Confronting the Classics

Mary Beard

Confronting the Classics

In a series of sparkling essays, she explores our rich classical heritage - from Greek drama to Roman jokes, introducing some larger-than-life characters of classical history, such as Alexander the Great, Nero and Boudicca. She also invites you into the places where Greeks and Romans lived and died, from the palace at Knossos to Cleopatra's Alexandria - and reveals the often hidden world of slaves. She brings back to life some of the greatest writers of antiquity - including Thucydides, Cicero and Tacitus - and takes a fresh look at both scholarly controversies and popular interpretations of the ancient world, from The Golden Bough to Asterix. The fruit of over thirty years in the world of classical scholarship, Classical Traditions captures the world of antiquity and its modern significance with wit, verve and scholarly expertise. 3.7 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
Confronting the Classics

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardcover
Pages 384
RRP
Date of Publication March 2013
ISBN 978-1781250488
Publisher Profile
 

In a series of sparkling essays, she explores our rich classical heritage - from Greek drama to Roman jokes, introducing some larger-than-life characters of classical history, such as Alexander the Great, Nero and Boudicca. She also invites you into the places where Greeks and Romans lived and died, from the palace at Knossos to Cleopatra's Alexandria - and reveals the often hidden world of slaves. She brings back to life some of the greatest writers of antiquity - including Thucydides, Cicero and Tacitus - and takes a fresh look at both scholarly controversies and popular interpretations of the ancient world, from The Golden Bough to Asterix. The fruit of over thirty years in the world of classical scholarship, Classical Traditions captures the world of antiquity and its modern significance with wit, verve and scholarly expertise.

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Reviews

The Daily Telegraph

Philip Womack

Throughout, whether we are in the world of the ancient elites, or grubbing about with the lower orders, Beard is always clear-sighted, with a no-nonsense approach to the more outlandish theories of her classical colleagues. She’s very good on the appropriation of cultural objects – if the Elgin Marbles go back to Greece, they won’t go back to their original position but only into another museum, for example. And what really stands out is that we have so much evidence about the classical world – enough to last anyone’s lifetime – but still cannot really know who exactly Boadicea was, or whether Augustus was a thug.

05/03/2013

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The Independent

Mark Wilson

Beard is particularly good at explaining how we have come to perceive the ancient world through filters, misapprehensions and bad translations, and, further, what that says about us ... Most of the chapters are available online as standalone book reviews – more or less verbatim – for free. O tempora, o mores, as Cicero and, more importanly, the Asterix books were fond of saying.

16/03/2013

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The Observer

Alex Larman

The blurb claims that Mary Beard's latest book offers "a provocative tour of what is happening now in classics – learned, trenchant and witty". This isn't just idle hype. The selection of essays that make up the book are written with all the intellectual assurance and wit for which Beard is known. Offering a sweeping selection of insights into ancient Greece and Rome, Beard makes the archaic seem accessible and relevant ...

24/03/2013

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The Daily Telegraph

Alastair Smart

In her 2012 television series Meet the Romans, Beard focused on the lives of ordinary citizens and slaves rather than emperors. Yet bottom-up is not quite the approach here. That’s because Confronting the Classics is actually a collection of book reviews, and publishers generally prefer juicier, more marketable subjects like Cleopatra and Caligula to public lavatory systems and grain rationing. And herein lies my main problem with this book: we don’t get Beard neat, so much as mediated through her responses to books most of us won’t have read.

19/03/2013

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The Spectator

Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Elagabalus ... used to seat his dinner guests on cushions that, unbeknownst to them, were full of air. As the meal progressed, a slave secretly let the air out, so Elagabalus could enjoy the sight of his companions subsiding, until they slid beneath the table. While sharing the first of these anecdotes in Confronting the Classics, the author praises Augustus for his ability to laugh at himself … In many of these pieces, in reviewer mode, Beard does this extremely well. She is, if you like, a kind of literary Elagabalus, who delights in watching the air escape from beneath her more pompous peers. But she isn’t — or not here, at least — an Augustus.

23/03/2013

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