Love in the Ancient World

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A fascinating and lavishly illustrated guide to love throughout the ages, this book is the companion to a three-part A&E television series. Thousands of years have passed, but the legendary love story of Antony and Cleopatra, racy Greek murals, and tales of Roman orgies, still have the power to stir the blood.
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Overview

A fascinating and lavishly illustrated guide to love throughout the ages, this book is the companion to a three-part A&E television series. Thousands of years have passed, but the legendary love story of Antony and Cleopatra, racy Greek murals, and tales of Roman orgies, still have the power to stir the blood.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
A companion to the fascinating A&E television documentary, Love in the Ancient World is a lavishly illustrated guide to love throughout the ages. Since the beginning of recorded history, the human race has tried, with varying degrees of success, to keep its erotic impulses in check. Before hedonism was curtailed by the icy kiss of organized religion, and before relations between the sexes were muddied by a prevailing sense of guilt, there was love in the ancient world.

From the voluptuous Venus figures of prehistoric art to the Aphrodisian temples of Asia Minor, the imagery of erotic love permeated the ancient world. Man's attempts to come to terms with the prevailing human mysteries of birth, death, and his own sexuality not only inspired graphic and often exaggerated images of the human form, but set in train vivid mythologies in which the sexual adventures of gods and goddesses echoed the complexity of human behavior. And with the crystallization of rules of sexual conduct came marriage laws and taboos, whose subtle refinements tell us much about attitudes toward love, fear, and self-fulfillment. Incest was not such a definitive taboo as we might suppose, and it was broken in Egypt to preserve the Pharaonic line. And it is not for nothing that words such as "homosexuality," "lesbianism," "sapphic," "oedipal," "Dionysian," "pederasty," and "hysteria" have their roots in ancient Greek; many of the sexual conundrums we struggle with today have a long and distinguished history and have been discussed and written about with brilliance and insight for the last 2,000 yearsandmore.

With more than 150 color and 100 black-and-white illustrations, Love in the Ancient World ranges around the Mediterranean basin in search of these long-lost attitudes toward love and lust, passion and desire. Weaving images and attitudes into a colorful and controversial reassessment of our ancestors' preoccupation with love and sex, Love in the Ancient World is a must-read for victims of the most powerful, infuriating, and pleasurable of all emotions.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312179885
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 11.35 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 7
1 Early Mankind 8
2 The Invention of Writing and Laws of Sexual Conduct 22
3 The Egyptians 30
4 The Minoans and Troy 44
5 Gods and Men in Greece 52
6 Women in Athens 88
7 The Mutilation of the Herms 104
8 The Etruscans 110
9 The Romans and their Gods 118
10 The Women of Rome 130
11 The God-Emperor's Scandalous Daughter 140
12 The Beginning of the End 152
Bibliography 172
Acknowledgements 173
Index 174
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Interviews & Essays

On Monday, January 26, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Christopher Miles, author of LOVE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD.


moderator: barnesandnoble.com welcomed Christopher Miles, the man behind the recent A&E documentary "Love in the Ancient World," to discuss the documentary's companion book, appropriately titled LOVE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD.



Moderator: Good evening, Mr. Miles. We are pleased you could join us this evening to discuss LOVE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD.

Christopher Miles: Good evening, and nice to be with you.



Luis AT from Caracas, Venezuela: Does LOVE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD concern only the Greeks, Egyptians, etc. occidental culture or also the Chinese, Arabians, Japanese, Indians, etc.? [Does it] also cover the virgin cultures, like actual indigenous [ones], all over the world ?

Christopher Miles: Good evening, Luis, and buenos noches.... The book and the film themselves cover the ancient world in the Mediterranean basin. That is partly because they are in fact older than the Chinese or the Mexicans, or any other ancient world, but of course mankind stemmed from Africa, so we do incorporate the beginnings of the ancient world in Africa. We did consider covering the other ancient worlds, like India, Mexico, and China, but the finances and timescale would not allow it. It's important to remember that although Mexico and all South American Indian cultures and China obviously have very early beginnings, their intelligent manner of communication, with language and philosophical discussions on love, came later than [those of] the Egyptians and the Greeks.



Dave from San Diego, CA: I recently returned from a trip to southern Italy and went to Pompeii. I was truly surprised by the quantity of sexual imagery in the wall frescoes of once-public spaces. Was sex a more acceptable topic in the ancient world? If so, why?

Christopher Miles: Hello, Dave. Good question, and if you buy the book you'll find the answer! But yes, they did have a different aspect and view of sexuality, especially concerning the phallus, which I think is what you are referring to. Basically, it was considered a "good-luck symbol," which the Romans inherited from the Greeks, and you'll find very explicit pictures of the phallus, even in people's halls and, as you say, on public street corners. This good-luck symbol basically stems from the Greek statue called a herm, which was a statue of a man's head on a plain column with just his phallus protruding. These were all over the Greek world, and served two purposesas a good-luck symbol stemming from virility and fertility, and as a type of "evil eye" to ward off intruders. When they were smashed in Athens, the night before the famous Greek campaign against Sicily, the city of Athens was deeply shocked by the bad luck they thought the "Bobbiting" [of] the herms [would bring], which proved only too true, as the campaign was a disaster, and most of the Athenians died in Sicily. And this is how they came to be on street corners in Pompeii.



Alun from Leicestershire, UK: Do you find the Web helpful for your research? What historical and archeological Web sites do you follow?

Christopher Miles: Alun, hello fellow Brit! As I speak to you now from New York, we are trying to get INTO the Web site. I'm at a friend's house, Mr. Ray Frier's, and computer buff Paul Fletcher is trying hard with all the secrets, but we still can't get in. This would have partly answered your question, but not every day does America suffer from "Forni-gate"... I did try to look up some questions on the ancient world on the Web when I started the project, which was two years ago, and the responses were fairly miserable. No, I didn't use the Web, I used libraries and archeologist friends and universities. Maybe in two years, things have improved! Getting in there certainly hasn't! Good luck in Leicestershire, Alun, and don't stay up too late!



Sal from Oak Park, IL: Would President Clinton have faced such scrutiny had he lived in the ancient world?

Christopher Miles: Hello, Sal, or is it Salvadore? A good question! You might be addressing me from the headquarters of McDonald's, which like all things today suffer from media scandals and gossip, which is spread by the latest technology when you can get into it -- like the Internet, television, and the press. In the ancient world, the heads of state, kings or pharaohs, did have strict codes of behavior, and in many cases were regarded as gods and goddesses, therefore what they did was just as much scrutinized but was kept within the palace or court circles of the time. For instance, the famous general of Athens, Pericles, divorced his wife and lived with a courtesan, which I suppose is a rather elevated description of some of the ladies in the White House. But, again, because of the structure of the society then, it was permissible within that context. Stepping outside that context, if a man sold his daughter for prostitution, he was forbidden to take part in the Athenian senate, or in any political life. So, it's only tougher today for the heads of government because it gets out quicker. Best wishes, Sal, from Christopher!



Anne from Augusta, Maine: Is Aristophanes' play "Lysistrata" an accurate reflection of women's sexual roles in ancient Greece? Did they really have such power?

Christopher Miles: Good evening, Anne from Augusta! Now THERE'S a good strong woman's name, the wife of Caesar, Augusta! But going back to the Greeks for your question, "Lysistrata" is not a proper reflection of the role of Greek women at the time. It was, in fact, considered by them to be a very funny play, and it still is. But it was even funnier for the ancient Greeks because the wives and women of the household were kept very much in the home and were never allowed out, except in the company of their servant or slaves. So, to imagine the women of Athens getting together and taking over the Parthenon, as well as withholding sex from their husbands until they stopped fighting the Spartans, would have been very much funnier to the ancients than it is to us today. It does still have a powerful antiwar message and would have got the Greek chauvinist male mind thinking, perhaps, along more liberal feminine [lines]. But somehow, I doubt it.



Mark Robbins from Clayton, MO: Hello, Christopher. I saw the program last night and found it interesting that the Greeks accepted "platonic" love, yet penetration was still frowned upon. Why do you think that is?

Christopher Miles: Hello, Mark from Missouri. I'll have to correct you on what you think you heard and saw in the program.... Platonic love, as described by Plato in the symposium we touched on, refers to love between men that is not sexual. Therefore, the question of penetration in Plato's terms wouldn't apply. But you've touched on a difficult and psychologically disturbing fact of ancient Greek life, and don't forget all this was only discussed and practiced among the elite and well-off people of Athens, who in the fifth century B.C. faced this particular dilemma a young man is looked after and taught by an older man, which was often a nonsexual relationship, but the younger man himself had to take the "older" role later on in life, and so from playing the passive and so penetrated partner to the active partner, obviously must have caused -- and is seen to have caused -- considerable psychological problems within this particular period in Athens. And this, as the program showed, was carried to its extreme under the Romans. Hope this answers your question, Mark.



Corrine from Midland, TX: It's interesting that "falling in love" was never a goal in ancient times. I'm confused though -- were love potions meant for people to fall in love or to fall out of love?

Christopher Miles: Hello, Corrine from Texas. I think your confusion stems from the goal of love and the goal of marriage in ancient times. The ancients took love very seriously, but it was not necessarily a part of marriage, which was often arranged. The love potions were used in ancient Egypt and later on in Greece and Rome to make people fall in AND out of love, but mostly they were used to persuade the object of desire to fall into love.



Matt from NYC: I read in your bio that you were nominated for an Oscar. Could you please tell us more about this? Also, I am interested in your other films, "The Virgin and the Gypsy" and "Priest of Love." Are these also documentaries? Could you tell us a bit more about them? Thanks!

Christopher Miles: Hello, Matt from the Big Apple, where I'm talking to you now! You've obviously missed my movies that have been on television. The three you've chosen are all about love. The Oscar-nominated film was "The Six Sided Triangle," which was my first film, and my sister Sarah the actress's first film, in which I wrote six different stories about six different film directors, depicting the moment the husband comes home and finds his wife with another as filmed by the silent movies' David Lean, Luchino Visconti, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, and Kurl Sauer. I made it probably before you were born, and it went down well at the time. Both "The Virgin and the Gypsy" and "Priest of Love" were major feature films. "The Virgin and the Gypsy" won the Critic's Prize for the best film in New York in 1971, and was from a short story by D. H. Lawrence, which I went on to expand by filming his life story in "Priest of Love," with Ian McKellen and Janet Suzman -- and it was also Ava Gardner's last film.



Gorman from Tulsa, OK: It's that time of year -- why were the first Olympics performed naked? Was it a sexual thing?

Christopher Miles: Hello, Gorman from Oklahoma. There is one story perhaps why the Olympics in ancient Greece were performed naked A young fellow called Ossippus from Megara was about to win his race, when his shorts fell around his ankles. He quickly threw them away and "streaked" to victory. There is also perhaps the reason it was introduced by the Spartans -- to avoid any cheating in wrestling, like grabbing hold of any piece of clothing. Don't forget that before the games, the Greeks covered themselves with oil and then a light covering of sand to stop sunburn as the ancient Olympics always took place mid-summer. And yes, I suppose it would have been partly sexual, as the Greeks admired the male body -- artistically as well.



Chaucer from Wales: Could you compare and contrast the sexual power women had in Greece versus the sexual power women had in Rome? From the special last night, they seemed pretty similar.

Christopher Miles: Hello, Chaucer. You of all poets should know about the position of women, especially in the Middle Ages. The position of women in Rome and Greece was fairly different in that the Greek woman's position in the family household was very subservient to the male-dominated society. Unlike the Roman woman, she did not have her own property, nor could she divorce her husband. The Roman woman, on the other hand, was much freer, and the young Roman girl even went to school with her brothers, whereas the Greek woman remained totally uneducated and never went to the gymnasiums, which were their schools. The Roman women could even form a group and rebel against the government, which I suppose, in reference to an earlier question about Lysistrata, is what Aristophanes would have liked the women of Athens to have done. The strength of the Roman woman also extends from the Etruscans, where the women had their own family name and, in some instances, were the more dominant partner in a marriage. So hope this keeps the poet Chaucer happy. Good night.



Moderator: Thanks for fielding all of our questions, Mr. Miles. You certainly inspired a very titillating conversation. Any final comments about LOVE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD?

Christopher Miles: Well, as I sit in New York and CNN flashes in front of me, I could end up with the good old French adage "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," -- "the more things change, the more they are the same." In other words, human beings are still trying to keep their dreadful impulses in check without much success! Thank you for some great questions from all of you!


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