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The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian Paperback – April 8, 2008
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Robin Lane Fox has pulled off this unusual achievement in his The Classical World. Taking three very ancient-world concepts - Liberty, Justice and Luxury (in its sense of extravagance, decadence) - Fox manages to walk confidently from Archaic Athens to the mid-point in the Roman Empire (the Emperor Hadrian, perhaps the most Greek-influenced of Roman Emperors, second century A.D.) and brilliantly evoke both the changes within the Greek and Roman cultures as they rose to empire and then fell from that high point, and to `compare and contrast' the two great cultures in a way that makes sense to the reader. Perhaps more importantly, this is a deeply satisfying book both for the expert scholar and the interested reader who doesn't have his M.A. in classical studies. It's amazing to see how these three `civilized' needs or qualities are dealt with in differing ways by the various cultures of Greece and Rome, and how complaints of decadence always seem to follow the cultural richness of a developing civilization.
At heart, the question is - what constitutes a civilization? How do you reconcile the needs of Liberty and Justice, and what happens to both when the rich become richer and the poor become poorer? Is wealth in and of itself a clue that a civilization that has lost its earlier energy? How did the Greeks and Romans deal with wealth and poverty, and how did they view them as influencing both liberty and justice? How did the great warrior ideals Homer exemplified influence the cultures after them, for good - or ill?Read more ›
But, is it "good" history? Well that, of course, depends on how you view the subject. If it's a summary of major political & military events then you won't be disappointed for it's a fascinating period and, by the end of it all, you'll know what happened: who, where & when. But good history should be more than a mere distillation of "facts": it should explore why things happened. And, given the period being addressed - one in which the exploration of philosophy, science, politics and history itself was paramount in making it so important - Lane Fox's failure to do this is a major weakness.
For example, the reasons for the massive social & political differences in the parallel development of Athens and Sparta - two key city states only 100 miles apart - one of which pioneered philosophy & democracy, and the other of which pioneered the exact opposite, is virtually ignored other than in terms of their regular military conflicts. Or, why Athens made the most incredible intellectual advances during a period in which it was under constant military threat and in which half of its citizens were killed in wars... were they related issues?Read more ›
Some definitional issues. Lane defines "The Classical World" as (page 1) ". . .the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans, some forty lifetimes before our own but still able to challenge us by a humanity shared with ours." Fox ceases his narrative with the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Why? Lane says (page 2): ". . .'classical literature' ends in his reign. . . ." Even more important Page 2), ". . .is that Hadrian himself was the emperor with the most evident classicizing tastes."
First, Fox focuses on three themes across this span of history--freedom, justice, and luxury. He believes that each of these--and the changes that occurred with time--can help explain the sweep of events.
Second, he divides the time span into several eras, and treats each separately, although noting how the themes of freedom, justice, and luxury play out in each. "The Archaic Greek World" begins with Homer's Greece and concludes with the great Persian Wars. The next time period is what Fox refers to As "The Classical Greek World." This period runs from the rise of democratic Athens, the Peloponnesian War, Socrates, the rise of Philip of Macedon.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Other reviewers have covered the subject matter of this book in great detail. As I am not a classicist, I will let those reviews speak for themselves. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Wayne Gordon
I am reading it for the second time......hard to find a single volume on this subject, that is so easy to read, flows, and does not get bogged down in detail which nobody really... Read morePublished 6 months ago by alan fishman
Wonderful exposition of what the classical world means for today. Great anecdotes and a generalist approach. For both the specialists and the curious.Published 11 months ago by Upuaut
I've read much ancient history relevant to the Greeks and Romans. This is the best - comprehensive, detailed, easily read, and entertaining. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Janis A Hyatt
This book reads a bit like an older high school primer in this subject area. For a novice here, there is a great deal to learn but also a great deal is left out. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Joseph Bishop
Professor Lane Fox gives us this personal version of thousand years of ancient history, from the Greeks to the time of Emperor Hadrian. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Eric Mascarin Perigault
I think this is a very well-written history of the ancient world, but it is, sadly, a very lame and slipshod port to the kindle format. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Tom
One of the best books I have purchased, as it explained the history of the great Caesars of Rome from the beginning to the last one.Published on January 3, 2014 by John Dean
To write a book on this subject, an author requires a depth of knowledge that is not available to your average scribe and Lane Fox displays all the credentials for the task. Read morePublished on November 27, 2013 by RR