The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome Paperback – 6 Jul 2006
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The Classical World is a more epic epic than any toga-clad celluloid epic to date... Mr Lane Fox's brilliant book, where soldiers, poets and orators fight for attention in a story that is never cluttered and always stimulating. (The Economist)
witty, ferociously learned, enormously well read (Mary Beard, The Independent)
an ambitious and exhilarating volume...The Classical World is so replete with insight and anecdote that I would love to see it in every school library. (Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday)
we are in the hands of an author who knows that an epic can only be driven by big characters such as Pericles, Demosthenes, Philip, Cicero, Pompey, Caesar and Cleopatra...Here lies the author's mastery, matching a lifelong familiarity with his subject to the basic needs of a newly arrived apprentice (Nigel Spivey, FT)
About the Author
Robin Lane Fox was born in 1946 and educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and a University Reader in Ancient History. His other books include Alexander the Great, Pagans and Christians and The Unauthorized Version. He was historical advisor to Oliver Stone on the making of Stone's film Alexander, for which he waived all his fees on condition that he could take part in the cavalry charge against elephants which Stone staged in the Moroccan desert.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Ranging from the poet Homer in the 7th century BCE, to the Roman 'First Citizen' Hadrian surveying his empire from the Tyne to the Euphrates, Lane Fox communicates a lifetime experience of teaching the Classics in one compact volume, deliciously divided into chapters which can capture an era or event in one pre-sleep bite! His view is even handed, but his enthusiasm for figures such as Pliny and Cicero shine out. He also has a soft spot for gardeners...
This is an excellent starting point for further reading, with excellent and easily usable notes and bibliographies. The illustrations are fascinatingly discussed in an appendix. I especially enjoyed the careful modern nuances that alluded to 'spin' and 'regime change' - these can be clumsy in lesser writers, but they were revealing and apposite here.
A very very fine book covering a vital aspect of human history, and essential to fully understand the Western World with all its achievements, weaknesses and cruelties.
I don't mean by this that the book is "dumbed-down", far from it; Lane Fox has written a gripping, accessible account of the great Greek and Roman civilisations upon which Western society still stands. He is an absolute master of sources and stories, and weaves them together into a cogent whole. This is a book not just about the princes, philosophers and Emperors but about the entire classical societies of Greece and Rome. It feels like you're there yourself.
The early sections on the Archaic Greek World are a bit of struggle. Most of our evidence for this period comes from the archaeological record, leaving a lot of speculation about the events of the age, which only comes down to us in fragments from later Greek writers. These chapters help set the scene, but they are not as exciting as the later sections simply because they lack the human dimension. Lane Fox is at his finest when he describes the struggles and achievements of the individual, and not the physical remains of the Classical World.
It is in when the book reaches the period of the 5th century BC that the book really starts to shine. Lane Fox gives us a vivid view of men like Socrates and Pericles, and also the everyday lives of the classical Athenians, including a look at the lives of the Greek women and children.
He also provides brilliant chapters on the Julio-Claudians, the Punic Wars, and the Hellenistic World. Yet he also covers subjects as diverse as the Roman Army, diplomacy, Greek philosophy, technology, sports and a dozen other subjects.
One of the strengths of this book is Robin Lane Fox's text, which is lucid and very readable. He is a great writer who is able to impart a lot of information in short chunks. Most chapters only run for a few pages ( on average 13 pages) which makes them readable and accessible, and especially good if you want to read a few chapters at a time.Read more ›
Can't think of another book which covers such a span of material without making it heavy going. Lane Fox obviously has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the period and an impressive grasp of detail, but steers clear of overloading the lay reader at the expense of readability and pacing. As a result it is, to use that old cliche, pretty hard to put down - you really do want to just go on and read that next chapter.
I would love to see the author continue the story through the Decline and Fall.
Definitely one of my books of the year.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is certainly very interesting, though I found it rather verbose and perhaps unnecessarily long in most parts.Published 26 days ago by Bianconi Francesco
Can't recommend this book highly enough- erudite, readable, interesting- more of the same please!Published 9 months ago by Anon
Great book. Essential reading for anyone studying Ancient Greece and Rome.Published 13 months ago by Mandy Burns
Penguin's print and design is as good as ever, there's no doubt on that.
However, given the fact that the title's named 'an epic history', I confessed I was a little surprised... Read more
Honestly I feel like the book just jumps into it. There is no build up and you dont really know what the author is focusing on first before jumping to something else.Published 15 months ago by Lorie Macapagal
Son wanted it for university and he is happy with it and so, I am as well.Published 16 months ago by a person of good taste
A brilliant additional research resource for study or just to be read for entertainment.Published 17 months ago by The Cool Cookie
From the title and the Index yo expect this book to unfold giving you a robust historical narrative... far from it. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Frederick (Madrid)