CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008
More than 2000 years after it ended, the impact of Ancient Greece still resonates in Western society. From the first empire of the Minoans in 1700 B.C.E. to the philosophers and poets of the city-states, our world is built upon their past.
Antiquities famous in history and mythology are the reason that millions of people visit Greece every year. Greece is the home of the first Olympics, the birthplace of democracy, where Plato, Socrates and other philosophers expounded ideas and epic theatre carried them to the masses. Gods and goddesses with human frailties lived large in the daily lives of the people. Successive invaders adapted from and built upon the previous civilization, until the final occupation by the Turkish Ottoman Empire ended in the 19th century.
Both Ancient and modern Greece are documented well in this set of three books from “The Lands, Peoples and Cultures Series” by Crabtree. Thoroughly explained information and bright drawings or photographs add interest and facts to round out the narrative, although the modern history of dictatorships is glossed over and the territorial disputes Greece has had with its neighbours and with Turkey over the island of Cyprus are absent. The three books divide up the various topics, making it difficult to get a complete picture of the country without purchasing all of them. Of necessity, there is a repetition from one book to the other. Each book contains thirteen 2-page chapters outlining sub-topics, and sub-heads within each chapter divide the information. A one-page glossary and short index conclude each book.
Greece: the Land shows off the beauty of the rugged landscape that juts into the Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean seas. Greece is an earthquake-prone, mountainous country with a hot, sunny climate. Only a third of its land is suitable for agriculture, but the same orchards of olive trees have nourished the mighty armies of the past and today’s people. The land has changed because of population growth and deforestation. The book notes that Greeks have “a relaxed attitude toward travel - as long as they are not trying to get to or from work.” Translated - trains, taxis and ferries operate according to their own timetables, and traffic signals are merely a suggestion. Pictures show off the rich blues of the sky and sea, and the white walls and red tile roofs of the buildings flashing in the bright sunlight.
Greece: the People discusses the makeup of the population, which is still nearly all ethnically Greek, descended from the ancient civilization. The book has chapters about the way people lived long ago, the rights held by men and women, as well as how people live today, from home to school, from life on the islands, where donkeys are still used to the giant urban monster of Athens, where air pollution from cars is a major issue in people’s health.
Greece: the Culture features the beauty of ancient Greek architecture - the famous columns of the Parthenon, music and art - “including sculptures of some of the significant thinkers that shaped our world,” Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Archimedes. The writings and myths of the ancients, their festivals and games are still famous today and are featured in their own chapters. Food, of course, looms large in Greek life, and a recipe for a sweet is included. Greece has its own branch of Catholicism, the Greek Orthodox Church, which is a large part of daily life throughout the country.
Young researchers will be able to get a rounded, basic knowledge of the history, geography and culture of Greece, both ancient and modern.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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