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The Parthenon Enigma: a New Understanding of the West's Most Iconic Building and the People Who Made It. Paperback – November 4, 2014
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*Starred Review* Universally recognized as a symbol of Western democracy, the Parthenon emerges in Connelly’s bold new analysis as a shrine memorializing myths radically alien to modern politics. Newly recovered classical literary texts and surprising archaeological finds compel readers to acknowledge the implausibility of the usual interpretation of the Parthenon’s frieze sculptures as a depiction of fifth-century Athenians celebrating their Panathenaic Festival. To buttress a quite different interpretation, Connelly cites lines from a long-lost Euripides play, so investing the Parthenon statues with mythical—not historical—significance, enshrining the legendary King Erechtheus and Queen Praxithea and the three daughters they heroically sacrifice to save their threatened city. The discovery that Athenians believed their political order originated with virgin sacrifice may shock readers, despite the ubiquity of human sacrifice in the world’s prehistory and the centrality of blood sacrifice in Christianity. Yet in Athens’ violent founding myth, Connelly sees a reminder of how completely Athenians put community welfare above self-interest. Newly aware of the potent message embedded in the Parthenon frieze as a whole, many readers will endorse Connelly’s concluding appeal to British authorities, asking them to return to Greece the priceless pieces of the frieze that have long been held in London. An explosive reinterpretation of a classical icon. --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Exciting and revelatory. . . . That rare thing: the exposition of a truly great idea, and a reminder of what a thrilling subject the past, that foreign country, can be.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Joan Connelly’s brilliant study of the Parthenon shows how a myth can reveal as many secrets as a rock or a ruin, and how rethinking what we know about antiquity can help us better understand ourselves today.” —George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga
“A detailed portrait.” —The Washington Post
“More than ingenious. . . . The most convincing explanation of the entire Parthenon program so far put before us.” —Nigel Spivey, Greece & Rome
“Learned, ambitious . . . up to date with the excellent theoretical work of recent decades. It is time to change the textbooks and the museum labels.” —Times Literary Supplement.
“Connelly’s theory is attractive and plausible, and is backed by a considerable breadth and depth of scholarship—archaeological, visual, and textual.” —A.E. Stallings, The Weekly Standard (London)
“Original, insightful and convincing. . . . A very important book: thoroughly researched and written for the intelligent reader. . . . [Connelly] breaks new ground.” —Huffington Post
“Connelly’s groundbreaking work will forever change our conception of the most important building in the history of Western civilization. By cracking the hidden code of the Parthenon, she reveals the classical world in a radical new light that will reorient how we all view its legacy for the twenty-first century.” —Tom Reiss, author of The Black Count, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“General readers with an interest in Greek history and architecture will find The Parthenon Enigma fascinating. . . . [It reads like a] supremely intelligent riff on a Dan Brown novel.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A careful, learned account and a good read.” —The New York Review of Books
“Gracefully written, informative. . . . Engaging and intensely interesting. . . . Thoughtful, stimulating, and unquestionably valuable.” —J.J. Pollitt, The New Criterion
“Connelly’s interpretation [offers an] even positive message, one that speaks to the influence of the Parthenon in the fields of architecture, government and the very nature of civilized society.” —New York Post
“Learned and elegant . . . a powerful case for a new understanding of the Parthenon, its original meaning as a religious object, and for the fullest possible restoration of its many parts still scattered far and wide.” —Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Classics and History, Yale University, and author of The Peloponnesian War
“Masterly. . . . Connelly’s depth of knowledge and scholastic effort shine through brilliantly.” —Library Journal (starred)
“Luminous . . . courageously and intelligently starting from scratch, Joan Connelly reconstructs the meaning of the Parthenon. . . . The unfamiliar picture that emerges gives us all a sharper vision of what this timeless monument can still mean to our own troubled world.” —Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University
“Gripping.” —Metropolis Magazine
“Edifying. . . . A book for all who seek direction and are capable of seeing the bigger picture.” —Kirkus
“Persuasive. . . . This detailed, smart, and tantalizing study offers much to savor.” —Publishers Weekly
“Connelly’s book is one for the twenty-first century, full of new finds and fresh insights.” —Angelos Chaniotis, Professor of Ancient History and Classics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
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I read it front to back in about 10 days, finishing it would a small "Wow." I'm currently rereading the book. Highly recommended.
I knew very little about the subject before this book, but Connelly writes clearly and directly. She gives enough history and context to root her story in something solid, but she is remarkable making the importance of historical detail clear. She never once goes off on a digression into the minutiae that makes scholars' hearts palpitate but leaves non-specialists at a total loss that ruin books of this sort.
What I liked most is that it never felt like she was making an argument against an orthodox position. It was not strident nor contentious. Nor was she stacking facts into straight rows and dry, tidy piles.
She was telling a story, and telling it well and I am leaping deeper into the academic murk, more confident having read this first.
The end of the book had most significance to me personally; that "at the heart of Athenian democracy lies the conviction that no single life, even a royal one, should be set above the lives of the many." "Democracy- is a balance betweent he individual's obligations to the community and the community's responsibility toward the individual. This also underlies the Christian sacrifice. In addition, I was planning to skip the Epilogue, but I found there was a lot I could use in our visit to Athens. It covers the restoration of the Parthenon as well as the new Acropolis Museum.
I will also separately research other topics of interest in the others spots of interest now that I know there is no universal Greek experience.