Mary Renault's series of Greek novels are an amazing rendition of the Greek world, and of them all I think The Praise Singer is possibly the best. Simple and direct, with vivid detail, it tells the life story of the poet Simonides. Simonides lived at a time of great upheaval: the period when the great tyrants of Hellas were falling, and Athens began her first important steps to democracy. Simonides' long life meant he was there for the Persian Wars, and he is credited by some with the famous epitaph over the graves of the fallen at Thermopylae, though interestingly Renault has it otherwise in her version. If I have any criticism to make of her books, it is that they concentrate heavily on the people, so that someone who isn't familiar with Greek history might not fully appreciate the important events unfolding about the characters. But you can't have everything, and she certainly delivers on what she promises. Read this book for a good look at life in ancient Greece, seen through the eyes of a great poet, as written by a great writer.