Classics: A Very Short Introduction

Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Length: 4 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: Classics, Greek & Roman
4 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This Very Short Introduction to classics links a haunting temple on a lonely mountainside to the glory of ancient Greece and the grandeur of Rome, and to Classics within modern culture - from Jefferson and Byron to Asterix and Ben-Hur.

We are all Classicists - we come into touch with the Classics daily: 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 reception?

This introduction to the Classics begins with a visit to the British Museum to view the frieze which once decorated the Apollo Temple at Bassae. Through these sculptures, John Henderson and Mary Beard prompt us to consider the significance of Classics as a means of discovery and enquiry, its value in terms of literature, philposophy, and culture, and its importance as a source of imagery.

In a hurry? Listen to more Very Short Introductions.
©1995 Mary Beard and John Henderson (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

The Cultural Importance of Classics

This is a beautifully written and well read book that is very attractive in its contents. The title "Classics" is very ambiguous and could be taken in a variety of directions. The authors have chosen not to try to give an introductory survey of classical literature, art, history, archeology, etc., nor to overview classics as an academic field of study. They clearly know the subject matter well but have chosen to give an analysis - almost a meditation - on the importance of ancient Greece (and Rome) in the consciousness of western culture.
The reflections are thoughtful, nuanced, and wide-ranging for such a short book. They start from one focus, the Temple of Apollo at Bassae in the mountains of Arcadia, and from that center connect threads to archeology, museum plundering, philosophy, literature, sculpture, romantic poetry, European painting, ancient Greek religion, social stratification, slavery, politics, sexuality, etc., Roman conquest, tourism ancient and modern, British imperialism, modern nationalist reclamation of artifacts, the construction of the modern psyche, and much more. It is an interesting journey.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Bassae-frame almost doesn't hold the subject

"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.

4 people found this helpful

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A long winded way of talking about others studies

This boils down to “the classic… They’re everywhere.“ also you’ll need context that you’ll never have in the context you do have a flavor or color your understanding. There is no suggested area to begin studying the classics or list of topics that you must have explored in order to understand the concepts…

This book just isn’t what it portrays itself to be from the title, and I doubt that anyone interested in studying the classics would benefit from the subject matter of this book.

Skip it.

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  • HAlway
  • 05-04-17

Good guide, terrible reading

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Wonderful book, cleverly and concisely structured to include a broad range of classical studies and disciplines. Sadly, for me personally, a book written by two British professors from British universities was marred by the jarring American accent it was read in! She read the book clinically and cleanly, with very little emotion or understanding of the nuances of the language. Really ruined what for me was a good read. I know we can't expect Mary Beard to fit recording a reading of this into her busy schedule but surely someone with a base knowledge or appreciation of Classics, or simply the same accent I was expecting to hear from the mouths of the authors would have been preferable.

4 people found this helpful

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  • A. Gray
  • 01-20-18

Why this narrator?

It was like listening to Siri. So weird. Several names mispronounced.

Book itself felt a bit all over the place with no driving theme. Maybe better read than listened to. Loved M.Beard's SPQR, but this was nowhere near as good.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mary Carnegie
  • 06-30-18

Can I bear the narration?

This would be a great listen with an appropriate reader! I have to grit my teeth, or laugh. Why an American accent for a book by European authors about a subject that is largely European. I accept that 🇺🇸 citizens have a right to pronounce proper names idiosyncratically when they use a loan word from Europe for things in their own country (e.g. Notre-Dame university like in “There’s nothing like a dame.”) but not for respectable European places or people, (spectacularly, the Scottish Earl of Elgin - a decent Scots town itself, as if there was any connection with the drink often combined with tonic!)
She can’t even pronounce Classical Latin when quoting (she uses an approximation of the Italianised Ecclesiastical Latin, utterly anachronistic, and hardly in harmony with the pagan world she’s describing.)
Americans are often uncomfortable to British ears when reading books about Greece or Rome, because they tend to pronounce names with have a traditional anglicised form quite differently - the characters of “I, Claudius” are unrecognisable in an American rendition of the Histories of Tacitus. Still, I’ll be charitable about that, as the poor souls never had the education in the classics considered indispensable to the schooling of middle-class UK children until fairly recently. But Elgin - that’s arrogant and lazy!
I see Mary Beard has narrated her last book personally... now I know why!

1 person found this helpful

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  • markj328
  • 07-01-14

Very difficult for the novice.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Rewriting

Any additional comments?

The information was very cluttered and fragmented. I thought I was getting an introduction to classical Greek/Roman studies. What I got was confused & slightly intimidated.

3 people found this helpful