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.