The Ancient Guide to Modern Life Paperback – 3 May 2012
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Reminds us (or tells us) about people, events and practices in the Greek and Roman world, and at the same time explores their contemporary echoes and parallels. A classic double-whammy, in fact - and delivered with wonderful energy, wit, zeal and expertise. Irresistible (Andrew Motion)
As wise as Socrates, as witty as Aristophanes, as modern as tomorrow - a classic for our times (Gyles Brandreth)
An entertaining romp through the politics and society of the ancient Romans and Greeks ... overflowing with lively, pertinent little nuggets (Claire Allfree Metro)
A passionate authority on the classics (The List)
Witty ... for a curious-minded someone who likes to get their teeth into some intelligent non-fiction and 'mmmm' appreciatively (Bea Hodgkin Easy Living)
A romp through some of the best-known, and some of the most obscure, writers, thoughts and stories of Greece and Rome. Haynes does a good job in debunking myths perpetuated by popular culture ... and also manages to give intelligent overviews of some of the knottier problems that academic scholarship has grappled with ... a passionate defence of Classics (Jerry Toner TLS)
Haynes debunks plenty of myths about the ancient world and delivers her history lessons in a light-hearted tone (Christopher Silvester Daily Express)
Brilliant (Charlotte Higgins Guardian)
How modern are our lives? Or are we still living the lives our ancestors lived?See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The main message is that life wasn't that different. Ancient life was in some ways surprisingly good (Athenian democracy, Rome's meticulous laws), in other ways appallingly bad (Spartan infanticide; Hebrews' genocide), but generally predictably ugly (hooliganism, corruption,status obsession, profound racism and sexism; politics and intrigue; futile wars. The relentless tragedies of Greek Culture; the egotistical tempestuousness of the mythical Roman Gods. Socrates' execution for agnosticism).
Overall, it felt like a survey of arbritary similarities and differences, conveyed in a rather airy style - sometimes humorous, sometimes glib - with a few random witticisms. Surprisingly, for a comedian, what it really lacked was a good punchline.
As well as being informative it is all good fun - you can hear her voice in every sentence. The best chapters (in which her writing really comes alive) were the ones on women and on "show business". Most of the Greek women are fictional as the Greeks preferred to keep their wives and daughters well away from public life. These come over as a terrifying bunch - wily seductresses and vengeful murderesses. But Medea and Dido had a pretty bad time of it so no wonder they didn't behave well. Other wives are shown to have been patient and faithful (such as Penelope and Andromache) though in the end it doesn't do them much good.....
The flawed hero is still a staple of literature today. Instead of Odysseus, Jason and Oedipus we now have Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Rebus and Wallander - all troubled in their own ways. She says: "It is, perhaps, a sign of our times that self-destruction should have become rather more internalised and rather less about poking out eyes with pins." Until reading this book I hadn't made a connection between Stringer Bell (of The Wire) and Oedipus but, yes, I can see that now....
I have been a fan of Natalie Haynes ever since she recommended (and got me hooked on) Battlestar Galactica. She writes with style and wit.
Very informative - and great fun along the way.
The author knows her stuff. In themed chapters she outlines various elements of ancient life, and links them to the world today. Sometimes, this means that we see that nothing in life is new, sometimes, the link will be less concrete, but there nonetheless. Some links are stronger than others, but there were few that I could take exception to!
The epilogue is a glorious 'call to arms' for learning for it's own sake. I had to agree with every word. For anyone who thinks that ancient history and the classics are meaningless, I would ask you to read this book, and think again.
I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in history, it could be used as a primer to go on to greater things or just merely to entertain those already wandering that path.
The narrator on the audio book has been very well chosen and has a manner of reading which compliments the material very well. Also you learn how some of the more convoluted (to modern ears!) Greek and Roman names should be pronounced...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I absolutely loved this book, and own both the audio book and the kindle version. Natalie's writing style is clear and engaging, and covers a broad range of material. Read morePublished 10 months ago by C. Gilchrist
Excellent book to dip into. Shall find some more Natalie Haynes - thanks for introducing me to her. MariaPublished on 10 Aug. 2014 by Maria Fallows
Plenty of the Ancient stuff but a bit weak on the guide to Modern Life. A very pleasant introduction to the brave philosophy and brutal justice of the Ancients but the comparisons... Read morePublished on 16 Jun. 2014 by TONY RICHARDS
An interesting examination of the relevance of "ancient history" to situations still being encountered today. Read morePublished on 25 Jan. 2014 by Michael Allen
When I read a non-fiction book, I like to learn something new. My difficulty with this book was that, although light, easy to read and amusing in places, it didn't contain any... Read morePublished on 3 Nov. 2013 by FEC23
I have enjoyed reading Nathalie Haynes' articles in newspapers whenever they are left on the train but had no idea of her classical background. Read morePublished on 18 Mar. 2013 by Dr R
now i might have been spoilt for this book by John O'Farrell, who, if you're not sure where to begin, writes a funny history book. Read morePublished on 12 Dec. 2012 by Miss J. Griffin
I loved this book - very readable and witty along the way. It was a good nostalgic journey for me because I studied Classics for A Level fifteen years ago. Read morePublished on 30 Sept. 2012 by Ms. R.