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Classics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 24 Feb 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (24 Feb. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853851
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.3 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

this short and brilliant book ... is now re-issued in an attractive pocket-sized format ... amazing range of reference ... very clear organisation. JT, Anglo-Hellenic Review, No.22, 2000.

nobody could fail to be informed and entertained - and the accent of the book is provocative and stimulating. (TLS)

Lively, and up-to-date...it shows classics as a living enterprise, not a warehouse of relics. (New Statesman and Society)

Beard and Henderson have suceeded brilliantly in communicating the sheer breadth of Classics in this Very Short Introduction.... In language accessible to non-specialist and student alike, Beard and Henderson illustrate how Classic encompasses not just a study of the ancient world, but also of its traditions of scholarship and its influence on the culture of the western world...... This book does not fail to challenge and provoke. Nor does it ignore the problems and current issues that beset the subject and its teaching, but presents them even handedly and with humour, eschewing propaganda.... A stimulating addition to the school library. (JACT review)

The authors show us that Classics is a 'modern' and sexy subject. They succeed brilliantly in this regard nobody could fail to be informed and entertained-and the accent of the book is provocative and stimulating. (John Goodwin, Times Literary Supplement)

Statues and slavery, temples and tragedies, museum, marbles, and mythology-this provocative guide to the Classics demystifies its varied subject-matter while seducing the reader with the obvious enthusiasm and pleasure which mark its writing. (Edith Hall, author of Inventing the Barbarian)

You could not find two better introducers to the Classics than Mary Beard and John Henderson. They are questioning, funny, bold, and widely read in many fields. They could not be dull if they tried. (Philip Howard, columnist for The Times)

This little book should be in the hands of every studentm and every tourist to the lands of the ancient world - a splendid piece of work. (Peter Wiseman, author of Talking to Virgil)

For those who think Classics is just the dry as dust learning of dead languages this arresting book will come as a rude shock. This is no potted history of Greece and Rome, but a brillian demonstration that the continual re-excavation of our classical past is vital if the modern world is to rise to the challenge inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi to "Know yourself". (Robin Osborne, author of Demos: The Discovery of Classical Attica)

About the Author

John Henderson is a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and Mary Beard is a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jon Chambers TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A novel take on 'the Classics' in a volume that avoids the usual emphasis on history and the arts. Instead, it focuses on such intangibles as identity in the ancient world. The authors take the Greek writer Pausanias as a starting point. Although he was was writing his 'Guidebook to Greece' more than two centuries after Greece had become a Roman colony, he chooses to write about Greek civilisation, architecture and history as though it were still independent of Roman influence. His silence on matters Roman speaks volumes and reminds us that reading between the lines is sometimes more revealing than reading the lines themselves.

Beard and Henderson suggest that Classics is not the study of a dead culture but a live, interactive process informed by the 'vast community of readers across the millennia'. Their book dwells on the friezes from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae - initially, at what seems too great a length, but actually for very good reason. The temple friezes, now on exhibit at the British Museum, are independent blocks of marble that can be reassembled in many different ways. Bassae is therefore a metaphor for discovery and re-evaluation. Furthermore, the temple is set in Arcadia - a region of huge importance for literature, religion and philosophy, giving it yet more symbolic significance. As the authors suggest, the notion of Arcadia - sometimes paradise, sometimes brutish wilderness - is itself capable of multiple interpretation, like so many aspects of the ancient world. Each new generation's interpretations and insights shed extra light on, and themselves become part of, the classical heritage.

The book's unexpected emphasis on the historic reception of classics constitutes, perhaps, its major strength.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 April 2008
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This book is really well written, entertaining and extremely thought provoking. It provides a whistlestop tour through the classical world in terms of how we study it, not the classical world itself. If you want lists and dates and what is taught at school as 'history', this is not the book for you.

The premise of the OUP Very Short Introduction To books is to take an expert who has something really interesting to say on a particular subject, whether it be bananas or the classical world and then get them to talk about their interest in the subject in an easy to digest 150 short pages. This is not clearly explained, and these books are often picked up by total novices expecting something like 'a dummies guide to'. Well, there are already 'dummies guides to' which do their job very well. These, in my opinion can be much more rewarding and thought provoking.

In this book, Beard and Henderson use the example of a classical temple site in Greek Arcadia and what we know about it to explore how we approach the study of classics. It roams through archaeology, sociology, religion, politics, study of language, poetry and literature and makes a compelling case for why classics are still relevant today and what they mean to us in modern times.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 May 2002
Format: Paperback
This is no quick synopsis for last minute swotting for exams. This small book gives a sense of how classics works-how people think about the ancient past, more than how ancient communities thought about themselves.
Relax, go with it and it is a wondrfully thought-provoking journey-assembling fragments and impressions to re-create the magic of antiquity.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Jun. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the first in the "Very Short Introduction" series and perhaps a very good place to start. Is the book very short? Yes, it is something you can accomplish in a few hours of uninterrupted reading (or two days of mildly interrupted reading in my case). And does it introduce the subject matter? Yes, through one useful example.

The book lost its way to detail around the 61% mark (accuracy attributed to my kindle) and I felt I would need to start taking notes but eventually the book regained its macro approach in a way that is appropriate for an introductory text.

I'm always explaining to people that economics (my degree at university) is the study of choice and not just about money and markets. In the same way, Classics has been explained to me to be not just about temples and friezes. If you scratch the surface of the scientific method both disciplines are sociological and anthropological.

Whilst classics incorporates Greek and Roman products (art, language, philosophy, archaeology, etc.) it is explained that Greece is to be seen through Roman eyes; and so begins the transition of culture down the ages. This is a study just not of the static state of such products just mentioned but of their constant state of flux. The subjectivity of the interpretation develops our understanding of the past whilst also revealing nuances about the present context from which our opinions have come from.

Historical inquiry is in a jostle between technological advancement that may reveal and 'Chinese Whispers' that may reconstruct. Eventually the subject boils down to philosophy, that, without providing an answer that is concrete (or maybe I should say marble), provides a journey that is informative and enjoyable in itself. To know where you are going, it helps to know where you are coming from.
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