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The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,193 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
The classical civilizations of Greece & Rome once dominated the world. They continue to fascinate & inspire us. Classical art & architecture, drama & epic, philosophy & politics--these are the foundations of Western civilization. In The Classical World, eminent classicist Robin Lane Fox chronicles this vast sweep of history from Homer to the reign of Au ...more
Hardcover, 672 pages
Published October 9th 2006 by Basic Books (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ray
Jan 10, 2016 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book sets itself a massive task, telling almost a thousand years of Greek and Roman history in a few hundred pages. It is an enjoyable read, and I gained new insights into a fascinating era.

The book is as much a political and cultural history as it is a series of dates and events or the doings of great men. I found this extremely interesting, and it chimed well with the broad sweep of the narrative.

One other thing I really liked was the authors clarity on the limits of what is knowable, whe
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umberto
I think this book should interest some readers who need an overview on Rome and Greece in the Classical World. At first sight, it may intimidate some reluctant ones since we need time to cover its 606 pages, 55 Chapters from 'Hadrian and the Classical World' (Prologue) to 'Hadrian: a Retrospective' (Epilogue) encapsulated by Parts One-Six. However, its first advantage is that each Chapter's not too long; I think the author's planned well and kept this in mind or else they may be too tedious for ...more
Maitrey
Dec 25, 2013 Maitrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Robin Lane Fox's monumental Classical World was a tour de force of a book spanning the worlds of Greece and Rome right from the time of the epic poet Homer (7th(?) - 8th(?) Century BCE) to the Roman Emperor Hadrian (1st - 2nd Century CE).

Robin Lane-Fox is a professor of Classical History at Oxford University, and is eminently suited to handle such a massive task he has taken on.

Lane-Fox makes it immediately clear why he picked the two giants as bookends very early in the book. Both characters su
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Steven Peterson
Dec 15, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
Robin Lane Fox has authored a sweeping history of what he calls "The Classical World," from Homer's Greece to Hadrian's Roman Empire. While a work of such scope means that there cannot be great depth in discussing any point in that era; on the other hand, it provides a bird's eye view of issues, themes, and change over time. The author himself notes that (page xv): "It is a challenge to be asked to write a history of some none hundred years, especially when the evidence is so scattered and diver ...more
David Sarkies
May 14, 2014 David Sarkies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of the Ancient World
Recommended to David by: Saw it in a bookshop on the Penguin display
Shelves: history
Truly an epic history of the ancient world
18 April 2010

While I might not agree with everything in this book (and a book on the Ancient World is going to deal with a lot of speculation based upon the evidence that we have) this is a good book that gives a great overview of Greece and Rome between Homer and Herodotus (one of the disagreements I have is that I believe the classical world came to an end with Augustus). There are two main themes running through this book and that is the question of
...more
Kotinka
May 05, 2013 Kotinka rated it liked it
Clearly written by an academic, but intended for the popular history market, this book was worth the reading but still a disappointment - on a number of levels.

The format is largely chronological, running from circa. 800 BC through to 140 AD, with the occasional themed chapters on cultural, military and economic histories of the peoples of the Classical age. The style of writing varies from dense and tiring (especially in the first half) to beautifully fluent, with not much consistency from chap
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Alex
What I learned from this book is that huge overviews of time periods, no matter how well-written, cannot save themselves from sounding like lists of names and dates. I'm not going to read books like this anymore. I'll pick specific things from interesting times and focus in on them instead. Not your fault, Robin Lane Fox! Good effort!
Eli
Jul 15, 2014 Eli rated it liked it
Shelves: rome
This was a book that I have struggled to finish, having got about halfway through in my first attempt, before ignoring it for a while, and then finally deciding to restart from the beginning, which still took more of a dedicated effort to follow all the way through than many books would require for me. It is not very well-tied together, I find, and the author follows the chronology of the narrative through an indirect, thematic focus which emphasizes a particular theme along the series of event ...more
Sarah
Feb 15, 2014 Sarah rated it did not like it
Probably I should give it two stars - the section on Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic kings is really fascinating - but by the time I got to the end, it felt like it had been such a dull, frustrating slog. I think the fundamental problem is that Lane Fox hasn't really thought about his audience; the book appears to be a bunch of chronological essays charting how attitudes towards and the practice of freedom, luxury and justice developed in the Greek and Roman worlds, but it gives too much ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 14, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Westerners
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I'd read one of Fox's book previously. Therefore, seeing this title at the Park Ridge Library booksale, I picked it up with some confidence. Reviewing books on ancient history for a scholarly journal, but not being a classicist, I keep my hand in by regularly reading popular books on the subject.

Robin Lane Fox is likely a very good teacher. His books are accessible, even fun, because he punctuates serious discussion with odd tidbits, the kinds of quirky facts which helped get me interested in hi
...more
Christopher
May 09, 2015 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, europe
Absolutely wonderful! Fox has written a superb book on the classical world from the time of Homer (c. 800 BC) to the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (c. 120-140 AD). Staying away from a purely story form of telling the history of this time, Fox mixes historical detail with some historical sociology of both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome within clearly defined time periods (ex. the differences between Archaic Greece, Classical Greece, and Hellenistic Greece). He does this by revolving around three ...more
Andy
Apr 28, 2013 Andy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I picked this up a couple of years ago but never quite found the right time to start. Perhaps the week my son came home from hospital wasn't the smartest, as the sleep deprivation and distractions made it tough to get through at times.

I find this era of humanity interesting but have very little actual knowledge regarding the details. This book goes a fair way towards rectifying that. It's a tough one though - at times it's a little too detailed and specific, at others broadly sparse. I'm not sur
...more
Sonia
Oct 03, 2012 Sonia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
En las reseñas que leí de este libro, lo presentaban como un tratado histórico del período clásico escrito de una forma divulgativa y novelada. Como entusiasta de la historia decidí leerlo, sin embargo el libro no se corresponde en absoluto con lo esperado.

Si bien la narración y la escritura son fluidas y accesibles, el tratamiento de la historia es profundo. Define, acota, discute y compara cada ínfimo detalle relativo al período histórico a tratar. Esto lo convierte en un gran libro de histori
...more
Shannon
Feb 24, 2009 Shannon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
this would be fine-- except for the almost complete lack of social history and the personality of Fox (misogynist, priggish, bizarrely prejudiced). Robin Lane Fox is of a species that we all assume extinct but somehow continues to flourish at Oxbridge-- the old reactionary, deeply annoying, self-absorbed fox hunting toff.
Kelly
Sep 04, 2007 Kelly marked it as to-read
Shelves: owned
Also just ordered from Amazon. Ancient world kick continues!
M. Milner
Oct 01, 2015 M. Milner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written right on the cover of Robin Lane Fox’s book about the history of Greece and Rome is the word epic. It’s there three times, actually. I guess that’s a word which has lost it’s power in recent years, but it used to apply to the ancient world a lot, particularly to long poems by Homer and Virgil.

Neither of them really have a large role here in his book, but the sheer size and scope of Fox’s book sort of reminded me of them: he attempts to take a good 600-plus years of history, pretty eventf
...more
Tony
Sep 22, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
THE CLASSICAL WORLD: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian. (2006). Robin Lane Fox. ****.
This is not a book with which to curl up next to your fireplace on a frosty winter night, it’s much too full of information for that. The author, a Reader in Ancient History at Oxford University, has managed to cover a huge time period of people and events around the ancient Mediterranean. This is, also, not a book that can be read straight through. I managed to sample those chapters of interest to me, and i
...more
Gavin
Aug 16, 2012 Gavin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
This was a truly wonderful book. I do not mean to gush but despite being well aware of Robin Lane Fox's credentials as a respected Classicist. The pure scale of the work blew me away, and the attention to detail that is in evidence throughout the book, a testimony to the author’s research no doubt.

The book takes on a whirlwind ride. Starting from the beginnings of Western Civilisation in the archaic period or the so-called 'Dark Ages' of Greek history, the book continues on right through to the
...more
Ed
Jun 09, 2013 Ed rated it really liked it
Lane Fox's book is probably the best one volume history in English of the nine centuries centered on the Mediterranean that stretch from the "pre-classical classical" world of the blind poet to the satirist Juvenal when Rome ruled the world from Britain to the Red Sea. Knowing a bit of the Greeks--Homer (of course) lots of Plato, not much Aristotle; Thucydides but not Herodotus; Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides; some of Alexander's campaigns and much less of the Romans, based on mostly on spottil ...more
David Nusinow
Jan 21, 2012 David Nusinow rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
This book was more of a slog for me than it should have been. I have to agree wholly with Kontika's review in that the first Greek half of the book is far weaker. Unfortunately, knowing less about Greek history than Roman, this is the half I was more interested in. It's clear that the author is a real expert on Greek history, but because of this he frequently gets bogged down addressing contentious questions that plague his field. This goes against the idea of a single high-level introductory ov ...more
Steve
Aug 15, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Low 5. The author provides a wonderful, comprehensive, yet digestible, history of the classical worlds of Greece and Rome. No exact date exists to map the rise of the ‘polis’, or city state, which dominated the classical stage but Lane Fox believes this development took place between 950-700BC. Though no national country existed, these communities of warriors did share a common language and religious beliefs. Potential for domestic disorder over limited available land was offset by the opportuni ...more
Darran Mclaughlin
I though this was a great general history of ancient Greece and Rome. It makes fascinating and entertaining reading. Greece and Rome are contextualised within the network of their neighbours, allies and enemies, Egypt, Persia, Carthage, the Gauls, the Jews and the Germanic tribes. Well worth reading.

Update 29/03/13. Upon a second reading I would add that I much prefer the Greeks to the Romans generally. Fox seems a little unimpressed by Augustus. He writes about him as being a bit of a coward an
...more
Francisco Câmara Ferreira
Very well written and informative (if not a bit bulky) review of the history of ancient Greece and Rome roughly from the period when Homer wrote its Iliad and Odyssey (~750 BCE) to the ruling of Roman emperor Hadrian (~130 CE): what the author refers to as the "Classical period". Lane Fox writes the book around the topics of "freedom", "justice" and "luxury", and what these ideas actually meant to the ancient Greeks and Romans. This book had definitely allowed me to exponentially increase my (de ...more
Bob
Jun 30, 2008 Bob rated it it was amazing
Several years ago I read Fox's Pagans and Christians, one of the most illuminating book I've found on the religious transition that took place in the Roman Empire under Constantine and later "Christian" emperors. In The CLassical World, Fox takes on a much broader subject: The entire history of the Greek and Roman classical worlds, from roughly the sixth century BCE to the second century CE. Few historians have Fox's facility with telling the essential elements of the story combined for an eye t ...more
Claire
As a complete ignoramus on classical history, this book was a pleasant surprise. Necessarily superficial in some respects (you try fitting so many years of history in a little over six hundred pages), but full of interesting, curious and often quite naughty detail. Lane-Fox writes from a very well-informed perspective, but he assumes no previous knowledge of the subject from the reader, and neither does he insult the intelligence of his readership, making it an entertaining and informative read. ...more
Christopher Hall
May 01, 2014 Christopher Hall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Enjoyable and not too difficult a read. There is a huge amount of information in here, as you may imagine from such a huge subject. I was inspired to read more on the subject by Gutherie's 'The Greek philosophers from Thales to Aristotle' which is an outstanding introduction to classical thinking and about 400 pages shorter.
Doogyjim
Being a dunce at history I feel the need every now and then to read a worthy tome to rectify this. As I'm due to go to Greece this year, it seemed appropriate to read something of the country's ancient past - mainly so I can nod sagely while reading the labels beside chipped museum artefacts.

This book is extensive and a little exhausting as a result. Let's hear it for gossip about Nero, Anthony and all those crazy Romans. And maybe let's get a little less excited about the history of taxation an
...more
Patricia
Jul 22, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing
In my mind, there is no book that covers the period of Homer to Hadrian as well as this classic work. It is engaging; it is witty; it is erudite. It covers all the main subjects in just enough detail to ensure readers an overall introduction to the subject without bogging them down in too much detail. On the other hand, it includes the most fascinating 'trivia' that makes such histories page turners. This book is a 'page-turner'. I've just finished re-reading it on a trip around Greece and Italy ...more
Kim
Apr 04, 2016 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
This is a slog..... but fantastic. I read a chapter, then reread it, making notes, then make some link to what I'm reading in Herodotus or seeing before me as I ferry across the Agean, and I'm in heaven.
Inma
Nov 23, 2008 Inma marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history, politics,environment and human societies
Terrific book about the Classical World and hence, the Roman Empire. Even though I started to read it and didn't got pass the 100 pages, other issues not the book having something, I started to understand much better the politics of today and today's society at least in Europe. And I started to understand better, much better its differences with other cultures in the world.
I was reading this book at the same time as Karen's Armstrong "The Great Transformation: The World in the Time of Buddha, S
...more
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anyone read this? 3 30 May 01, 2014 09:51PM  
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Robin Lane Fox (born 1946) is an English historian, currently a Fellow of New College, Oxford and University of Oxford Reader in Ancient History.

Lane Fox was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford.

Since 1977, he has been a tutor in Greek and Roman history, and since 1990 University Reader in Ancient History. He has also taught Greek and Latin literature and early Islamic history, a subject
...more
More about Robin Lane Fox...

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