In this introduction to the classics from Oxford University Press, authors Mary Beard and John Henderson take the Temple at Bassae as a launching point to discuss the architecture, language, literature, philosophy, politics, and culture of the ancient world. Beard is a professor of classics at the University of Oxford and the classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, thus she infuses her book with an intimate love for ancient civilization and knowledge of how it influences modern culture.
Audio performer Julia Whelan is not only an actress (Once and Again, The Secret Life of Zoey), but a scholar in her own right, and she brings a young, endearing, and sagacious tone to this illuminating work.
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.
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 of 6 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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.
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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 of 9 people found this review helpful