The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History

October 31, 2020
The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History

The dramatic story of the rise and collapse of Europe'sfirst great urban experimentThe growth of cities around the world in the last two centuriesis the greatest episode in our urban history, but it is not thefirst. Three thousand years ago most of the Mediterranean basin wasa world of villages; a world without money or writing, withouttemples for the gods or palaces for the mighty. Over the centuriesthat followed, however, cities appeared in many places around theInland Sea, built by Greeks and Romans, and also by Etruscans andPhoenicians, Tartessians and Lycians, and many others. Most weretiny by modern standards, but they were the building blocks of allthe states and empires of antiquity. The greatest—Athens andCorinth, Syracuse and Marseilles, Alexandria and Ephesus,Persepolis and Carthage, Rome and Byzantium—became the powerhousesof successive ancient societies, not just political centers butalso the places where ancient art and literatures were created andaccumulated. And then, half way through the first millennium, mostwithered away, leaving behind ruins that have fascinated so manywho came after. Based on the most recent historical andarchaeological evidence, The Life and Death of Ancient Citiesprovides a sweeping narrative of one of the world's first greaturban experiments, from Bronze Age origins to the demise of citiesin late antiquity. Greg Woolf chronicles the history of the ancientMediterranean city, against the background of wider patterns ofhuman evolution, and of the unforgiving environment in which theywere built. Richly illustrated, the book vividly brings to life theabandoned remains of our ancient urban ancestors and serves as astark reminder of the fragility of even the mightiest ofcities.