This book tells the story of the rise and fall of ancient cities from the end of the Bronze Age to the beginning of the Middle Ages. It is a tale of war and politics, pestilence and famine, triumph and tragedy, by turns both fabulous and squalid. Its focus is on the ancient Mediterranean: Greeks and Romans at the centre, but Phoenicians and Etruscans, Persians, Gauls, and Egyptians all play a part.
So how were cities first created, and then sustained for so long, in these apparently unpromising surroundings? How did they feed themselves, where did they find water and building materials, and what did they do with their waste and their dead? Why, in the end, did their rulers give up on them? And what it was like to inhabit urban worlds so unlike our own - cities plunged into darkness every night, cities dominated by the temples of the gods, cities of farmers, cities of slaves, cities of soldiers. Ultimately, the chief characters in the story are the cities themselves. Athens and Sparta, Persepolis and Carthage, Rome and Alexandria: cities that formed great families. Their story encompasses the history of the generations of people who built and inhabited them, whose short lives left behind monuments that have inspired city builders ever since - and whose ruins stand as stark reminders to the 21st century of the perils as well as the potential rewards of an urban existence.
Greg has a long-standing interest in the culture of empire in the ancient world. He has worked on the formation of provincial cultures, often using archaeological material, and also on the cosmopolitan cultures of the metropolis. Much of his work considers the Roman world in a global perspective.
He has written on literacy, on knowledge cultures and libraries, on ethnography, on the Roman economy, on gendered Roman history and on the emergence of religions. His latest book The Life and Death of Ancient Cities. A Natural History, reflects a growing interest in the history of the very long term. Currently he is working on a book on migration and mobility, and also on urban resilience as one aspect of the environmental history of antiquity.