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Comment: Condition: Excellent condition., remainder mark / Binding: Paperback / Publisher: Walker & Company / Pub. Date: 2007-05-29 Attributes: 312pp / Illustrations: B&W Illustrations Stock#: 2020704 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World Paperback – May 29, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; 1st U. S. edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802715567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802715562
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 7.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Remember that Metropolitan gala in The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda Priestly has someone whisper in her ear the name of everyone she meets? Well, ancient Roman politicians had such an aide, too: he was called a nomenclator. León entertainingly introduces us to this and other colorful professions held by men and women in Greco-Roman society. With short, humorous anecdotes, she describes the daily grind of scribes, vestal virgins, fishmongers, astronomers, sophists, hoplite slaves, sellers of purple, curse-tablet makers, funeral clowns, sycophants and orgy planners. Scribes, for example, were speed writers who not only recorded public information but also acted as journalists jotting down juicy tales of love, death and political intrigue in the Daily Record. The beast supplier, or praepositus camelorum, tracked, captured and supplied all the animals used in gladiatorial contests and circuses in Rome. León weaves sketches of actual people employed in these professions. Banker's son Apollodorus, a rich-kid-turned-lawyer, litigated a 19-year lawsuit after his father willed his fortune to an ex-slave. Drawing on the same outrageous sense of humor that's made her Uppity Women series so popular, León demonstrates how uncannily similar the workaday experiences of the ancient world are to ours. Illus. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Vicki Leon is a writer, traveler, and historian who has built a wide readership with her Uppity Women series. She lives in Morro Bay, California. 

More About the Author

My roots: convinced I was left on strangers' doorstep in the Pacific Northwest, I fled in my teens and began to fill the first of seven passports. Wanderlust is apparently hereditary; my progeny now busy filling their own passports.
My higher education: mostly self-inflicted
I collect: pyramids, ancient cemeteries, seashells, foreign languages, long stays in foreign lands.
Allergic to: gray skies, household routines, watches, gas-guzzlers.
Addicted to: laughter, Spanish aceitunas con anchoas, George Dalaras and other Greek music, foreign films, beach walks, getting a glimpse of animals and birds in the wild.
Am a magnet for: odd facts, weird stories, unusual connections (all of them fodder for my writing)
Am sustained by: a worldwide web of family, friends, publishing colleagues, and readers

My books: 35 titles (about half of them for readers 10 and up). Many, miraculously still in print.

My GOALS as a writer of nonfiction:
1. Dig deeper to find the whole human history, to illuminate the unsung men and women of long ago
2. Leaven my books with humor and humanity
3. Try to astonish the reader on every page. Astonish, from the Latin attonare, "to be struck by lightning." Thus to write in a way that leaves the reader thunderstruck.

My research: more fun than a whodunit. In fact, I go through a lot of shoe leather even when I'm time-traveling.That's why I call myself (partly tongue in cheek) Vicki Leon, historical detective

Customer Reviews

Minor errors of fact.
Michael W. Mccarthy
The author does write in a personal style, and there are some historical mistakes but the book is funny and easy to read.
Svarog The Mighty
Ancient history has been a lifelong interest, but I've learned much from this book.
Mark Hatala

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Bachelier on July 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
For those familiar with the work of Michael Foucault, this work is a little problematic. It basically picks up where Foucault's "The Birth of the Prison" and "The History of Sex" and his other curious titles leave off. Foucault's technique was to examine not the high-falutin literature of the past, or the documents of the haute bourgeoisie, but to look at ordinary systems and attitudes and uncover an archaeology of knowledge and a clearer map of ancient times from alternate perspectives. Because Foucault's technique was subversive, speculative, and academically suspect, many of his conclusions were controversial and his reputation binary. His taste for rough trade and bathhouses didn't help.

Enter Vicki Leon, who does a Studs Terkel ("Working") on the past.

Which is why this is such an excellent book. Leon strips away Foucault's tendency for obfuscation to sound profound (and his rather specialized taste for the louche and bizarre), and doesn't stoop to Terkel's socialist "history" as oppressor and inescapable condition.

Leon's prose is also better than journalists, which makes this a fun read. She doesn't do an exhaustive treatment of jobs in the past: tallow wright (someone who renders cowfat for candles and soap) and grease monkey (a usually samll boy sailor who greased oar gunnels) aren't here. But the ancient world's professions are on full display. My favourites included are: vicarious, nomenclator, fishmonger, purple seller (biblical!), sycophants (yikes), orgy planners, beast supplier, postal worker (now you'll know how going postal originated) and my favourite....psychopompus.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on June 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Vicki Leon's "Working IX to V" is not a history of wars and rulers. Instead, it looks at, as its subtitle proclaims, "Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World". In other words, it looks at the jobs performed by ancient Greeks and Roman to keep their world running on a day-to-day (or night-to-night) basis. It's a book made for great browsing if you are not in the mood or have the time available for a straight-through reading. The tone is light and breezy, but Ms. Leon's lively prose conveys a sense of authenticity.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael W. Mccarthy on September 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very light in tone; much of information selected for humor. Minor errors of fact. Major problem is that very little substantive information on any occupation. Span of occupations is some 400 BC to 400 AD which destroys most useful value. No real discussion of employment, wages, etc.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on November 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
The subtitle says it all, except that not all the professions are prized - silver mining, for instance, done by slaves who spent their days on their backs in a "coffin-sized hole" and had a life span of three months, or the hordes of free-born laborers needed for everything from carrying stones to loading ships who earned their daily bread and little else.

But Leon manages to cover a broad range of professions from slave-driver and gladiator to dream incubators and sycophants (who informed on fig smugglers) who have no counterpart in today's world as well as many others that will be around forever in one form or another.

Entries are brief and breezy, but very informative. Leon organizes her jobs and avocations in categories - Slave jobs (the best ones are in aristocratic homes), temple and entertainment jobs, food professions, law and order, entertainment and the arts, etc., giving her sections such titles as "Small-time Operators, Corporate Rackets," and "Doomed Careers and Deathless Pursuits."

There are also brief profiles throughout of people who excelled in one way or another at their posts.

Leon's relentlessly droll style grows a little wearing but she does pack an amazing amount of information in this well-organized, broad-ranging collection, giving a lively, detailed picture of teeming life in the ancient world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Padgett on July 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
I bought the book to learn about these various ancient occupations. But the book is so laced with cuteness and hipness that I can't rely on it being accurate. It also mingles Greek and Roman history with little discrimination. Disappointed.Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Alan S. Walker on March 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
This could have been a really useful book; unfortunately, it isn't. Most annoyingly, the author often lapses into a kind of 'Valley Girl' English that will drive the reader crazy; it is as if she is frightened of sounding intelligent, so whenever she does (and she can write quite clearly) she has to throw in a flippy, with-it word or two; this succeeds in making everything sound stupid. There are also a lot of avoidable mistakes: in the short note on die engravers she says that Kimon's facing head of Arethusa was on a 10 rather than a 4-drachm piece, that Hercules wrestles a lion on a coin of Kyme (he doesn't) and that a head of Lysimachos is on a coin of Pergamum (nope, it's Seleukos I); elsewhere she has Septimius Severus ruling in 190. In short, it is a pity but you can't trust the facts in this book.
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