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Classics: A Very Short Introduction
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Classics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #1)

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  288 ratings  ·  32 reviews
We are all classicists--we come into touch with the classics on a daily basis: in our culture, politics, medicine, architecture, language, and literature. What are the true roots of these influences, however, and how do our interpretations of these aspects of the classics differ from their original reality? This introduction to the classics begins with a visit to the Briti ...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published December 14th 1995 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1995)
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Riku Sayuj

Golden Oldies – Always The Latest Craze

‘This is no potted history of Greece and Rome, but a brilliant demonstration that the continual re-excavation of our classical past is vital if the modern world is to rise to the challenge inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi to “Know yourself”.’

~ Robin Osborne

This VSI, one of the best among those I have read, is an eloquent and captivating journey into the world of the Classics. Rather than running through the Peloponnesian Wars, Greeks and Persia
When your daughter tells you that she is going to study Classics at Oxbridge, it suddenly seems like a good time to try to better understand what the field of Classics is today and what studying it might be good for. If this is your goal, then "Classics, A Very Short Introduction" is your book: I found it stimulating of thought and interest.

There are of course many things that such a short book is not and cannot be... but it does not pretend to be other than it is and those who would like it to
I got this one solely because it was co-written by Mary Beard, one of the foremost classicists today, and often wryly funny. Not much time for humor here, but an interesting way of organizing things--describing a temple in Greece and then coming at it from a number of different directions in order to illuminate the history and development of classical studies itself, mythology, ancient religion, ancient travel and geography, philosophy, and literature. Apart from a quibble about what I think was ...more
I like this 'Very Short Introduction' series. I started this thinking it would introduce me to the highly regarded "classics" of literature but it's actually more about the fundamentals of classicism, how we approach them, how things become classics, interpretation, reconstructing visions of history based on the classics we uncover and that sort of thing. The authors also didn't spend much time talking about literature and a lot of this was centered around archeology and art, especially the Bass ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Well written and thought provoking. Looks at a few specific elements: mainly the temple to Apollo at Bassae, and explores different perspectives thereof to give us a holistic picture of an academic discipline and its relevance. A bit I liked: when they point out that, when it comes to explaining how the ancients built all that stuff, the answer is usually 'slaves'. Another bit I liked: when they get snarky about an early poem by Poe!
David Fulmer
This brief, erudite introduction to the Classics grounds itself in the temple at Bassae in Greece, giving its description and the story of its excavation and fitting both into a broad description of the many fields - Art History, Philosophy, Literature, Archaeology, Mythology and many more - which Classics have influenced or played a part in. Because the authors use a Greek temple so heavily it’s tilted a bit more towards Greece than Rome but the way that the Romans used Greek culture as a model ...more
This book bills itself as “a very short introduction” to the Classics. Given the scope of its subject, it is indeed “very short.” While brighter minds than mine have very good things to say about it, I found it a bit odd as an introduction to such a rich field.

The authors ground their wide-ranging discussion in a specific example, a remote temple dedicated to Apollo near the town of Bassae in the remote Grecian district of Arcadia. Specifically, they focus on the sculptural frieze that once deco
Daniel Wright
Ancient Greece and Rome: mysterious, romantic, distant, and exercising an almost disproportionate fascination on many centuries of intellectuals. The authors' choice of Arcadia as the underlying theme of their book is highly appropriate; the attitude of the writers of the cradle of European civilisation to that lost rustic wilderness is comparable to our modern impression of that lost opulence mixed with technological simplicity, however inaccurate that impression may be.

I confess, I have myself
Kevin de Ataíde
Clever little introductions to the vast subject of the classics, engineered around the classical Greek temple of Apollo at Bassae, in Arcadia. The word 'classics' is a rather loose term encompassing all of Greek and Latin learning, together with the lines and hermeneutics that connect all things to do with these ancient civilisations with contemporary life over the centuries after these great civilisations collapsed. Constant revival has made certain that the ideals and philosophies of the ancie ...more
This book was not what I was looking for when I chose it. I guess I didn't read carefully -- I wanted a short introduction to the classics, but there's no "the" in this title. Instead, it intends to be an introduction to [the study of] classics.

Even for what it intends to be, I didn't like it much. It seemed very strident and polemical, as though the authors were trying to press their points against those who disagreed with them, rather than trying to inform someone new to the subject. The ent
One of my resolutions for 2012 is to read more in the classics, and this book seemed to offer a good exploration of why people still read the classics, and how the classics continue to influence 21st century literature and media. Beard and her co-author are very readable, so their writing is well-suited to the claim of this series of books. The text wanders quite far afield from what many readers might expect, and the book is, if anything, shorter than I would have liked, but both of thse are re ...more
One of the best VSIs I've read. They focus on one object/location, using that to introduce several key themes and underlying questions that both drive the study of classics and show how they are related to daily life.

Highly recommended for anyone who teaches anything.
This provided a different take on Greek and Roman literature and art, approaching from a geographical and archaeological perspective. It is a short book that covers a lot of ground. It concentrated on some material I had not even known about, and it glossed over a lot of the famous stuff, but that was an effective approach. The concluding paragraph summed up well my thoughts on Latin and all things classical: "The study of Classics is never a post-mortem, however 'dead' anyone may call the ancie ...more
Laurel Bradshaw
Series Info:

001 Classics - read
002 Music - read
003 Buddhism - read
004 Literary Theory - read
005 Hinduism - read
006 Psychology - read
007 Islam - read
008 Politics - read
009 Theology - read
010 Archaeology - read
011 Judaism
012 Sociology
013 The Koran
014 The Bible
015 Social and Cultural Anthropology
016 History
017 Roman Britain
018 The Anglo-Saxon Age
019 Medieval Britain
020 The Tudors
021 Stuart Britain
022 Eighteenth-Century Britain
023 Nineteenth-Century Britain
024 Twentieth
Kyrre Kjellevold
A good toilet read. It do make a pretty strong case for "a Grand Tour" to Rome and Athens, and to be aware of the influence of Greek and Roman culture on our society today (and how this influence is shaped by our judgements and predispositions).
I opened this book with a few expectations that I found were not adequately met. Most importantly, there isn't a definition of classics, as the term is used and the field studied. While I appreciate the intention of using the Bassae as a focal point and a thread for discussion, I feel a comprehensive introductory text ought to grant views of elsewhere, too. It is less what classics is all about, i.e. what periods are studied, the geo-political landscape broadly sketched out, and prominent figure ...more
Really engaging. Turned me on to Classics. Love this book series. Starting a second one now.
The thing that I like about this book is the fresh approach to the topic, instead of dry list of dates and brief explanation of main artefacts of the ancient (western) world, the book pivots around the frieze from the temple at Bassae that is located at the British Museum.
Rather than presenting facts it prompts the reader to reflections on a number of topics: what is a classic, how ancient text arrived to us, what is the modern concept of antiquity, 19th century versus modern approach to archaeo
While I am no literary major and the works of Plato and Aristotle carry little desire for me, this book was very interesting. I enjoyed reading it from cover to cover. Beard did an awesome job of weaving together a narrative that surrounded the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. Taking this particular archaeological location, she sought to place it in the context of literature, architecture, even the theater. While I won't be pickup Plato's "The Republic," this book has grown my respect for t ...more
It was interesting read. I'm not entirely ignorant of the culture of ancient Greece and Rome, but I read this book just to learn something new. I enjoyed how the authors chose the temple at Bassae as a focal point for the exploration of classical culture and its lasting influence on Western culture. I would recommend this book if you want to understand why having some knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome is important. However, if you want to learn more about Greco-Roman culture, I'm sure there a ...more
Not a survey, but a justification for studying the Greek and Roman classics (literature, mostly, as it reflects sculpture, architecture, philosophy and theater) in the form of a case study of a particular temple and the high frieze that ran around its interior. For me it was preaching to the choir, but I did enjoy seeing so many connections made through so many centuries.

Also listened to the audiobook version, which suffered a bit for not having the illustrations but was presented in a clear and
I don't know what I was expecting from this book, but it wasn't what I got. I found this to be a slow read that talked mostly about the fact that we look at "classic" things through our modern eyes and are skewed by this even as we try to get back to original meanings. It had a few interesting points, but I think the author could have provided as much information in far fewer than 125 pages.
William Herbst
I like reading John Henderson and wanted to see how he and Mary Beard would characterize the academic field of Classics in this tiny volume. An interesting take that doesn't crackle with the wit and insights of Henderson at his best. The chapter entitled "et in Arcadia ego" is the most interesting to me and sums up my attraction to Classics best.
Kathleen O'Neal
A fast-paced, fun introduction to Greco-Roman history and civilization. If you want to understand, for example, what a classics major is all about, this is a great place to learn.
Good enough as a gentle prod into what the study of the Classics is all about. But as it says on the cover 'very short' and I thought a bit thin too
A great lighthearted introduction to the classics. Concise, clear and thought provoking without being overly academic and dry.

Not exactly what I expected it would be about (the title doesn't exactly fit the contents, imho), but an interesting read regardless.
More of a treatise on why classics are important than an introduction to them. Interesting and well-written in an accessible style.
Excellent and easily accessible introduction to the main issues of studying classics.
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See also: Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958).

Winifred Mary Beard (born 1 January 1955) is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of Newnham College. She is the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and author of the blog "A Don's Life", which appears on The Times as a regular column. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes controversial public statements h
More about Mary Beard...

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