A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You'd Been Taught At School Hardcover – 11 Jun 2009
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See if you can tell your Tantalus from your Tacitus! (The Daily Telegraph)
This book aims to fill you in on the stuff you wish you'd been taught at school (The Times)
A cutely old-fashioned volume covered in Roman centurions' helmets (Yorkshire Post)
If you wished you'd paid more attention at school, then this is the book for you. Fascinating! (The Good Book Guide)
From the Author
Why `a classical education'? Who cares? Those were the questions I had to answer when I sat down to write this book. And what I came up with was this.
The Greeks and the Romans certainly didn't invent civilisation - the Chinese, the Babylonians, the Egyptians were all there long before them - but they did have an amazing influence on Western civilisation at we now know it. What we call classical architecture - the buildings in many of our city centres that look solid and reliable - derives from the Greeks. The principles of a logical argument were laid down by Aristotle; the science we learn in school was helped along by Archimedes leaping out of the bath-tub. Even if we have never studied classical mythology, we talk about the Midas touch or a Herculean task. We've heard of Homer, Sophocles and Cicero without actually having read their stuff; we remember that Hannibal crossed the Alps with elephants although we are a bit vague on who Hannibal was; and we know that Julius Caesar was supposed to beware the Ides of March even if we haven't a clue when the Ides were.
Let's not forget the language, either. About half of modern English derives from Latin, and much of that originally came from Greek. This means that knowing a bit of Latin will greatly enrich your vocabulary. Lots of our day-to-day, ordinary words come from Anglo-Saxon, but the fancier ones tend to be from Latin. So yes, of course, you can describe somebody as loud, but every now and then - just for the fun of it - you might want to say that they were vociferous.
And `just for the fun of it' is really what this book is about. The classics are all around us, and this book aims to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge about them - with, I hope, a few laughs along the way.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This volume is an introduction for the general reader to the world of Ancient Greece and Rome.
The first first chapter deals with language - the Greek alphabet, Latin words and phrases used in English (ad nauseam, de facto,modus operandi, etc.) and Greek and Latin plural forms.
The second is about religion and mythology; the principal gods, the underworld, the labours of Hercules, the Fates, Muses and Furies, the Judgement of Paris,etc.
At 26 pages this chapter is essentially a summary, though very useful to anyone whose knowledge of these things is a little vague.
The rest of the book follows this format, with chapters on Greek and Roman History; Classical literature; (mainly Homer,and including short biographies of the foremost dramatists, and writers - Aesop, Euripides, Sappho, Cicero,Virgil, etc. - and chapters on art and architecture (the Seven Wonders of the World, the Pantheon, the Colosseum,etc.); mathematics, science, inventions, medicine and philosophy - the thought of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Sophists, Epicureans, Seneca the Younger and Marcus Aurelius. Finally, the last chapter, of just four pages covers the ancient Olympic Games and Roman arena.
This book is intended for anyone whose acquaintance with the Classical world is limited, and would like to learn more; it commendably fulfils this requirement.
The style of writing is not only informative, but amusing. It is not a heavy text and skims the surface of ancient history, literature and mythology - but that is to the good. If it triggers an interest in the classical world, then so much the better. This is the sort of book that can be dipped into and dipped into again (and again). Many an otherwise idle moment I have spent reading this book and the fascination has not diminished.
Excellent buy, recommended.
I bought this book as I had forgotten much of what I learned at school and thought this would be a refresher. It is very well written in short chapters which suit me as it holds my attention and it is amusingly written with little current day sayings and phrases scattered about.
I like to read it before going to sleep and the book is small enough to hold and not too thick (these are considerations if you want to 'drop off' after a chapter or so and you don't want to wake the household with the crash of a large tome hitting the floor!). It also has a Roman/Latin section and a section on the meaning and origins of words which you may well be already aware of but I liked that touch.
To my surprise I spent a lunch break discussing some of the characters with a friend who watches films on the subject. In my opinion this was one of my better buys.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Like many things, the 'classics' have slipped my mind and I really needed a crash course to refresh my memory. This book did that job splendidly for me, thanks.Published 2 days ago by Den
The humour and knowledge enclosed within this book is exactly what I wanted to know. My time at school was not particularly enjoyable and I am so glad Caroline Taggart thought to... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Henry
Very well written at a level one can understand,
Covers quite a lot of subjects that play a part in everyday life, but more important leaves you wanting to learn more
Very light, at times humorous little delightful reading.
Good for short commutes and holiday reading. Recommendable and hence here recommended.
A good read but a shade too fippant causing confusion as to what to beleive.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I really enjoyed this book full of stuff i never knew or had half forgotten. Definitely a must buy for fans of mythology and similar topics.Published 4 months ago by R. Bagley