Constructing this list was fun because I had done this book before developing my theory of 50 books. Did I read that many? Actually, I think I read more than that number, but many were not historically accurate or even sensible on the whole, though giving some good tidbits. I still had to read them to find that out.
If you want to go here, one big warning: there was no such thing as "ancient Greece." Any book that talks about what "the ancient Greeks" did is willfully either ignorant or distortive. Every city-state had its own laws, customs, and attitudes. To begin with, there's the big divide between Ionians and Dorians: Ionians largely treat females as intelligent domestic livestock, while in Dorian areas they can own property, don't get married until well after puberty, &c.
Take the subject of pederasty and homosexuality. It is often claimed "the ancient Greeks" had homosexuality as a norm, and the authorities don't mention it's usually older man and boy, not two equals close in age. But -- the Spartans despised both forms (Xenophon and Aristotle both say this). The better class of Theban man would often live with a boy as with a wife, and the boy's parents were pleased and flattered by the connection while it lasted. The Athenian philosophers considered it fashionable, but the average Athenian voted in favour of laws to help protect their sons from being seduced by men but viewed non-pederastic homosexuality with a shrug. This is possibly because most Greeks used infanticide to limit families to two sons and one daughter, creating a population skew, while in Sparta the law required all healthy Spartiate babies born to be raised.
This all but gave me street maps to the cities (and I could build some sections from the descriptions). History and legend overlap a lot, as do legend and myth, but that reminded me my characters would think more like this. Levi's footnotes were another whole layer of information. Of course, I still had to mentally remove four centuries of Hellenistic and Imperial buildings, but that was only bad at Olympia. This was the original travel guide for tourists, and describes the artwork in temples just as a modern one would describe Florentine cathedrals.
A lesser but free translation is Pausanias. Pausanias' Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918.
1). A general history of the time,
not over 200 pages.
2.) An "everyday life" book of
3.) General transportation
4.) General costume
5.) Specific transportation
6.) Etiquette, and I don't mean morals
7.) Spectator entertainments, whether theatre
or sports, a general overview.
8.) Self-entertainments, like card games,
lawn games, and children's games.
9.) Food and dining, including what sort
of public dining was available.
10.) Recipes for period food.
11.) Marriage and family.
12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade.
13.) Religion for the time and place.
14.) A fat history book of the area and
century as an introduction.
15.) A history of the most influential country at the time (country A).
16.) A history of its rival (country B).
In the Hellenic area, that would be Sparta vs. Athens. So I read Herodotus (The History, volume 1, volume 2) and Thucydides (The History of the Peloponnesian War). The latter's introduction was wonderful. Without him we would not know that Athenian men used to wear gold dragonflies in their hair before they took up Spartan fashions, like athletics in the buff, which they didn't until very little before this period. You can also use Smith, William, Sir, 1813 1893, A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest. Way old, but it will get you nicely grounded, for free.
17.) A biography of the leader of country A
18.) A biography of the leader of country B
Plutarch's biography of Agesilaos is in some places irrational, and he seems to have glued on to Agesilaos stories suitable for his older brother, not him. After 400 years, with poor record-keeping, it can get like that. I prefer the memoire by Agesilaos's contemporary and friend, Xenophon. I also read his Cyropedia, to get a little handle on Persians.
Because I'm in Country A, I can make some substitutes for the next three.
19.) A history of the country you are setting
20.) A history of the country you are setting
in, that era.
21.) A biography of the leader of the country
of your setting.
22.) An everyday life for the commoner/lower
classes of your time and place.
23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
of your time and place.
24.) An everyday life for the middle class
of your time and place.
25.) An everyday life for women of your
time and place
26.) An auto/biography of someone like
your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
27.) A book on houses and furnishings of
the period, if possible.
28.) A book about courting, romance, and
sex of the time.
29.) A book for naming historical characters
30.) Medicine of the time and place.
31.) Climate, weather, and seasons.
Peter Levi, The Greek World; The Cultural Atlas of the World, 1986, 1990, Stonehenge Press, Alexandria, VA. Also maps in Routledge and Raschke.
32.) Medicine: I also read Hippokrates in translation and saw just how wrong-headed medicine mostly was, even if they had gotten away from incantations and crocodile dung and knew how to set a bone or reduce a dislocation. OB/GYN was insane: pregnancy term was figured at 10 months, and the writers known as Hippokrates never saw a virgin hit puberty, so their idea of what would happen then is bizarre, but enforces the cultural imperative that you must marry off your daughter before that -- in this case, to save her life and sanity. This was important to show me that what are touted as the "rational and scientific Greeks" were only so by comparison with savages. This informed my treatment of characters, who needed high levels of superstition and religious dread to be realistic, besides being very certain of their "rational" misinformation.
33.) Barbarians: Tadeusz Sulimirski, Sarmatians (Ancient Peoples and Places), 1970, Praeger, NY.
34.) Warfare: We're talking Spartiates here, at a time that they invaded the Persian Empire, so this is very necessary, though all of it is off-stage. Hans Delbrück, trans. Walter J. Renfroe, Jr., Warfare in Antiquity: History of the Art of War, Volume I, 1900, trans. 1975, U of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
35.) Warfare: John Warry; Warfare in the Classical World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Weapons, Warriors & Warfare in the Ancient Civilisations of Greece and Rome, 1980, Salamander Books, London.
36.) More Maps: Colin McEvedy, The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History: Revised Edition, 1967, Penguin Books, London. These are very large scale, but it let me relate Greece to the Sea of Grass.
37.) Religion: Robert Graves, The Greek Myths (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition), V. 1 & 2, Penguin Books, London. Don't let the pop-art cover throw you. What were they smoking that day at Penguin?!
38.) History: Hellanika, aka History of My Times by Xenophon. A memoire, taking up where Thucydides leaves off, finished late in life, though large sections were written much earlier. Disagrees in details with the Oxyrhyncus Historian (darling of the Classicists, but writing 600 years later), and reports what was to him important and memorable. Unlike Thucydides, he was not keeping a diary at the time of events, so there are lacunae resulting from his writing this often fifty years after the fact. Spartocentric, so it infuriates the Athenophilic Classicists by skipping what they consider important. No internal dating system worth noting: keep a chronology of major battles, etc., in hand.
39.) Hunting: Xenophon, On Hunting or The Sportsman, from rabbits and deer to boar. Period, not NRA.
40.) Water Travel: Gardiner, Robert, ed., The Earliest Ships: The Evolution of Boats into Ships, 1996, Conway Maritime Press, Naval Institute, Maryland.
41.) Water Warfare: Because it was possibly necessary, until I worked out the plot. Two navarkhoi appear as it is, Lysander and Teleutias. William Ledyard Rodgers, vice admiral, USN, ret. Greek and Roman Naval Warfare. A Study of Strategy, Tactics, and Ship Design from Salamis (480 BC) to Actium (31 BC) 1934, 1964 Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD. For free you could get The Fleets of the World. The Galley Period (1876: New York: D. Van Nostrand, Publisher) by Foxhall A. Parker, for as much as I used it.
42.) Water Travel & Warfare: Lionel Casson, The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times 1991 Princeton U Press, Princeton NY. Didn't need it, but I might have.
43.) Barbarians & Artemesia of Helicarnassus: Tim Newark; Women Warlords: An Illustrated Military History of Female Warriors; 1989; Blandford, Cassell Artillery House, London.
44.) Wildlife: Francois Bourliere, Life Nature Library: The Land and Wildlife of Eurasia, part of Life Nature Library series 1964, 2nd ed. 1974 Time-Life Books, Inc., New York. Boars and European lions.
45.) Caves: Because I have a scene in one. Donald Dale Jackson, Underground Worlds 1982 Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA
46.) Magic: F. Ll. Griffith & Herbert Thompson, ed.,The Leyden Papyrus: An Egyptian Magical Book, 1904, 1974, Dover, NY; orig. The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London & Leiden, H. Grevel & Co., London. Used for some magic, since Greek magic is really hard to find. Like most occult recipe books, horrifically boring to read.
47.) Weapons: AdrienneMayor, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World, 2003, Overlook Press; Traces the earliest chemical warfare from the legends of poisoned arrows of Herakles forward. Notable for describing how people die of the poisons in gruesome detail -- just what I might need! This was fascinating.
48.) Spinning & Weaving: Paula Simmons, Spinning and Weaving with Wool, 1977, Pacific Search Press, Seattle. This is what women did, and to totally exclude it would have been silly.
49.) Spinning: Elsie Davenport, Your Handspinning , 1953, 1964, Select Books, Mountain View, MO. Use of the handspindle.
50.) Music: De Organographia: Music of the Ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks "Philip Neuman, Gayle Stuwe Neuman combine astute musicology, performance practice and instrument crafting in the realization of this amazing collection of music from 1950 BC to 300 AD. From the world's oldest notated music, vocal renderings are accompanied with performed lyres, kithara, pandoura, double reed pipes, flutes and other ancient instruments." We mark it down one in this period because the time span is so great. Programming out the Mesopotamian cuts, you get two early Greek harp pieces and a bunch of early CE cuts. They also do Music of the Ancient Greeks: Six genuinely BC cuts in amongst the early CE ones, many from the Oxyrhynchus papyri.
For Spartans in media, you must consider 300 complete nonsense (Short-haired Spartans?! Body-displaying Medes?! Three art shots and it was on my Never See list). However, Season One of Deadliest Warrior featured a Spartan twice. I was pleased to see I wasn't contradicted by anything in it. This was the only season they had a play-off, and the Spartan won over a samurai (it's the shield advantage).
|If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Classical Greek pages.|
Check the Near History sample guides. There's more to read, but mostly lighter stuff, as well as lots more in video. A few appropriate movies from a year are much easier to get through than a detail biography of a president and will tell you more about ordinary life.