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on 15 November 2009
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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on 20 January 2010
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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on 18 July 2009
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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on 6 September 2009
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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on 6 February 2010
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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on 6 July 2009
This book is truly unputdownable. Be warned if you enjoy reading about the Ancient Greeks and Romans you'll be reading this at the dinnertable at bedtime and at every opportunity. I love the style.
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on 29 January 2016
This book does cover a fairly large volume of information. Unfortunately, the Author does so in a style that is far too lighthearted and "jokey" for my taste. The Author appears to be more interested in historical figures and events as a source of material for comedy, rather than of interest for their own merit. I am not against the use of a bit of humour but, when almost every page contains a gag worthy of a popular Radio DJ, I think it ceases to be funny and it does become rather wearing.

I do think that anything that opens the Classics to a wider audience is to be commended. Additionally, the wide scope of this book may provide something of a goldmine to those who are keen contestents in Pub Quizes, TV game Shows, Trivial Pursuit and suchlike. However, as I don't have any background in Classics I cannot comment on the historical accuracy of this book.

Therefore, for these latter points I have given three stars as the book certainly does have a market. Those with a serious desire to study the Classics would probably do better to invest their money in a different book.
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on 18 August 2015
Many people who consider themselves to be educated, but who have not followed the old, Classical syllabuses, probably feel a little left out when references that "everyone should know" appear in everyday life, be it in literature, on broadcasts or in conversation. the Western culture almost demands this knowledge. This book is an effort to help those people who feel this gap in their knowledge. It is presented in a fairly jolly way, which should serve to allay fears of those who might be daunted by the idea of Classical knowledge, and conveys a good deal of information. A fair volume, to be dipped into.
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on 20 August 2009
An excellent and entertaining round-up of the key elements of our classical heritage, what we gained from and owe to the Greeks and the Romans. It's informative, very readable, and surprisingly light of touch. It carried me back to the parts of school classics I actually enjoyed. If you want the same to happen to you - or if you just want a "Dummies' Guide" to the classical world (I mean that as a compliment, the Dummies' Guides are a great success for a reason) then this is the book for you. And it's a hardback (none of this modern flimsy paperback stuff for the classics!) and very reasonably priced.
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on 10 November 2015
This is a great book. It is filled with interesting snippets of information about the Classical period and has numerous amusing references and anecdotes. It is not a particularly long read nor does it bog you down in detail; it just gives you enough to pique your interest in the subjects and it does so in a light hearted way. Reading it wont qualify you for a classics degree but it will be enjoyable and it might even give you an edge in the next pub quiz you attend. :)
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