The Ancient Guide to Modern Life

Overview

This revelatory book explores modern society while journeying back to the Greeks and Romans — "will have readers grabbing for the classics" (Kirkus).

In this thoroughly engaging book, Natalie Haynes brings her scholarship and wit to the most fascinating true stories of the ancient world. The Ancient Guide to Modern Life not only reveals the origins of our culture in areas including philosophy, politics, language, and art, it also draws illuminating connections between antiquity ...

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The Ancient Guide to Modern Life

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Overview

This revelatory book explores modern society while journeying back to the Greeks and Romans — "will have readers grabbing for the classics" (Kirkus).

In this thoroughly engaging book, Natalie Haynes brings her scholarship and wit to the most fascinating true stories of the ancient world. The Ancient Guide to Modern Life not only reveals the origins of our culture in areas including philosophy, politics, language, and art, it also draws illuminating connections between antiquity and our present time, to demonstrate that the Greeks and Romans were not so different from ourselves: is Bart Simpson the successor to Aristophanes? Do the Beckhams have parallel lives with The Satiricon's Trimalchio?

Along the way Haynes debunks myths (gladiators didn't salute the emperor before their deaths, and the last words of Julius Caesar weren't "et tu, brute?") from Athens to Zeno's paradox, this irresistible guide shows how the history and wisdom of the ancient world can inform and enrich our lives today.

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Editorial Reviews

Associated Press Staff
A constantly amusing but quite serious book!
Times Literary Supplement
A romp through some of the best-known, and some of the more obscure, writers, thought, and stories of Greece and Rome.
Associated Press Staff

"A constantly amusing but quite serious book!"

—Midwest Book Review
"General-interest collections will find the lively discourse unusually accessible, and not limited to dry history holdings alone"
Kirkus Reviews

British comedienne and classics lover Haynes (The Great Escape, 2007) presents a wonderfully whimsical yet instructional view of Greco-Roman history.

The author fuses educational narrative and jocular commentary to guide the reader through aspects of ancient life still of interest today: politics, law, philosophy, religion, the role of women, the urban-rural dichotomy, entertainment and money, among others. The idea that the past bears upon the present often becomes a meaningless abstraction, but Haynes offers practical examples of this aphorism with welcome wit and a wink.Classics scholars are unlikely to learn anything new—the author clearly writes for a general audience—but they will surely chuckle at her candid accounts of celebrated ancients, especially "Rome's most articulate grouch, Juvenal." Haynes sets the record straight on topics as diverse as the nature of gladiatorial salutes and the unexpected origin of "Who watches the watchmen?", while providing illuminating context for controversial issues, like slavery and Roman views on Christians and Jews. She adds personality to simplistically clichéd historical figures such as Plato, Cicero and Nero. Her writing is speculative at times, necessarily so given the nature of her sources—ancient writers can be frustratingly biased and limited in scope. On rare occasions, the author takes it too far—e.g., her confidence in the solution to Socrates' enigmatic last words. But such examples are limited, and most often Haynes' more unsubstantiated ideas are inquisitively phrased and constructively provocative.

Will have readers grabbing for the classics.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590208502
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 767,824
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Natalie Haynes appears regularly on BBC Television's Newsnight Review and BBC Radio 4's Saturday Review and Front Row. she writes for the Sunday Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, The New Humanist, and the Times. she earned her degree in classics at Cambridge and has worked as an award-winning stand-up comedian. she lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Old World Order 7

2 How Many Angry Men? 32

3 Thinking Allowed 62

4 In the Lap of the Gods 91

5 Frankly, Medea, I don't Give a Damn 122

6 There's No Place Like Rome 156

7 No Business Like Show-business 186

8 The Price of Everything, the Value of Nothing 218

Epilogue 249

Acknowledgements 255

Some Modern Guides to Ancient Life 258

Index 261

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