Peter Green

Peter Green is preparing a historical commentary on Herodotus.

Bedazzling Alcibiades

Peter Green, 24 January 2019

Of​ the many enigmas bequeathed by the ancient world to its modern students, few are more tantalising than the seemingly indestructible charisma of Alcibiades (born c.453 bce). After a lifetime of personal scandal, political failure and multiple public betrayals, including that of his country to the Spartans, this enfant terrible still remained, even as a penniless exile, the subject (as...

The Sacking of Athens

Peter Green, 6 September 2017

In 413​ bce, outside Syracuse, the Athenian general Nicias, old and mortally ill, tried to rally the spirits of his defeated troops before their final retreat. A city, he told them, consists of its men, not of its walls or its empty ships. He had in mind their own city of Athens. In 480-79 bce, about a decade before Nicias was born, Athens had been systematically sacked and burned,...

Class War in Ancient Athens

Peter Green, 19 April 2017

At first sight​ – and indeed after careful investigation – ancient Athens looks anything but an ideal spot for the incubation and development of democracy, whether direct, representative, or the uneasy compromise that eventually emerged. Athens prided itself on having been the sole city not to fall to invaders during the general collapse of Mycenaean dynasties in Greece c.1200


Peter Green, 19 November 2015

For​ various reasons, many of them neither literary nor trustworthy, Sappho has always exerted a magnetic yet frustrating attraction on later generations. The frustration is due in part to the fact that her poetry is predominantly private, only a small amount of it has survived, and very little has ever been known about her. But it’s also safe to say we’re frustrated because a...

The Achaemenids

Peter Green, 6 May 2015

In​ the early sixth century bce the Persians occupied a small region known as Parsa (Persis to the Greeks), now Fars, in south-west Iran. They were allies, perhaps subordinate allies, of the Medes, and had no apparent ambition for greater power. Yet under Cyrus II (559-30) they conquered Lydia, Ionia, Media and Babylonia – most of what today is known as the Near and Middle East...

Pericles of Athens

Peter Green, 6 November 2014

The fifth volume​ of the Cambridge Ancient History, covering the fifth century bc, was first published in 1927. The League of Nations still mattered, the exploits of T.E. Lawrence were a welcome antidote to memories of the Somme and Passchendaele, and the British Empire still coloured a sizeable proportion of the world’s maps red. In classics, W.W. Tarn (perhaps influenced by both...


Peter Green, 2 July 2014

Delphi​ offers one of the most extraordinary, paradoxical and, for many rationalists, embarrassing success stories from ancient Hellas. It was the centre, the omphalos, or navel, of the civilised world and, as tradition had it, enjoyed the special protection of Apollo. It hosted – along with Olympia, Nemea and the Isthmus – one of Greece’s four major athletic festivals....

On Liking Herodotus

Peter Green, 2 April 2014

When, as a vaguely anti-authoritarian ex-service undergraduate, I first studied Herodotus seriously in the years immediately following the Second World War, my overriding impression was of a man both broad-minded and cosmopolitan; fascinated by the infinite varieties of human nature; surprisingly alert to the influence of women in history, which I’ve always thought of as the subtext, by...

Persia v. the West

Peter Green, 8 August 2013

In 545 BCE – immediately after the conquest of Lydia by Cyrus, the aggressive and imperially expansive young king of Persia – the Greeks of Asia Minor, who had previously lived under the easy-going rule of Croesus the Lydian, and had received a sharp rebuff when they tried to get a similar deal from Cyrus, approached the Spartans for a protective alliance. The Spartans,...

Alcibiades the Vandal

Peter Green, 25 April 2013

On a summer morning in late May or early June of 415 BCE, the inhabitants of Athens woke to the discovery that the city’s numerous Herms – images of Hermes consisting of a square-cut stone pillar topped by a bearded head, and displaying an erect phallus, but otherwise aniconic – had been vandalised during the night: their faces had been cut about, and their phalluses may...


Peter Green, 20 December 2012

Recent comparisons of the Hellenistic Age with our own fragmented culture may have persuaded at least some curious readers to dip into Theocritus, Polybius or Apollonius Rhodius. Yet how many have so much as heard of Callimachus? The books discussed here are by serious scholars; they require, between them, an investment of some £450, and comprise a total of more than two thousand pages...

Love in Ancient Greece

Peter Green, 8 May 2008

No one reading James Davidson’s enormous and impassioned book, which barely acknowledges the existence, much less the vast numerical superiority, of Greek heterosexual society, would get the impression that Greek homoeroticism was anything less than the central principle determining the varied cultural patterns of all those obstinately independent and idiosyncratic city-states. To take...

The history of cartography

Peter Green, 21 February 2002

These three books constitute both landmarks and cautionary warnings in a long process that none of them addresses directly. Take Barry Cunliffe’s reconstruction of the exploratory voyage by Pytheas of Massalia (Marseille) in the late fourth century BC: this not only exposes the striking lack of direct knowledge then prevalent among Mediterranean peoples about virtually anywhere outside...


Easy Peasy

17 June 2015

Galen Strawson talks about ‘Peter Green’s Homer’, as though my version of the passage he refers to (Iliad 20.273-87, 322-3) differed in some way from the Greek text (Letters, 2 July). It doesn’t. Achilles’ spear does pierce through both layers of Aeneas’ shield. It does then go on far enough to stick in the ground. Aeneas does relinquish the shield to pick up a rock...
I’m grateful for Mark Engel’s information about the proper way to avoid trichinosis, but it doesn’t convince me that pork wasn’t originally avoided because of its occasional mysterious tendency to make the eater ill (Letters, 3 July). Pythagoreans had some very arcane reasons for banning the broad bean, but that prohibition, similarly, was almost certainly due in the first instance...

The End of the Epithet

Colin Burrow, 26 April 2018

Should a translator try to shine a light through the fog or to replicate it? What makes that question so hard to answer is that fog isn’t all there is in The Odyssey. Wary manoeuvrings through the...

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‘The Iliad’

Colin Burrow, 17 June 2015

Bathtubs play a small but significant role in the Iliad.

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Ovid’s Revenge

Denis Feeney, 17 August 2006

In the year 8 AD, at the age of 50, Publius Ovidius Naso stood at the height of poetic ambition. Fêted and continuously successful for almost thirty years, Ovid had been without a rival...

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William Fitzgerald, 23 February 2006

Peter Green’s splendid new translation of Catullus makes quite a substantial volume: more than three hundred pages in all, with an introduction, parallel text in Latin and English, notes,...

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Apollonios Rhodios

James Davidson, 5 March 1998

The story of Jason sounds like an over-excited pitch to a Hollywood producer, a tale full of sex and violence with a doomed romance at its heart and plenty of opportunity for exotic locations and...

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Old Flames

Peter Parsons, 10 January 1983

Time and philology turn dirt into dust. Housman had to veil Latin obscenity in Latin obscurity; Paul Brandt chose to publish under the speaking pseudonym of ‘Hans Licht’;...

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