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Witty and Wise,
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This review is from: Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures and Innovations (Hardcover)
Among the countless little gems sprinkled throughout this marvellous book is the news - to me, anyway - that despite his reputation as a persecutor and slaughterer of early Christians, the Emperor Nero, according to an obscure tradition, had Pontius Pilate put to death, and was even regarded in some quarters as a defender of the faith. Which begs the question of whether the man was indeed as villainous as he is often painted. One of the beauties of studying ancient history and the Classics is that one can never be certain of anything (except perhaps that Thucydides is a bugger to try to understand); so much myth, legend, misinformation and hyperbole has been thrown into the melting pot over the centuries that separating the actual truth from what we want the truth to be has become a daunting, Herculean task. This is a theme that pops up frequently in Professor Beard's book; we know practically nothing about Boudica to this day, for example, and I personally would be a happy man were Mary Beard to write an entire book about her. Confronting the Classics is a collection of book reviews - or rather, a collection of essays inspired by the books under review, as many are so riveting - and so beautifully written - that one often forgets that one is reading a review. For those who have no knowledge of the Classics, it is an excellent introduction, and Mary Beard is a witty, wise and above all warm companion to have along on this endlessly fascinating journey through the ancient world.