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A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You'd Been Taught At School Hardcover – 11 Jun 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Michael O'Mara; First Edition edition (11 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843173565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843173564
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.4 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is part of an extensive series from Michael O'Mara Books Ltd. on subjects that are - or used to be - taught at school; mathematics, English Grammar, History, etc., presented in an enjoyable, readable style.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
As a lecturer in ancient history I have - contrary, perhaps, to the assumptions of other reviewers of this book - no quibble with the popularisation of the subject: on the contrary I wish there were many more accessible and funny books on the subject, for ancient history is packed with opportunities for good gags. However, a popular style is no excuse for poor scholarship, and Ms Taggart has some real howlers: she claims that Homer lived and composed in the 9th century BC: although precise dating is impossible it is generally agreed that Homer (whoever he was) was a product of the 8th century BC. Any edition of his works, any textbook, any reliable reference book will tell you that. So what? It was a long time ago. But a 100 years is not an inconsiderable period of time. How would you feel about a popular history book that claimed WWII took place between 1839 and 1845? You would think the author was an idiot, and you would be right. What's more Athens did NOT have an empire before the Persian Wars - that came later, and for very good reason - and no, Herodotus does NOT claim there is no evidence for Pheidippides' run to Athens from Marathon: in fact he makes no reference to it at all. Oh, and by the way, modern scholarship now agrees the runner was actually called 'Philippides': up-to-date translations have this version. Has she read one? There's more, but I'm sure you get the drift. Ms Taggart suggests you can show off at dinner parties with the material she provides, but do so with caution - you might find yourself sitting next to one of my first-year undergraduates, all of whom have a better grasp of the subject than the author of this book. And what's more, the jokes, on the whole, are pretty feeble. The word 'shagging' is not, in itself (or per se, if you prefer)witty. It really isn't. Caveat emptor.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have an interest in Classics, this is an entertaining book to read. My experiences as school were either neutral or a bit on the wearisome side when it came to Latin/Greek and the related poetry but it was fascinating to read about topics that I had forgotten or barely knew. It also brought back some long lost memories and filled in one or two (well quite a few actually) missing links. Things I didn't know included the origin of the word 'Pygmalion'.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having studied some of the classics, out of interest as distinct from academic pressure, I found this book extremely interesting and easy to read, in fact I could hardly put it down. Although I had come across practically everything in this book, the book itself is a wonderful summary, both for the beginner and the well versed. For the price of a couple of pints it is well worth it if only to gain an introduction to th classics. BUY IT and you will not be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You'd Been Taught at School

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.
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