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We are all classicists--we come into touch with the classics on a daily basis: in our culture, politics, medicine, architecture, language, and literature. What are the true roots of these influences, however, and how do our interpretations of these aspects of the classics differ from their original reality? This introduction to the classics begins with a visit to the Briti We are all classicists--we come into touch with the classics on a daily basis: in our culture, politics, medicine, architecture, language, and literature. What are the true roots of these influences, however, and how do our interpretations of these aspects of the classics differ from their original reality? This introduction to the classics begins with a visit to the British Museum to view the frieze which once decorated the Apollo Temple a Bassae. Through these sculptures John Henderson and Mary Beard prompt us to consider the significance of the study of Classics as a means of discovery and enquiry, its value in terms of literature, philosophy, and culture, its source of imagery, and the reasons for the continuation of these images into and beyond the twentieth century. Designed for the general reader and student alike, A Very Short Introduction to Classics challenges readers to adopt a fresh approach to the Classics as a major cultural influence, both in the ancient world and twentieth-century--emphasizing the continuing need to understand and investigate this enduring subject. About the Series Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.


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We are all classicists--we come into touch with the classics on a daily basis: in our culture, politics, medicine, architecture, language, and literature. What are the true roots of these influences, however, and how do our interpretations of these aspects of the classics differ from their original reality? This introduction to the classics begins with a visit to the Briti We are all classicists--we come into touch with the classics on a daily basis: in our culture, politics, medicine, architecture, language, and literature. What are the true roots of these influences, however, and how do our interpretations of these aspects of the classics differ from their original reality? This introduction to the classics begins with a visit to the British Museum to view the frieze which once decorated the Apollo Temple a Bassae. Through these sculptures John Henderson and Mary Beard prompt us to consider the significance of the study of Classics as a means of discovery and enquiry, its value in terms of literature, philosophy, and culture, its source of imagery, and the reasons for the continuation of these images into and beyond the twentieth century. Designed for the general reader and student alike, A Very Short Introduction to Classics challenges readers to adopt a fresh approach to the Classics as a major cultural influence, both in the ancient world and twentieth-century--emphasizing the continuing need to understand and investigate this enduring subject. About the Series Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

30 review for Classics: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    Golden Oldies – Always The Latest Craze ‘This is no potted history of Greece and Rome, but a brilliant demonstration that the continual re-excavation of our classical past is vital if the modern world is to rise to the challenge inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi to “Know yourself”.’  ~ Robin Osborne This VSI, one of the best among those I have read, is an eloquent and captivating journey into the world of the Classics. Rather than running through the Peloponnesian Wars, Greeks and Per Golden Oldies – Always The Latest Craze ‘This is no potted history of Greece and Rome, but a brilliant demonstration that the continual re-excavation of our classical past is vital if the modern world is to rise to the challenge inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi to “Know yourself”.’  ~ Robin Osborne This VSI, one of the best among those I have read, is an eloquent and captivating journey into the world of the Classics. Rather than running through the Peloponnesian Wars, Greeks and Persians, Athens as the birthplace of democracy, Rome as the birthplace of plumbing, the Conquest of Britain, and other landmarks of the subject as it used to be taught in the school room, Classics focuses on one particular artifact — a spectacle that is familiar, but, at the same time, puzzling and strange: dismembered fragments of an ancient Greek temple put on show in the heart of modern London (the friezes from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae in Arcadia), using them as the starting point of a wide-ranging exploration of issues that are of current concern in the professional study of the Ancient World and of changing attitudes to the classical past. The core idea explored is that the Classics is a subject that exists in that gap between us and the world of the Greeks and Romans. The questions raised by Classics are the questions raised by our distance from ‘their’ world, and at the same time by our closeness to it, and by its familiarity to us. In our museums, in our literature, languages, culture, and ways of thinking. The aim of Classics is not only to discover or uncover the ancient world (though that is part of it, as the rediscovery of Bassae, or the excavation of the furthest outposts of the Roman empire on the Scottish borders, shows). Its aim is also to define and debate our relationship to that world, which is taken as the first step towards any such education. The questions raised by Bassae is thus used as a model for understanding Classics in its widest sense, and the essential issues that are at stake — questions about how we are to read literature which has a history of more than 2,000 years, written in a society very distant and different from our own. We are told that we are obliged to find a way of dealing with that clash between our imaginary vision of Greece and what we actually see when we get there, or when we actually read the classics first hand, instead of going by hearsay — this is bound to always involve confronting different and competing visions of Classics and the classical world. Always Back with a Bang The Classics are to be always discovered anew and yet to be always known only in the light of the discovery of the past generations — which only serves to make our own discovery even more exciting, richer, deeper and stronger. It is precisely when a generation skips on the classics or on a classical education that they come back with even more of a bang. This gives me pause and makes me think of the sudden craze of classical based (at leas mythological) fiction in India. I can only hope that the next step in that craze would involve going beyond the familiar myths into the vast body of Sanskrit literature as well. All this makes the book more about the discovery of the classical world, about the motivations that inspired that discovery, and in the end about the relation of the modern world to the classical world, and how it was all imagined into existence  — each begetting the other.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "The aim of Classics is not only to discover or uncover the ancient world. Its aim is also to define and debate our relationship to that world." - Mary Beard, Classics Using the British Museum's Bassae room and the Temple of Bassae as a framework, Mary Beard introduces us to the Classics. There are points when her Bassae-frame almost doesn't hold her subject, but her metaphor/frame largely holds together. It acts like a map, allowing Beard and Henderson an opportunity to walk around and examine t "The aim of Classics is not only to discover or uncover the ancient world. Its aim is also to define and debate our relationship to that world." - Mary Beard, Classics Using the British Museum's Bassae room and the Temple of Bassae as a framework, Mary Beard introduces us to the Classics. There are points when her Bassae-frame almost doesn't hold her subject, but her metaphor/frame largely holds together. It acts like a map, allowing Beard and Henderson an opportunity to walk around and examine the classics from several perspectives. Readers of the Classics become tourists and Beard and Henderson become our tour guides. Like all VSI, I'm always left feeling a bit snubbed and short shrifted. My whistle is barely wetted and I'm asked to leave room and exit the museum.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amine

    "As the saying goes, all roads lead to Rome. But Rome is also where the visit to Greece begins; it is from Rome that the mind longs to travel, away to that outpost of cultural order in the midst of wild nature, ‘high on a mountainside in a rugged and lonely part of Arcadia . . .’ Classics travels this route constantly, speculating and pondering: Which is the greatest show on earth?" Quite enlightening, food for thought. I felt that this was somewhat lacking for a general introduction, too focused "As the saying goes, all roads lead to Rome. But Rome is also where the visit to Greece begins; it is from Rome that the mind longs to travel, away to that outpost of cultural order in the midst of wild nature, ‘high on a mountainside in a rugged and lonely part of Arcadia . . .’ Classics travels this route constantly, speculating and pondering: Which is the greatest show on earth?" Quite enlightening, food for thought. I felt that this was somewhat lacking for a general introduction, too focused on one aspect I guess. Although maybe that shed more light on the analytical side of it, allowing us to see deeper. The writing was eloquent, well put together, and at times poetic. It also did what I presume to be the goal, spark an interest and give an idea of what the study of classics is about. I like the concept of the series, I hope to read as much very short introductions as I can. Et in Arcadia ego

  4. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    This short volume isn't about classics at all. Instead, we have an essay in aesthetics, reminding us that millennia of interpreters stand between us an our Greek and Roman heritage, modifying our experience of it. The idea is not new, having been examined in detail by John Dewey, for instance. The last chapters then go off the rails entirely, delivering a screed on the shortcomings of classics education. What were they thinking?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sher

    My 12th Very Short, and my favorite so far. This book is truly interdisciplinary and connects the classics with art, literary, history, both ancient and modern. Brilliantly written, and makes one want to return to Greek and Roman literature once again.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laurent

    In all its shortness, this Very Short Introduction takes a long time to introduce its premise. Although I admire the way that Mary Beard has approached the vast expanse that is Classics, the opening chapters of this book are extremely slow-paced. I must say that for a person who has a massive passion for Classics to be bored by a book about CLASSICS! the authors must have EFFED UP pretty badly. This said, the book picks up speed as it moves along. In fact, it is almost distributed like the invers In all its shortness, this Very Short Introduction takes a long time to introduce its premise. Although I admire the way that Mary Beard has approached the vast expanse that is Classics, the opening chapters of this book are extremely slow-paced. I must say that for a person who has a massive passion for Classics to be bored by a book about CLASSICS! the authors must have EFFED UP pretty badly. This said, the book picks up speed as it moves along. In fact, it is almost distributed like the inverse of a normalised capacitor discharge (of course, you totally know what I'm talking about), with interest on the y-axis and page number on the x-axis. Its apex — in the book's last chapters — is a section addressing some of what I consider the most interesting aspects of Classics: the exploration of cultural and psychological realities through classical literature. However, this book also introduced me to several other aspects of Classics that I hadn’t come into contact with, especially examples of symbols originating in Ancient Greece and Rome that have had cultural constancy over the ages. All things considered, I wouldn’t recommended it unless you are prepared for around 70 pages of absolute, tear-wrenching boredom. In fact: Just skip straight To chapter eight!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    This book is more about the study of the classics, rather than the classics as a field of study. The authors talk about architecture, geographic regions, and people who studied classics in the 19th century. But they never tell me what classics IS as a field or WHY I should study it! The chapters contain various paragraphs which, even if they do contain valuable info, don’t relate to each other and don’t connect to the chapter title. The authors swing from one thing to the next without tying it al This book is more about the study of the classics, rather than the classics as a field of study. The authors talk about architecture, geographic regions, and people who studied classics in the 19th century. But they never tell me what classics IS as a field or WHY I should study it! The chapters contain various paragraphs which, even if they do contain valuable info, don’t relate to each other and don’t connect to the chapter title. The authors swing from one thing to the next without tying it all together. A disappointing first book for the Very Short Introductions series. Great idea from Oxford’s Editors, just a poorly written book from these authors. Still going to try more of these!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    Reading this ten-chapter book, I think, is an inspiring introduction to the term “classics” itself as regards the meaning, scope, application, etc. in which few could know and understand thoroughly. Recommended by John Godwin, it’s been praised because “The authors show us that Classics is a ‘modern’ and sexy subject.” (back cover) Some may wonder how so it would suffice in the meantime to say that we need to read it for better understanding rather than leave it as an academic myth preached by s Reading this ten-chapter book, I think, is an inspiring introduction to the term “classics” itself as regards the meaning, scope, application, etc. in which few could know and understand thoroughly. Recommended by John Godwin, it’s been praised because “The authors show us that Classics is a ‘modern’ and sexy subject.” (back cover) Some may wonder how so it would suffice in the meantime to say that we need to read it for better understanding rather than leave it as an academic myth preached by some professors.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This book was not what I was looking for when I chose it. I guess I didn't read carefully -- I wanted a short introduction to the classics, but there's no "the" in this title. Instead, it intends to be an introduction to [the study of] classics. Even for what it intends to be, I didn't like it much. It seemed very strident and polemical, as though the authors were trying to press their points against those who disagreed with them, rather than trying to inform someone new to the subject. The ent This book was not what I was looking for when I chose it. I guess I didn't read carefully -- I wanted a short introduction to the classics, but there's no "the" in this title. Instead, it intends to be an introduction to [the study of] classics. Even for what it intends to be, I didn't like it much. It seemed very strident and polemical, as though the authors were trying to press their points against those who disagreed with them, rather than trying to inform someone new to the subject. The entire work was built around a discussion of a ruined temple at Bassae (Greece). Classic authors like Sophocles, Aeschylus, and others were mentioned only briefly. And I really don't think it added at all to my understanding of what the study of classics is. The best I can say for it is that it mentioned a few other books that I think might in fact be worth my reading.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Guy

    When your daughter tells you that she is going to study Classics at Oxbridge, it suddenly seems like a good time to try to better understand what the field of Classics is today and what studying it might be good for. If this is your goal, then "Classics, A Very Short Introduction" is your book: I found it stimulating of thought and interest. There are of course many things that such a short book is not and cannot be... but it does not pretend to be other than it is and those who would like it to When your daughter tells you that she is going to study Classics at Oxbridge, it suddenly seems like a good time to try to better understand what the field of Classics is today and what studying it might be good for. If this is your goal, then "Classics, A Very Short Introduction" is your book: I found it stimulating of thought and interest. There are of course many things that such a short book is not and cannot be... but it does not pretend to be other than it is and those who would like it to be different are missing its most important point: Classics is as wide as our culture and as deep as our history and what Classics means must be discovered anew by each time and each person. "Et in Arcadia ego..." is up to you to complete.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Classics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #1), Mary Beard, John Henderson We are all classicists--we come into touch with the classics on a daily basis: in our culture, politics, medicine, architecture, language, and literature. What are the true roots of these influences, however, and how do our interpretations of these aspects of the classics differ from their original reality?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I got this one solely because it was co-written by Mary Beard, one of the foremost classicists today, and often wryly funny. Not much time for humor here, but an interesting way of organizing things--describing a temple in Greece and then coming at it from a number of different directions in order to illuminate the history and development of classical studies itself, mythology, ancient religion, ancient travel and geography, philosophy, and literature. Apart from a quibble about what I think was I got this one solely because it was co-written by Mary Beard, one of the foremost classicists today, and often wryly funny. Not much time for humor here, but an interesting way of organizing things--describing a temple in Greece and then coming at it from a number of different directions in order to illuminate the history and development of classical studies itself, mythology, ancient religion, ancient travel and geography, philosophy, and literature. Apart from a quibble about what I think was a bizarre over-reading of one of Horace's Odes, I found the whole thing fascinating. I especially appreciated her dwelling on the well-known phrase "Et In Arcadia Ego." (And [or even] in Arcadia, I). I always wondered where it came from, since it sounds like Virgil but isn't. She says it was inspired by his Eclogue 5; but it was coined by Pope Clement IX in the early 17th century. I was gratified to learn that Dr. Johnson supposedly thought it was meaningless, which it is unless it is put in some context that identifies who "I" might be. Usually it accompanies a picture of a skull or skeleton representing Death. The phrase then means something like, even in the most perfect place you can imagine, death is there too. But Goethe, after he'd visited Italy for two years, used it to rejoice that now even he had been in Arcadia. It was also used as the title for the first half of Brideshead Revisited, where the young lovers try to have a perfect place in an imperfect world--they mock the phrase, but in the end it mocks them. A good Short Introduction to a very large topic.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kuba Zajicek

    Thanks Mary Beard, I yawned myself to shit. I always thought that the classical world is a storehouse of good ideas for people to raid. And yet, Beard's dull narrative gives the impression that the classical world is essentially as mundane as her own use of the English language, which it certainly isn't. This book is so boring presumably because the scope of it is unfortunate; instead of focusing on the interesting literary side of Classics or its contemporary relevance, she offers long and unin Thanks Mary Beard, I yawned myself to shit. I always thought that the classical world is a storehouse of good ideas for people to raid. And yet, Beard's dull narrative gives the impression that the classical world is essentially as mundane as her own use of the English language, which it certainly isn't. This book is so boring presumably because the scope of it is unfortunate; instead of focusing on the interesting literary side of Classics or its contemporary relevance, she offers long and uninteresting descriptions of Roman and Greek antique buildings, which were admittedly important for their culture, yet should have recieved less focus by an author that claims to have written a "comprehensive introduction" to Classics. What a waste of time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    Ancient Greece and Rome: mysterious, romantic, distant, and exercising an almost disproportionate fascination on many centuries of intellectuals. The authors' choice of Arcadia as the underlying theme of their book is highly appropriate; the attitude of the writers of the cradle of European civilisation to that lost rustic wilderness is comparable to our modern impression of that lost opulence mixed with technological simplicity, however inaccurate that impression may be. I confess, I have myself Ancient Greece and Rome: mysterious, romantic, distant, and exercising an almost disproportionate fascination on many centuries of intellectuals. The authors' choice of Arcadia as the underlying theme of their book is highly appropriate; the attitude of the writers of the cradle of European civilisation to that lost rustic wilderness is comparable to our modern impression of that lost opulence mixed with technological simplicity, however inaccurate that impression may be. I confess, I have myself indulged in that fascination. I studied Latin and Greek at school, all the while subconsciously wondering what were the unifying features behind the diversity of the texts I studied. But I have to say that, for me personally, this book completely failed to capture that fascination. It was interesting, certainly, and I learnt things, but it begin to strike me that the whole discipline of Classics was somewhat parochial. True, Greece and Rome were important, and the study of them is not to be neglected. But so what? What about the rest of the world? What about the rest of history? And no classicist has ever really been able to make that argument convincingly, and these two are no exception. Our ancestors, the medievals, through the Renaissance as far as the Enlightenment, were intrigued by the distant past in general, so they learnt all they could about Greece and Rome because that was what they has access to, and nothing else. I do not see any excuse for continuing to confine ourselves when so much else has become available in the last fifty years, not to say the last two hundred.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mared Owen

    Although I can see, on one hand, that the temple at Bassae was used as a sort of prompt for introducing readers to the classics, I felt at times that I wasn't really learning anything about the classics at all, but rather just learning about a temple; despite being quite interesting, it wasn't what I wanted from this (very short) book. However, the later chapters I found much more intriguing and useful. Surprisingly, I greatly enjoyed chapter 7, 'The Art of Reconstruction' as, at first glance, i Although I can see, on one hand, that the temple at Bassae was used as a sort of prompt for introducing readers to the classics, I felt at times that I wasn't really learning anything about the classics at all, but rather just learning about a temple; despite being quite interesting, it wasn't what I wanted from this (very short) book. However, the later chapters I found much more intriguing and useful. Surprisingly, I greatly enjoyed chapter 7, 'The Art of Reconstruction' as, at first glance, it concerns archaeology. Which I'm not the biggest fan of. However I found that this chapter in particular helped explain things, or at least made things clearer. Chapter 8 I also found incredibly interesting, although that was expected of me, seeing as it concerned literature. Overall, this book did a good job of explaining what 'classics' really consist/s of and why it is so important that we continue to study the subject. However the the things that were, I assume, intended to make things clearer really just got in the way of the actual points being made.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emmett

    I opened this book with a few expectations that I found were not adequately met. Most importantly, there isn't a definition of classics, as the term is used and the field studied. While I appreciate the intention of using the Bassae as a focal point and a thread for discussion, I feel a comprehensive introductory text ought to grant views of elsewhere, too. It is less what classics is all about, i.e. what periods are studied, the geo-political landscape broadly sketched out, and prominent figure I opened this book with a few expectations that I found were not adequately met. Most importantly, there isn't a definition of classics, as the term is used and the field studied. While I appreciate the intention of using the Bassae as a focal point and a thread for discussion, I feel a comprehensive introductory text ought to grant views of elsewhere, too. It is less what classics is all about, i.e. what periods are studied, the geo-political landscape broadly sketched out, and prominent figures than it is an academic's reflection of the Classics, without all the bare-bones initiation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Well written and thought provoking. Looks at a few specific elements: mainly the temple to Apollo at Bassae, and explores different perspectives thereof to give us a holistic picture of an academic discipline and its relevance. A bit I liked: when they point out that, when it comes to explaining how the ancients built all that stuff, the answer is usually 'slaves'. Another bit I liked: when they get snarky about an early poem by Poe!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    I was at first put off by some of the negative reviews. But I felt pulled in by the gentle tour guide introduction to a somewhat obscure (to lay people) temple in the heart of the Peloponnese peninsula, the Bassae, far removed from Athens, as an entry point to discuss elements of Classical culture. Included in this "Very Short" introduction is a discussion of the "discovery" of the temple at Bassae by a multinational group, and the taking of some friezes to the British Museum. There follows exa I was at first put off by some of the negative reviews. But I felt pulled in by the gentle tour guide introduction to a somewhat obscure (to lay people) temple in the heart of the Peloponnese peninsula, the Bassae, far removed from Athens, as an entry point to discuss elements of Classical culture. Included in this "Very Short" introduction is a discussion of the "discovery" of the temple at Bassae by a multinational group, and the taking of some friezes to the British Museum. There follows examples of fortunate discoveries and expansion of our knowledge, while ruing what has not survived; the role of those at the margins of Greek and Roman society; reconstruction of the archaeology of Greek and Roman culture; and a discussion of its effect on literature and thought; as well as other topics. The notes at the end contain good suggestions for those whose interest has been piqued.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Thrasher

    This is an excellent little book. Mary Beardis a tremendously interesting personality and celebrity; I loved her book SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, and have enjoyed her television documentaries. This particular book was published in 1995, but stills feels sharp and fresh. I came into the book with a love for books about Ancient Rome (I particularly like the novels of John Maddox Roberts and Steven Saylor). I now have a better understanding about the study of classics, and how those ancient Gr This is an excellent little book. Mary Beardis a tremendously interesting personality and celebrity; I loved her book SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, and have enjoyed her television documentaries. This particular book was published in 1995, but stills feels sharp and fresh. I came into the book with a love for books about Ancient Rome (I particularly like the novels of John Maddox Roberts and Steven Saylor). I now have a better understanding about the study of classics, and how those ancient Greeks and Romans still walk and talk with us today.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Barnhouse

    I hadn't read this cover to cover since I was in a classics seminar as an undergraduate. The increased consideration of inequality both in ancient history and in the history of how the classics have been studied in the years since the book's publication makes even the conscientious acknowledgement of this seem a mere sop, at times. Beard and Henderson do rather assume that their audience is chiefly made up of those who count themselves participants in and heirs of the "western tradition" manufac I hadn't read this cover to cover since I was in a classics seminar as an undergraduate. The increased consideration of inequality both in ancient history and in the history of how the classics have been studied in the years since the book's publication makes even the conscientious acknowledgement of this seem a mere sop, at times. Beard and Henderson do rather assume that their audience is chiefly made up of those who count themselves participants in and heirs of the "western tradition" manufactured in large part through studying the classics. I wonder about ways in which this marginalizes some readers... including the students I plan to teach with the text, most of whom are almost entirely lacking in "cultural literacy" as measured by a canon with Greece and Rome at its heart. I hasten to add that the volume does not shy away from acknowledging and exploring histories of sometimes-violent imperial appropriation. On the whole, it remains a remarkably thoughtful and effective -- and, I need hardly add, exquisitely written -- introduction to 'the classics,' in all their multivalent complexity.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Seb Yawlo

    This was not as expected but nevertheless, not unenjoyable. It centres on Bassae and uses themes from there and Arcadia to pull together an introduction to Classics. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but it did frame the subject nicely and I would recommend as introduction for a novice like myself. It has sparked a continued interest in the subject and I will find myself spurred on to discover more.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Evan Crane

    Best book in this series that I've read. The only one so far that truly is an introduction rather than an attempt at comprehensive summary.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David

    This book bills itself as “a very short introduction” to the Classics. Given the scope of its subject, it is indeed “very short.” While brighter minds than mine have very good things to say about it, I found it a bit odd as an introduction to such a rich field. The authors ground their wide-ranging discussion in a specific example, a remote temple dedicated to Apollo near the town of Bassae in the remote Grecian district of Arcadia. Specifically, they focus on the sculptural frieze that once deco This book bills itself as “a very short introduction” to the Classics. Given the scope of its subject, it is indeed “very short.” While brighter minds than mine have very good things to say about it, I found it a bit odd as an introduction to such a rich field. The authors ground their wide-ranging discussion in a specific example, a remote temple dedicated to Apollo near the town of Bassae in the remote Grecian district of Arcadia. Specifically, they focus on the sculptural frieze that once decorated the upper walls of the temple’s interior, now reassembled in the British Museum. Using the device of an anchor such as the Bassae Temple probably makes sense given the purpose of the book – it makes the huge subject (Classics) more manageable and provides a focal point for the many aspects of classical civilization that intersect at that point. However, it felt a bit forced to me, like trying to center a discussion of American history on the White House. It worked well enough for me to keep reading, and I learned many interesting things from this book, but in some ways I would have enjoyed it more if the authors hadn’t felt compelled to keep tying everything back to Bassae. Tellingly, the most engaging and (to me) successful chapters were the concluding three, which ranged further afield and left the Bassae temple in the background. Overall, a good book, just a little contrived.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angeline Matthews

    This book, as opposed to the other Very Short Introductions, sounded quite like a student trying to meet their word count. It had the vibe of an "In this essay I will...." writing style for all of the beginning chapters. The author spent more time referencing the subject in the first four chapters than she did elaborating on it. The book DID pick up after the fifth chapter, but even then, it felt like a copy/paste description of the Bassae over. and. over. There was also far too much discussion This book, as opposed to the other Very Short Introductions, sounded quite like a student trying to meet their word count. It had the vibe of an "In this essay I will...." writing style for all of the beginning chapters. The author spent more time referencing the subject in the first four chapters than she did elaborating on it. The book DID pick up after the fifth chapter, but even then, it felt like a copy/paste description of the Bassae over. and. over. There was also far too much discussion about Great Britain. If this book was supposed to be focused on the classics, why was Britain housing artifacts such a central idea, when it often felt irrelevant to the topic? Definitely one of the more dry introductions I've read. I recommend skipping the first four chapters if curious.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I recently bought SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard and realized that I hadn't read this book yet. This book was quite readable, and a good intro to the study of Greece and Rome, and their influence in today's world. I recently bought SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard and realized that I hadn't read this book yet. This book was quite readable, and a good intro to the study of Greece and Rome, and their influence in today's world.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    I don't know what I was expecting from this book, but it wasn't what I got. I found this to be a slow read that talked mostly about the fact that we look at "classic" things through our modern eyes and are skewed by this even as we try to get back to original meanings. It had a few interesting points, but I think the author could have provided as much information in far fewer than 125 pages.

  27. 5 out of 5

    J. G. M.

    This book, indeed short, is one of the few that most elegantly achieves its purpose and goes beyond it without overstretching. It has expanded my horizons and, curiously enough, answered many of the questions I had about classical works and their perception by us, moderns. It spans to mostly everything related to classics, from how it is defined to teaching and appraisals. It was a fun to read, must I add. Very good style. My queries on “why Classical Greece happened?” and “what is there to learn This book, indeed short, is one of the few that most elegantly achieves its purpose and goes beyond it without overstretching. It has expanded my horizons and, curiously enough, answered many of the questions I had about classical works and their perception by us, moderns. It spans to mostly everything related to classics, from how it is defined to teaching and appraisals. It was a fun to read, must I add. Very good style. My queries on “why Classical Greece happened?” and “what is there to learn from their successes and mishaps?” (for starters, founding most of the main branches of knowledge —most of [Greek or Latin noun] -logy has a Greek genius for brain-father, and inventing from theater to vapor engines— “So what?”, the dear reader might ask, and I reply: name another, any other, civilization that could claim similar laurels in the span of 200 years, when ideas travelled at donkey-speed and everything was handwritten. There’s none. Ok, eastern influences, but then why not Persepolis instead of Athens? But I must digress) were benefited from it, but I nonetheless expected somewhat less of a meta- perspective on the subject. The book only glosses on Rome and its works, to which I’d refer the prospective reader to Mary Beard’s SPQR. The authors took a rather too dim take on the value of studying the classics and literacy in Greek and Latin, rendering thus: that it is of little worth growing literate in dead languages. I’d make a better distinction. To the archeologist/classicist, it obviously would be a necessity; to the general public, at first, it is less obvious, but isn’t there something special about Ancient Greece and Rome that set them apart form, for example the Turdetanii or Nabateans? Isn’t it worth to get to know upon what structures, what values (good and bad), what is there in the Western legacy? I don’t defend the “necessity” of throwing Greek and Latin as a punishment at children, but knowing these civilizations and the environment that propitiated an early human enlightenment, even if through translations (which to be fair, work well except in poetry) is what we need to rekindle the fading Alexandrian light of knowledge’s might. Another remarkably curious thing is the shock in dilettanti, therein I found that I wasn’t the first smitten, when comparing that Greece, always —I concede— a bit idealized but underrated in intelectual achievement, with the modern forever-queue, ticket-overpriced rubble that could pass for everything, from ancient garbage dumps to the gilded Oracle of Delphi. Hélas, tempus edax rerum.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Francisco

    Having recently read a New Yorker article about how much random stuff you can learn from this collection, I decided to start it from the beginning. I have read some of them, and always found them to be both entertaining and informative but those readings were targeted, mainly during my undergraduate degree. So I picked up the first in the series and it was great! Mary Beard I already knew, as she's quite a public personality, but the way in which the book is structured is surprising. The author Having recently read a New Yorker article about how much random stuff you can learn from this collection, I decided to start it from the beginning. I have read some of them, and always found them to be both entertaining and informative but those readings were targeted, mainly during my undergraduate degree. So I picked up the first in the series and it was great! Mary Beard I already knew, as she's quite a public personality, but the way in which the book is structured is surprising. The authors take one single temple in Greece, the Bassae temple in Arcadia and study it from all different kinds of angles. This ends up making a great case for Classics as a discipline, touching on Archaeology, Politics, History, Literature, questions of Empire, Philosophy, Language, Art History, Anthropology etc. They make what could be seen as a dry subject into a vibrant, exciting and relevant one. This is exactly the point of this series, and this is a great start, 120 pages are enough to give you an idea of the subject's vastness and relevance.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pat B

    Positives: Great concept for a book, legit master thesis, and some nice anecdotes. I learned a few things about Greece which I might actually remember. It is a very short book so I never debated not finishing it, and even though I didn’t love it (see below) I don’t feel in the slightest that I wasted my time by reading it. Negatives: - The overly stylized writing by the popular professors trying to be cool does not age well twenty years later. I felt vaguely like I was in freshman seminar. - They tr Positives: Great concept for a book, legit master thesis, and some nice anecdotes. I learned a few things about Greece which I might actually remember. It is a very short book so I never debated not finishing it, and even though I didn’t love it (see below) I don’t feel in the slightest that I wasted my time by reading it. Negatives: - The overly stylized writing by the popular professors trying to be cool does not age well twenty years later. I felt vaguely like I was in freshman seminar. - They tried too hard to overlay their theme on the subject matter. At times I felt the hammer circling, looking for a nail, etc. - The choice of featured content seemed very arbitrary. Maybe this was a function of editing a much longer work down to 126 pages. - They capitalized a lot of words for emphasis (really? Again - like freshman seminar, except the students this time, not the professor) especially the word ‘Classics’, italicized and in caps, every time. It felt like a branding exercise from a PR firm. Strunk and White would have gone nuts.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Beard uses a small temple in rural Arcadia to ask and answer questions that are integral to the study of the classics. Perhaps what I took most from this book was that objects already studied for millennia, can continually be reinterpreted as the biases of the times change, and lead the eyes of students toward different aspects of the works; seeing significance in light of new theories. This cumulative study, interpretation, prejudice and expression becomes like string woven through the fabric o Beard uses a small temple in rural Arcadia to ask and answer questions that are integral to the study of the classics. Perhaps what I took most from this book was that objects already studied for millennia, can continually be reinterpreted as the biases of the times change, and lead the eyes of students toward different aspects of the works; seeing significance in light of new theories. This cumulative study, interpretation, prejudice and expression becomes like string woven through the fabric of Western Civilization. There was some memorable analysis of the scant evidence left to us from the Temple of Bassae, that illustrate in microcosm the entire field, and precisely how more can be learnt from simply looking again. This book was not what I expected. It was a simple and quick read, at times I felt it lacked substance. But overall it's worth a read if you have plans to explore the 'classics' themselves, I'll certainly read more carefully now.

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