just ask the number of politicains executed by the ancient Athenian assembly!
The story of D2K offers an example of a world in fast, brutal change - an example we could do well to think about some more in our own turbulent times!