The Greeks and Their Heritages

July 10 2015

The Greeks and Their Heritages

In the year of Greece’s accession to the EU – or rather, EEC – OUP published a final book by Toynbee.

In the last two working years of his life, 1972-74, he wrote two chronological studies: Mankind and Mother Earth (completed 1973, published posthumously 1976) and The Greeks and Their Heritages (completed 1974, published 1981).

All scholars, he thought, should pursue general and specialised interests in parallel, so these were late reviews of his two main subjects, world history (necessarily general) and Greece (specialist even if he covers thousands of years). The only chronological study which preceded them had been the brief Hellenism, published in 1959. Mere chronological history wasn’t normally his way, and even these do not descend into narrative. The main chapter headings of the later Greek book do not promise an easy read, but rather arouse forebodings of a lugubrious pedantry. Of course, it is fascinating as well (and Mankind and Mother Earth has real grandeur).

The Influence of Heritages from the Past

The Mycenaean Greeks’ Successes and Failures

The Hellenic Greeks’ Heritage from the Mycenaean Greeks

The Hellenic Greeks’ Successes and Failures

The Byzantine Greeks’ Heritage from the Hellenic Greeks

The Byzantine Greeks’ Successes and Failures

The Modern Greeks’ Heritage from the Byzantine Greeks

The Modern Greeks’ Heritage from the Hellenic Greeks

The Modern Greeks’ Successes and Failures


At least this plan suggests a way of treating Greek history, with all its discontinuities, as a whole. And he was returning to his scholarly roots and to his youth, having had a thoroughbred training in the classics at Winchester, of a type no longer available; having been introduced there even to the then little-known field of Byzantine history through reading JB Bury; and having encountered modern Greece after Oxford, first as a serious traveller, then through the Foreign Office in London and at Versailles, and then as a correspondent from the Greco-Turkish War. Does the repeated phrase “successes and failures” remind one of old-fashioned exam questions? (The whole table of contents is like a dream of an exam, the repeated ordeal of his youth.)

Buy here. I quote a review by Hugh Lloyd-Jones here and here.

OUP don’t identify the church, but it is the Church of the Pantanassa or of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Monastiraki Square in Athens. The cover shows Hellenic, Byzantine and modern Greece in the background, middle distance and foreground.

5 Responses to “The Greeks and Their Heritages”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Toynbee’s first published work was On Herodotus III. 90 and VII 75, 76 in Classical Review, Vol 24, No 8, 1910.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    McNeill says that Mankind and Mother Earth, begun in October 1972, was far enough advanced when Toynbee had his stroke in the summer of 1974 to permit its posthumous publication. My sense is that, although it could have used an editor, it was finished. It concludes with a Retrospect in 1973, not 1974.

    Astonishingly, McNeill makes no mention at all of The Greeks and Their Heritages and seems unaware of its existence.

  3. Lefteris Spithas Says:

    I am trying to find an electronic version of this book (pdf, epub, kindle, …). Can anyone help?
    Lefteris Spithas

    • davidderrick Says:

      There isn’t a legal one …

      • Lefteris Spithas Says:

        Thanks David. I am of course looking for a legal source and will gladly pay for the eBook, if it exists. The usual sources (amazon, abebooks, etc) do not have it.
        (I do most of my reading in electronic form, due to the small-size text in the print books – tablets: great tools!)
        Lefteris Spithas

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