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The Ancient Guide to Modern Life Paperback – 3 May 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (3 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683246
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683244
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 273,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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)

Book Description

How modern are our lives? Or are we still living the lives our ancestors lived?

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A well, written, witty and engaging overview of various aspects of life in ancient Greece and Rome, showing that human nature, civilisation and our social institutions haven't changed as much as you might think over the millennia. As someone whose school didn't offer any sort of classical education (presumably considering it elitist; I wish our LEA had read this book!) The Ancient Guide to Modern Life provided a fascinating insight into some of the stories we're all vaguely aware of - and they made much more sense afterwards. Why DID the Trojans fall for the old wooden horse ruse? You'll find out when you read this book. A perfect stocking filler for the thinking person.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Natalie Haynes' entertaining foray through Ancient Cultures is diverting enough. Her objective - to draw wisdom and wit from the comparisons between their lives and ours - is a laudable one.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
The premise of this book is that our lives will be enriched if we look at what has been passed down to us from the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome. She looks at politics, warfare, women, religion, philosophy, art and culture. But instead of producing a terribly worthy (and, perhaps, dull) piece of work she offers us instead a witty and erudite work comparing our present to the past.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure about this book before I started it; was it going to be a dreary exercise in trying to make the ancient world relevant to today? I needn't have worried, although I can't easily describe the focus of the book, it works really well.
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are many "pageturners" out there, but few inform as freely and entertainingly as this book. I enjoy history and the classics but don't think I've ever come across an author that gets the point across while making you think in such an easy and entertaining manner. Natalie Haynes would've been my choice of teacher / lecturer rather than some of the dry sticks I had to endure. She also managed to nudge my thinking into new tangents without being overbearing, making me enjoy the journey.
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.
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Format: Audio Download Verified Purchase
Like many good book , you don't realise that you're being educated (and not just about the Greeks & Romans) as the style it is written in is very relaxed and the reader is not talked down to. It's like a very informal conversation.
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...
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