300 Spartans guarding the pass at Thermopylae. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle engaging in a dialogue that will give birth to Western philosophy. Alexander the Great conquering nearly the entire ancient world. The military and political history of ancient Greece is famously endowed with stirring scenes such as these. But Greek history is much more than a series of gripping set pieces.
Why do the ancient Greeks occupy such a prominent place in conceptions of Western culture and identity? What about them made generations of influential scholars and writers view Hellenic culture as the uniquely essential starting point for understanding the art and reflection that define the West? Does this view tell the whole story?