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How to Mellify a Corpse: and Other Human Stories of Ancient Science and Superstition

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In How to Mellify a Corpse, Vicki León brings her particular hybrid of history and humor to the entwined subjects of science and superstition in the ancient world, from Athens and Rome to Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Carthage. León covers subjects as diverse as astronomy and astrology, philosophy and practicalities of life and death (including the titular ancient In How to Mellify a Corpse, Vicki León brings her particular hybrid of history and humor to the entwined subjects of science and superstition in the ancient world, from Athens and Rome to Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Carthage. León covers subjects as diverse as astronomy and astrology, philosophy and practicalities of life and death (including the titular ancient method of embalming), and ancient mechanical engineering. How to Mellify a Corpse of course invokes legendary thinkers (Pythagoras and his discoveries in math and music, Aristotle's books on politics and philosophy, and Archimedes' "Eureka" moment), but it also delves deeply into the lives of everyday people, their understanding and beliefs. A feast for the curious mind, How to Mellify a Corpse is not only for those with an interest in the experimental: it's for anyone who's inspired by the imagination and ingenuity humanity uses to understand our world.


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In How to Mellify a Corpse, Vicki León brings her particular hybrid of history and humor to the entwined subjects of science and superstition in the ancient world, from Athens and Rome to Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Carthage. León covers subjects as diverse as astronomy and astrology, philosophy and practicalities of life and death (including the titular ancient In How to Mellify a Corpse, Vicki León brings her particular hybrid of history and humor to the entwined subjects of science and superstition in the ancient world, from Athens and Rome to Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Carthage. León covers subjects as diverse as astronomy and astrology, philosophy and practicalities of life and death (including the titular ancient method of embalming), and ancient mechanical engineering. How to Mellify a Corpse of course invokes legendary thinkers (Pythagoras and his discoveries in math and music, Aristotle's books on politics and philosophy, and Archimedes' "Eureka" moment), but it also delves deeply into the lives of everyday people, their understanding and beliefs. A feast for the curious mind, How to Mellify a Corpse is not only for those with an interest in the experimental: it's for anyone who's inspired by the imagination and ingenuity humanity uses to understand our world.

30 review for How to Mellify a Corpse: and Other Human Stories of Ancient Science and Superstition

  1. 5 out of 5

    Allie

    Because I worked on the publicity for this book and managed Vicki's blog tour, this is more a "talk" than a review. While I have mentioned books I've worked on in Mailbox Monday before, I've never reviewed or otherwise promoted a book I worked on, although InkWell does have many fabulous historical authors as clients. That being said, I think this book is a totally delightful read and its subject matter is absolutely perfect for discussion on this blog. Now that the boring disclosure part is out Because I worked on the publicity for this book and managed Vicki's blog tour, this is more a "talk" than a review. While I have mentioned books I've worked on in Mailbox Monday before, I've never reviewed or otherwise promoted a book I worked on, although InkWell does have many fabulous historical authors as clients. That being said, I think this book is a totally delightful read and its subject matter is absolutely perfect for discussion on this blog. Now that the boring disclosure part is out of the way, let's get down to business... In the cheekily titled How to Mellify A Corpse, Vicki León once again (her other credits include the wildly popular Uppity Women series and Working IX to V) takes readers on a journey through the whacky, bizarre, and downright odd practices employed by the early inhabitants of civilization, this time turning her historian's eye to the area of ancient science and superstition. The word "mellify" refers to the process of mellification, an early technique for mummifying a corpse using honey. To me, it sounds like something straight off a modern spa menu - how's that for a body wrap?! - but back before potent chemicals like formaldehyde existed, it was a very real method of embalming. Alexander the Great even specifically requested that his own corpse be preserved in this manner. The book's chapters are divided geographically by civilization: Athens & Attica, Greece & the Greek Islands, Asia Minor & the Middle East, Rome & Environs, Italy & Sicily, and Egypt, Carthage, & North Africa, so the reader has the option to jump around or read straight through. Topics discussed are as varied as the history behind belief in the evil eye to the invention of the first aqueduct. León states in her introduction, "Meteorite worship; bean taboos; bizarre beliefs about women and their powers over hydrocarbons; it's all here." A trait I love about all of León's books is that she not only focuses on the most famous/infamous people from history, but also unveils the lives of interesting characters not typically mentioned in the history books. Come back tomorrow for a guest post by Vicki in which she highlights the life of Cleopatra and one of her lesser-known contemporaries, Queen Amanirenas of Meroe (a giveaway will also be included with this guest post). How to Mellify A Corpse is no ordinary look at history; León brings a stylized humor and wit to her writing that makes Greco-Roman culture come alive in a way that is equal parts fascinating and fun. The pages are also illustrated with funny political cartoons and graphics with hilarious captions that compliment her writings perfectly and add that little extra je ne sais quoi. With the spirited panache that has become Leon's trademark, this uppity woman proves learning about ancient science and religion can be a jocular, rollicking adventure.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This is what textbooks ought to be, and tragically are not - engaging, informative, fun, and ultimately stimulating the reader's curiousity so that they move on to learn more about the subject. The material has the potential to be both dense and dull and is neither, which can be attributed to both the research techniques and the writing skill of the author. The voice is bright and fluid, and the material is steadily informative, which you don't so much notice because organizing the material regio This is what textbooks ought to be, and tragically are not - engaging, informative, fun, and ultimately stimulating the reader's curiousity so that they move on to learn more about the subject. The material has the potential to be both dense and dull and is neither, which can be attributed to both the research techniques and the writing skill of the author. The voice is bright and fluid, and the material is steadily informative, which you don't so much notice because organizing the material regionally makes so much sense. And the inclusion of not-so-famous folks is pretty enchanting. It's particularly nice to read non-fiction about the history of science by a woman - it's a field where there don't seem to be many women writing, and few people writing with such a light yet authoritative touch. My neighbor's teens saw the book sitting out at my house and, after skimming it, urged me to hurry up and finish so that they could get some fun reading in before school started again - high praise indeed from 16 year old twin boys.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Josephine Beyke

    I'll be honest: this book does not belong on my "read" list. I only got to page three in How to Mellify a Corpse, and I can't see myself continuing it. I did receive it from the goodreads giveaways, however, so I feel I owe the website a review. I did not give up on this book because of horrible writing or a boring plot; on the contrary, I found the book easy to read and great for the casual history buff. I can just tell that this book isn't for me. I must admit, I was a tad offended by Leon's in I'll be honest: this book does not belong on my "read" list. I only got to page three in How to Mellify a Corpse, and I can't see myself continuing it. I did receive it from the goodreads giveaways, however, so I feel I owe the website a review. I did not give up on this book because of horrible writing or a boring plot; on the contrary, I found the book easy to read and great for the casual history buff. I can just tell that this book isn't for me. I must admit, I was a tad offended by Leon's introduction. While I understand her point that superstitions could have limited the scientific growth of the ancient world, as a Pagan I found her 'look at the stupid little savages who believed in divination and fate' (note: NOT an actual quote) attitude insulting. This may have tainted my opinion of this book but really, I just don't want to read it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie Dunham

    A lovely and thorough book about superstitions of the ancient civilizations. I enjoyed this book very much. It was a good book to have at the ready to kill some time. I found it very entertaining how some of these ideas are still very much alive today.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Zelda

    So far I have found 3 interesting things in 60 pages. I guess I should have figured that a book with inch and a half margins would have some fluff. If you're wasting a quarter of the page width to print the title horizontally, packing in the facts is probably not your agenda. Sadly, if the author wasn't cramming in the cutesy comments and puns, there would easily be room for the actual science topics Leon keeps zooming away from. I'm still hanging in for better . . . So far I have found 3 interesting things in 60 pages. I guess I should have figured that a book with inch and a half margins would have some fluff. If you're wasting a quarter of the page width to print the title horizontally, packing in the facts is probably not your agenda. Sadly, if the author wasn't cramming in the cutesy comments and puns, there would easily be room for the actual science topics Leon keeps zooming away from. I'm still hanging in for better . . .

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Ellen

    Fascinating and engaging information about not only the technology and practices of the ancient world, but the reasons for the interpretations of data collected, and so forth. I checked this out from the library initially and just had to buy it to keep on my shelves as an ongoing reference source.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    In reading a book like his you have to understand where the author is coming from and what they are trying to convey to the audience. In this case, the author is sufficiently open about her agendas that the work is largely transparent in its attempt to convey something of the superstition of the ancient world as a way of providing a critique on the contemporary world. If this was a hidden agenda it would be easy and proper to condemn it, but in this case the agenda is open and so the reader can In reading a book like his you have to understand where the author is coming from and what they are trying to convey to the audience. In this case, the author is sufficiently open about her agendas that the work is largely transparent in its attempt to convey something of the superstition of the ancient world as a way of providing a critique on the contemporary world. If this was a hidden agenda it would be easy and proper to condemn it, but in this case the agenda is open and so the reader can take it or leave it. The fact that the author is open in using the folly of the past to shine a light on the similar follies of the present--the damaging consequences of lead use are compared to our fondness for plastic and other more contemporary products, while the fondness of the ancient world for superstitious explanations is compared with the contemporary fondness for horoscopes and lucky objects and the like--does not mean that the book is devoid of problematic perspectives, though. In particular, it must be recognized that the author is hostile to religion, especially Christianity, in a way that does not speak to the author's soundness in perspective. This book is about 300 pages long and is divided into six chapters that contain a somewhat scattered and chaotically organized discussion of various stories from the classical Mediterranean world that are regionally organized after a fashion. After an introductory section where the author discusses names, places, dates, and costs, as well as a more formal introduction to the work, the book begins with a discussion of some stories about Athens and its surrounding area (1). These stories range from Socrates to the milky way, from the hazards of deforestation to the origins of moonlighting, from ancient thoughts on genetics to special effects. After that the author discusses stories from Greece and the Greek Islands (2), similarly balancing the stories between speculating on the fava bean allergies of Pythagoras with a discussion of ancient achievements in acoustics, efforts at understanding flight, dream interpretation, ghosts, and the underworld. After that comes a look at Greek culture in Asia Minor and the Middle East (3), including a discussion of the trade politics of myrrh and frankincense as well as ancient hydrocarbon use. This is followed by a discussion of Rome and its provinces (4), Italy & Sicily (5), and North Africa and Mesopotamia (6), all of which show a similar comparison between ancient people whose achievements the author judges worthy of recognition, ancient struggles with relevant contemporary problems, and ways that the author can poke fun at humans for some aspects of irrationality and folly, especially of the religious kind. After this the book ends with acknowledgements, a bibliography, and an index. Even with the author's unsound and anti-religious perspective, there is still something of worth that can be gained from a book like this one. The author's tales of the past are entertaining and illuminating. The ancient technologies of making concrete and building arches and the occasional insights of ancient thinkers as well as the ability to recognize patterns between fossils (even if they were not recognized at the time) and gold deposits speak highly of the capacity of ancient Greeks and Romans to at least think soundly some of the time about some things. The same may be said for the author, that if her perspective blinds her to certain aspects of truth and certainly moral excellence in her belief system and practice, that her God-given gifts of reason and insight do not completely fail her and allow her to stumble upon nuggets of worth that can be passed along to the reader. If you have a willingness to see the ancient world as possessing things worth knowing and appreciating and respecting, and even worth learning from on occasion, this is by no means a bad book at helping to encourage such tendencies. To be sure, one wishes that the book had a broader perspective in celebrating elevated moral standards of Jews and Christians and was more interested in the excellence of civilizations other than the familiar Greeks and Romans, but one reads the books that are, not the ones we would wish to read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    ARC Winner! What a great read! León's writing style is interesting, yet humorously objective. Her goal is to give you insight into old age superstitions and social beliefs from the Greco-Roman times while applying some common sense with a humorous voice. She also relates them to society's beliefs and superstitions today which is often hysterical. León paints a colorful picture of Greek and Roman times which explores the day-to-day lives, beliefs, social politics, and personal rituals of great ph ARC Winner! What a great read! León's writing style is interesting, yet humorously objective. Her goal is to give you insight into old age superstitions and social beliefs from the Greco-Roman times while applying some common sense with a humorous voice. She also relates them to society's beliefs and superstitions today which is often hysterical. León paints a colorful picture of Greek and Roman times which explores the day-to-day lives, beliefs, social politics, and personal rituals of great philosophers of the time, kings/conquerors, other notable figures, and average citizens. If you are wondering about that title, it has to do with the preservative benefits of honey. It was common to preserve foods in honey, but it also led to other important preservations. Alexander the Great mellified his lover and himself upon their deaths. Other superstitions about necromancy and "learning secrects from the dead" has an interesting tale as well. Cleomenes became king and he cut off the head of his best friend, Archonides, and preserved it in honey in a large jar in his room. This allowed King Cleomenes to consult with Archonides about battles and political issues. "It may come as no surprise to learn that the honeyed skull of Archonides agreed with everything he said." (pg. 64) This book touches on philosophy, astronomy, construction, politics, science, music, medicine, and the history of these civilizations. We journey into the lives of Aristotle, Plato, Emperor Octavian, Pliny the Elder, Cicero, Pythagorus, Archimedes, and many others. We also cross such lands as Greece, Italy, Spain, France, England, Asia Minor (now Turkey) and the Middle East. I like León's writing style because it flows smoothly and intelligently while still entertaining. She covers a great deal of material but keeps it from being overwhelming or boring as some historical reads can become. The topics switch often but are connected either by a historical figure, topic, or place to keep the reader on track and mentally connected to the material. You will definitely remember this read because you are able to relate it to today and intelligent humor stays with you. I have already acquired her other series called "Uppity Women" of Ancient Times, Medieval Times, and Shakespearean Times. I cannot wait to get started on this series! My book blog: http://cbbookreviews.blogspot.com/

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rick Roche

    Anyone thinking that history of the ancient Greeks and Romans is dull should try How to Mellify a Corpse and Other Human Stories of Ancient Science & Superstition by Vicki Leon. In this illustrated collection of short essays, Leon intimately examines ancient Greek and Roman thinkers and their thoughts without either glorifying or belittling them. While she seems to get a kick out of telling when they totally misunderstood natural processes, she also likes pointing out when they were two thousand Anyone thinking that history of the ancient Greeks and Romans is dull should try How to Mellify a Corpse and Other Human Stories of Ancient Science & Superstition by Vicki Leon. In this illustrated collection of short essays, Leon intimately examines ancient Greek and Roman thinkers and their thoughts without either glorifying or belittling them. While she seems to get a kick out of telling when they totally misunderstood natural processes, she also likes pointing out when they were two thousand years ahead of everyone else in discovery and understanding. "Mellify" is not in the American Heritage Dictionary, but "mellifluous" is. The latter means "flowing with sweetness or honey." Honey was the only sweetener that the Greeks and Romans regularly used. They also used it to treat burns and wounds and to embalm bodies, including that of Alexander the Great. In an essay near the end of the book, Leon tells how the ancients were able to make good use of the honey without ever really understanding it or the bees that made it. Many centuries of Greeks and Romans, who were spread around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, had no word "science," and most of their observations were made by philosophers not employing scientific method, so they were bound to make mistakes. They did not, however, seem to be too bothered by mystery. Looking back, it is rather remarkable how advanced they were in math, astronomy, and physics. There seem to have been quite a few philosophers who figured out that the earth circled the sun. Democritis and Leucippus even proposed that all matter is made of atoms, but they had no equipment with which to prove their theory. They probably did not even feel the need to prove it. Leon makes learning about the ancients fun. In her accounts, she often throws in humorous asides. When describing how a slave given an education reacted, she writes, "The young slave took to it like feta to Greek salad." She also relates ancient science and culture to the modern times: lead was the plastic of its day, temples were tourist attractions, and Romans had their own battle re-enactors. With much fascinating information within, How to Mellify a Course is a book to enjoy a little at a time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lolly's Library

    Mellify - (v.), To preserve a corpse by soaking or wrapping the body in honey. Often referred to as the art of mellification. From the Latin mellifer honey-producing. I certainly didn't learn about that in my high school history classes. Which begs the question, why not? Why couldn't my history class have been full of interesting tidbits like the one above? Why couldn't the textbooks been full of witty and deprecating tales of ancient discoveries and missteps instead of boring recitals of names a Mellify - (v.), To preserve a corpse by soaking or wrapping the body in honey. Often referred to as the art of mellification. From the Latin mellifer honey-producing. I certainly didn't learn about that in my high school history classes. Which begs the question, why not? Why couldn't my history class have been full of interesting tidbits like the one above? Why couldn't the textbooks been full of witty and deprecating tales of ancient discoveries and missteps instead of boring recitals of names and dates? Considering how dull most textbooks are, it's a wonder I still have a hunger to learn about such dusty subjects as history and anthropology. Yet Vicki Leon's books are the main reason I'm still eager to learn. Written with a gently mocking voice, How to Mellify a Corpse is a series of short essays, grouped by geographical relevance, outlining the growth, and regression, of science and superstition in the ancient Mediterranean world. Starting from the earliest Greek city-states and continuing until early Medieval-era Rome, the book covers the developments of the ancient world in such subjects as philosophy, mathematics, architecture, religion, politics and warfare, just to name a few. That's the beauty of Leon's work, though: she covers the major big-dealers of the time (Aristotle, Pythrgoras, Homer, Socrates, etc.) as well as the exploits of the unknowns, those men and women whose triumphs and failures never made it into the history books. And while Leon may poke fun at those ancient peoples, who plundered and poisoned and pilfered their way through the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, it's not done in a holier-than-thou manner. Instead, she uses those examples to not-so-gently point out that we, as modern and thus, supposedly, more enlightened beings than our ancestors, have yet to learn from the mistakes of our past and see the error of our ways. I have never failed to have been entertained and enlightened by Vicki Leon's books and How to Mellify a Corpse is no exception. Note: This review is based on an ARC I received through Goodreads First Reads program.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    History, mythology, science, cosmetology, superstition...This book’s got it all! This was my first time reading a book by Vicky Leon- and- I swear it won’t be the last! I had no idea what I would be getting from a book with a title as unusual as this one. I was almost afraid it might be too scientifically morbid, or maybe too technical...WOW- I couldn’t have been more off! This is a FANTASTIC book! How To Mellify a Corpse is definitely the most fascinating and (yes) exciting history read ever. Jus History, mythology, science, cosmetology, superstition...This book’s got it all! This was my first time reading a book by Vicky Leon- and- I swear it won’t be the last! I had no idea what I would be getting from a book with a title as unusual as this one. I was almost afraid it might be too scientifically morbid, or maybe too technical...WOW- I couldn’t have been more off! This is a FANTASTIC book! How To Mellify a Corpse is definitely the most fascinating and (yes) exciting history read ever. Just released today, this tiny 7” x 7”, 300 page book is filled to the rim with stuff I had never even heard about. So at this point, I must give you some examples of shocking truths I was unaware of...For one, lead was the ‘in thing of the day- they used it for almost everything; from sweetener (gasp!) to fermenting agent, to cosmetics and dental work too (shocked!). Also, I finally got to learn the origin of the ‘evil eye’ myth and who might be most susceptible. Last, but in no way least, the connection between honey, mollifying and Alexander The Great, finally clicked- unbelievable stuff! There is so much material covered in this book that will keep you glued (pun;) and completely awestruck. A cross between senseless ideas that made so much sense; to the simplest of creations that breathe pure genius, How To Mellify a Corpse makes reading about ancient history fun and entertaining. Vicky Leon’s history knowledge is impressive as well as immeasurable. Backed by an incredible amount of research and accuracy, How to Mellify a Corpse offers an ocean of historical information that’s actually a blast to read! I highly recommend this book and am bumping it way up my list of most favourite non-fiction reads. I now look forward to reading another of Leon’s top notch books: Uppity women of The Renaissance (I can’t imagine what concoctions they were upto!) Entertaining, Fascinating, Original and Educational as well ... I am so impressed with how good this book is!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    I enjoyed this collection of often humorous, tongue-in-cheek, historical tidbits about ancient Greece and Roman peoples. It covered a huge variety of materials plus was in short sections so it's perfect for reading while waiting for the bus or before bed, etc. However, I'm only giving it three stars because the author takes too much liberty with the historical accuracy. While it's understandable that many details would be missing from ancient events, the author presents it all a little too matte I enjoyed this collection of often humorous, tongue-in-cheek, historical tidbits about ancient Greece and Roman peoples. It covered a huge variety of materials plus was in short sections so it's perfect for reading while waiting for the bus or before bed, etc. However, I'm only giving it three stars because the author takes too much liberty with the historical accuracy. While it's understandable that many details would be missing from ancient events, the author presents it all a little too matter of factly. She describes details which seemed odd and contradictory to my own research when I questioned it. While this book isn't meant to be academia, it peeved me to see humor coming at the expense of fact when it wasn't necessary to do so to tell the story. The format was also sometimes confusing. She would mention people or events as if we should know who they are, but then not tell their parts until much later. Or vice versa, we'd go in-depth into something and then chapters later she'd introduce it as if she'd never mentioned it before. I think the book would've been better organized chronologically instead of geographically with such random time jumps. All in all, this was a fun book and I was entertained, but don't put too much stock into it and don't try to read it for an extended period of time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Don't let the title fool you, its not an ancient how-to book from the funeral industry! This book is a collection of essays, most only about three pages long, each offering a glimpse at people and events from the Mediterranean area. Arranged by location, the stories jump back and forth through the early centuries on either side of the BC/AD divide while they work their way geographically from Italy to Egypt. The writing style is conversational, as if the author is giving a five minute oral recap o Don't let the title fool you, its not an ancient how-to book from the funeral industry! This book is a collection of essays, most only about three pages long, each offering a glimpse at people and events from the Mediterranean area. Arranged by location, the stories jump back and forth through the early centuries on either side of the BC/AD divide while they work their way geographically from Italy to Egypt. The writing style is conversational, as if the author is giving a five minute oral recap of her latest research topic. She uses modern American vernacular to express her humorous take on things that happened thousands of years ago. Soldiers "chill" in their tents between battles and that sort of thing. Serious history scholars might cringe at some of the facile wisecracks, but they keep you awake much better than those dry textbooks we hated in high school! The small appetizers in this collection may satisfy your taste for Greco-Roman history for the time being, or they may inspire you to dust off your heavier volumes and dig a little deeper. Either way its a fun read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    When I first decided to read this book I was under the impression it was another look at discoveries and ideas that we thought were so modern but had really already been discovered in ancient times. That is not what this turned out to be, it included many things the ancients thought and discovered that were just flat out wrong as well as what they got right. Most of them I have come across before but it 19s always interesting to hear about them again but from a different perspective and this was When I first decided to read this book I was under the impression it was another look at discoveries and ideas that we thought were so modern but had really already been discovered in ancient times. That is not what this turned out to be, it included many things the ancients thought and discovered that were just flat out wrong as well as what they got right. Most of them I have come across before but it 19s always interesting to hear about them again but from a different perspective and this was true here. There wasn 19t a lot of detail in the stories but that was more than all right, in relatively short sections the author both made clear what each invention, philosophy or discover was and managed to humanize the story and inject a great deal of humor without sounding forced or condescending 26no matter how silly the idea the ancients had. I learned some new things, gained a different perspective on others and made connections between ideas, culture and history that I hadn 19t previously made and had fun in the process so for me this was a very successful book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    How To Mellify A Corpse by Vicki Leon is an exceptionally fun lesson in Greco-Roman history. For some, history and fun do not appear synonymous yet Leon adds her wit to the wonderful and informative tales of the ancient sciences and superstitions from around the world, or what is commonly known as Greco-Roman areas. How To Mellify A Corpse, and yes, there is indeed a way, is carefully sectioned out by regions and is filled with intriguing, insightful, fascinating, and at times slightly disturbin How To Mellify A Corpse by Vicki Leon is an exceptionally fun lesson in Greco-Roman history. For some, history and fun do not appear synonymous yet Leon adds her wit to the wonderful and informative tales of the ancient sciences and superstitions from around the world, or what is commonly known as Greco-Roman areas. How To Mellify A Corpse, and yes, there is indeed a way, is carefully sectioned out by regions and is filled with intriguing, insightful, fascinating, and at times slightly disturbing knowledge, yet all of it a fascinating look back in time and how parallel the lives of the ancients and present day society can be. I personally enjoyed this book and my teens are now pouring over it. I would not hesitate to recommend How To Mellify A Corpse to anyone who yearns for knowledge and insight in ancient beliefs and practises and how they some are applicable to this very day.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Phair

    It took me months and months to get through this. Definitely not a book to read in large doses- it wears you out. While the writing style was at times breezy I found the frequent repetition off-putting. It all seemed a bit scattershot with much back-tracking. Certainly full of information (many of her topics brought to mind things that happened or were referenced in the Falco books by Lindsey Davis so I learned a lot that will inform future reading of books set in the ancient world. I'm about t It took me months and months to get through this. Definitely not a book to read in large doses- it wears you out. While the writing style was at times breezy I found the frequent repetition off-putting. It all seemed a bit scattershot with much back-tracking. Certainly full of information (many of her topics brought to mind things that happened or were referenced in the Falco books by Lindsey Davis so I learned a lot that will inform future reading of books set in the ancient world. I'm about to start a mystery featuring Pliny the Younger ,

  17. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    It took me forever to finish this book. Portions of the book were really interesting to me, especially the parts that dealt with ancient art and philosophy. I am very glad to have learned some of the things in this book, and I'm sure that I will reference some aspects of it in the future. The writing, however, was too cheesy and campy for my taste. Reading this book also was a bit exhausting because of León's tone. As a reader, I felt like I was hosting a know-it-all dinner guest who felt pressur It took me forever to finish this book. Portions of the book were really interesting to me, especially the parts that dealt with ancient art and philosophy. I am very glad to have learned some of the things in this book, and I'm sure that I will reference some aspects of it in the future. The writing, however, was too cheesy and campy for my taste. Reading this book also was a bit exhausting because of León's tone. As a reader, I felt like I was hosting a know-it-all dinner guest who felt pressure to be unceasingly witty and entertaining. Additionally, León sometimes construes her sentences in a confusing way; I had difficulty following her train of thought because of the way she treats (or mistreats) the subjects within several sentences. It sometimes felt like a chore to pick those difficult sentences apart.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm not a big fan of non-fiction, but I enjoyed this book. The author's sense of humor helps. Although the book wasn't as witty as some of her other works, it was still amusing. I learned many obscure and unusual facts about famous and not so famous people. I also learned a lot about everyday things that you don't really hear about in history class. It was like a fun history textbook. My only complaint is the organization of topics. This books covers a wide range of topics and their arrangement I'm not a big fan of non-fiction, but I enjoyed this book. The author's sense of humor helps. Although the book wasn't as witty as some of her other works, it was still amusing. I learned many obscure and unusual facts about famous and not so famous people. I also learned a lot about everyday things that you don't really hear about in history class. It was like a fun history textbook. My only complaint is the organization of topics. This books covers a wide range of topics and their arrangement in the book didn't always make sense to me. That being said, I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in ancient Greek and Roman history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Lots of interesting facts, but I would have liked more dates. The book also reads like a collection of essays that are gathered together to make a book- a couple of paragraphs will go into describing a particular person, then in the next section (sometimes on the next page), it will mention the same person along with a quick description of who he was, even though we had just read about him on the page before. I also wish that non-fiction writers would resist from editorializing on their pet poli Lots of interesting facts, but I would have liked more dates. The book also reads like a collection of essays that are gathered together to make a book- a couple of paragraphs will go into describing a particular person, then in the next section (sometimes on the next page), it will mention the same person along with a quick description of who he was, even though we had just read about him on the page before. I also wish that non-fiction writers would resist from editorializing on their pet political issues. I want to read facts, not opinion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rosalind M

    Vicki Leon has once again shown that she is adept at humanizing history. The book feels a little long toward the end, and I almost put it down while muddling through the introduction. But persevere through the intro (or skip it, if your patience wanes thin), and Leon breathes life into some of the dusty half-facts you've learned about the ancient world and bring to light some origins and histories you would likely never have discovered on your own. Vicki Leon has once again shown that she is adept at humanizing history. The book feels a little long toward the end, and I almost put it down while muddling through the introduction. But persevere through the intro (or skip it, if your patience wanes thin), and Leon breathes life into some of the dusty half-facts you've learned about the ancient world and bring to light some origins and histories you would likely never have discovered on your own.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan

    Fans of Vicki Leon's other books will enjoy this one. I certainly did (though not as much as Working IX to V ). It's just as witty and informative as all her other books, and it impressed me as to just how sophisticated and advanced ancient technologies really were. In some instances, modern engineering has been unable to replicate what the ancients did back in the day! Fans of Vicki Leon's other books will enjoy this one. I certainly did (though not as much as Working IX to V ). It's just as witty and informative as all her other books, and it impressed me as to just how sophisticated and advanced ancient technologies really were. In some instances, modern engineering has been unable to replicate what the ancients did back in the day!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    EDIT A quick, easy read on a wide range of topics and people of the ancient world. A light writing style that made the ancients very relateable and funny. Great for picking up and reading in bits whenever your fancy strikes you. ************ I have no idea what this is about, but I now want to know what the verb "to melilfy" means. EDIT A quick, easy read on a wide range of topics and people of the ancient world. A light writing style that made the ancients very relateable and funny. Great for picking up and reading in bits whenever your fancy strikes you. ************ I have no idea what this is about, but I now want to know what the verb "to melilfy" means.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    A good coffee table or bathroom book on various aspects of life in Ancient Rome, or the surrounding areas under Roman rule. Interesting stuff. The chapters are usually 3-4 pages and will keep you interested. Topics include money systems, plumbing, architecture, schooling, cooking, travel, behaviors, technology, and the like.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Edna

    This square book reminds me of what we used to describe as a coffee-table book or bathroom book because it consists of short titled paragraphs describing ancient history trivia. By reading it through, I found it a bit boring, but having it laying around the house, it's fun to pick up and read a paragraph or two. This square book reminds me of what we used to describe as a coffee-table book or bathroom book because it consists of short titled paragraphs describing ancient history trivia. By reading it through, I found it a bit boring, but having it laying around the house, it's fun to pick up and read a paragraph or two.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this in several 40 minutes sittings, but I think it would have been better to read on a "open to a page an read a bit" basis. It was interesting, but I found it to be an odd combination of being rather basic in information provided and tone, but requiring a high vocabulary level and a high level of knowledge in some areas. I read this in several 40 minutes sittings, but I think it would have been better to read on a "open to a page an read a bit" basis. It was interesting, but I found it to be an odd combination of being rather basic in information provided and tone, but requiring a high vocabulary level and a high level of knowledge in some areas.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emily Brown

    lots of little facts about all kinds of science in ancient greece and rome. reads very much like a mary roach book, with humor mixed in with interesting information. also the chapters are very short, if you need that!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a very lighthearted (bordering on campy, at times) survey of ancient science. It was full of so much information, that I can't possibly retain the majority of it. I recommend it if you're interested in ancient civilizations and history! This was a very lighthearted (bordering on campy, at times) survey of ancient science. It was full of so much information, that I can't possibly retain the majority of it. I recommend it if you're interested in ancient civilizations and history!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    A bit silly, but a good little book for people studying the weirdness of the Ancient Greek & Roman world. If I were teaching IB History, my kids would use this as a quick reference. My favorite line? "Octavian's slut of a sister, Julia." A bit silly, but a good little book for people studying the weirdness of the Ancient Greek & Roman world. If I were teaching IB History, my kids would use this as a quick reference. My favorite line? "Octavian's slut of a sister, Julia."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Smellsofbikes

    Thoroughly enjoyable book about the state of science and philosophy in classical european culture, from 500BC to 300AD, written as a series of short essays covering different times and places around the Mediterranean.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Cline

    This book is chock-full of interesting tid-bits about ancient science, philosophy and superstition. It's limited to civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea, dealing with mostly Greco-Roman personalities. The use of honey to embalm bodies was fascinating. This book is chock-full of interesting tid-bits about ancient science, philosophy and superstition. It's limited to civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea, dealing with mostly Greco-Roman personalities. The use of honey to embalm bodies was fascinating.

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