Frederick Copleston's original nine-volume A History of Philosophy began as an attempt to provide Catholic seminary students, whom Copleston believed were being woefully undersold in philosophy, a comprehensive but accessible guide to the ideas and individuals that have shaped philosophy. His work went on to be regarded by many a single best history of philosophy ever written in English.
Coplsteon's work sought provides a detailed, and by consensus fair, treatment of the amjor philosophers and their ideas from the Pre-Socratics all the way up to Levi-Staruass. He skillfully avoids simplistic caricatures and his narrative sparkles with incident and intellectual excitement giving each philosopher a full hearing with erudition, attention to style, while illuminating each figure has to those who came before and to those who came after.
Nevertheless Copleston, who is well known for his public debates and resounding defenses for the existence of God, never hides his own perspectives--but he also does not use it to truncate or distort others' views. Thus, Copleston's work is remarkably well-rounded, complete, and scholarly. Though originally intended for students, Copleston's work is a staple work for any library; especially those who wish to learn about and engage philosophical questions in an informed manner.
About Volume 1
In A History of Philosophy, Volume 1: Greece and Rome--From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus, Copleston begins with the early Ionian thinkers, before moving onto Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Zeno, Anaxagoras, as well as the Sophists. From here Copleston leads us into the three greatest ancient philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and its subsequent development in the Roman Empire. Along the way Copleston frames the central issues these philosophers addressed without truncating or oversimplifying the issues while showing how each thinker influenced and was influenced by his ancient context and peer thinkers.
Progress of philosophical thinking among the Greeks, leading to a dual climax in the work of Plato and Aristotle, demanding a synthesis by the Neo-Platonists.