Suggested Reading: Information Gathering in Classical Greece

Frank S. Russell — Information Gathering in Classical Greece — University of Michigan Press, 2002, 268 pp. ISBN 0-472-11064

(Buy at Amazon.com)

(Buy at Amazon.com)

While Amazon’s blurb speaks of cloak-and-dagger and other spy clichés, this book has little to do with a thrilling espionage novel, and is as far from an ‘easy read’ as anything can be. Well documented, Russell’s book brings us back to classical times and tells us about war, politics, oracles, and “spies” (for lack of a better term) and a lot about the Greek mind. We learn, for example, that the Greeks did not consider intelligence gathering in the same way we would today with professional spies and information-gathering network, à la NSA, but rather in a rather ad hoc way.

The narrative is really fascinating but the form itself remains difficult. First, there are quite many ancient greek words to remember (will you remember what are a proxenoi and a presbeutai in two days?), and very often we find more than half of the pages being footnotes. This excruciatingly well documented book is still a must-read for one interested in classical Greece as well as one interested in the history of espionage.

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