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The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian Hardcover – 6 Oct 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First edition (6 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713998539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713998535
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 6.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 341,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'an ambitious and exhilirating volume...so replete with insight that I would love to see it in every school library' -- Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

'more epic that any toga-clad celluloid epic to date... [a] brilliant book...a story that is never cluttered and always stimulating' -- The Economist

'witty, ferociously learned, enormously well read' -- Mary Beard, The Independent

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.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Robin Lane Fox, well known for his books on Alexander, has here produced one of the best overviews of classical Greek and Roman history, from the emergence of preclassical Greece to its second coming, so to speak, under Hadrian, that most philhellenic of Romans. Urbane but enthusiastic, revealing an immense learning very lightly, Lane Fox is unashamedly narrative in his approach. Essentially a Hellenist, he is perhaps unfair to some of the Romans - especially to the emperor Augustus whose achievements as a ruler surely atone for his lack of appeal as a man. Both Homer's world at the book's start, and that of the emperor Hadrian at the book's end, were aristocratic. Although Lane Fox treats the rise and fall of Athenian democracy very favourably, his general viewpoint is also elevated, unfashionably so. He concentrates on political and military events, rather ignoring cultural factors. For Greece especially, this is an omission. But overall, while his Olympian narrative may not impress some specialists, it will probably still be read with fascination and appreciation long after more specialist works have been forgotten. Lane Fox can stand deservedly in the grand narrative tradition of Gibbon.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding sweep across hundreds of years of Classical Greek and Roman history by a very fine scholar with a well-tuned popular touch.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
If you've ever wanted to delve into Classical history but have always felt put off by the kind of high-brow, donnish aura that surrounds the subject, then this is the book for you.
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.
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Format: Paperback
I first came across Robin Lane Fox's work when I read his brilliant biography of Alexander the Great. In this book, Lane Fox takes a broader brush to paint a picture of the Classical worlds of Greece and Rome, from the age of Homer to the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.

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.
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By Chuck E VINE VOICE on 14 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
For anyone whose knowledge of the classical world is largely drawn from Hollywood epics, the odd documentary or TV biopic and hazy memories of class projects, this book is an essential purchase. Lane Fox puts all those names and dates in context - and makes it a compulsive read. So if you've seen Spartacus, know a bit about Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, and that Alexander the Great was taught by Aristotle, have seen Hadrian's Wall and heard of Cicero and Tacitus, but aren't too sure what and who came when, and how, all will become clear!

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.
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