In This Review

The Greeks: A Global History
The Greeks: A Global History
By Roderick Beaton
Basic Books, 2021, 608 pp

When people think of Greece, they generally think of the present-day nation-state, which they imagine as roughly conterminous with a narrowly bounded ancient society that had Athens and a few neighboring cities at its center. In this magisterial yet readable introduction to Greek history—one of the best of its kind, whether for academic or popular audiences—Beaton reveals the far more complicated reality. Greece has always been a broadly settled civilization: Greeks have long lived in parts of present-day Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and countries of the Middle East. In 1830, modern Greece gained its independence not via a popular ethnic revolution: most of its inhabitants spoke Albanian, and three times as many Greeks lived outside the country’s borders as did inside. Instead, Greek independence resulted from the work of warlords, outside powers, and generic Orthodox Christian opposition to Ottoman rule. The new state had to impose a sanitized version of the Greek language and a sense of national identity within its territory. Many of contemporary Greece’s problems with its neighbors are rooted in past wars waged by the Greeks to assert that identity; others spring from its status as a small country subject to many indignities, only one of which is its financial tutelage under the European Union.