The growth of the modern world urban system is the greatest episode of urban growth there has ever been, but it is not the first. Three thousand years ago most of the Mediterranean basin was a world of villages; a world without money or writing, without temples for the gods or palaces for the mighty. Over the centuries that followed, however, an extraordinary series of civilizations grew up around the Inland Sea. They included those of the Greeks and Romans, but also others created by Etruscans and Phoenicians, by Tartessians and Lycians, and eventually by many others. At the heart of all these cultures was the city. Most ancient cities were tiny by modern standards, but they were the building blocks of all the states and empires of classical antiquity, the places where new literatures and art forms were created, the motors of history and the most fiercely contested prizes of warfare. The greatest cities--Athens and Corinth, Syracuse and Marseilles, Alexandria and Ephesus, Antioch and Carthage, Rome and Byzantium--became the powerhouses of successive ancient societies. And then, for reasons that remain mysterious, the cities withered away, leaving behind evocative ruins that have fascinated and inspired so many who came after. The Life and Death of Ancient Cities tells the story of the rise and collapse of Europe's first great urban experiment. Drawing on the latest historical and archaeological evidence, Greg Woolf provides a rich narrative history of the ancient Mediterranean city, and attempts to solve the puzzles about its rapid emergence and equally rapid decline, making comparisons along the way with contemporary urban experience. Containing dozens of illustrations, with sidebar commentaries on specific urban themes, this book will appeal to all students and general readers of ancient history.