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

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  374 Ratings  ·  44 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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(showing 1-30 of 1,330)
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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
Ahmed Almawali
الكتابُ الثاني لي في هذه السلسلةِ بعدَ الإخفاقِ في الكتابِ الاول "القيادة"، الترجمةُ هنا جيدةٌ ومحفزةٌ للاستمرار في القراءةِ. يجعل الكاتبُ من المعبد اليوناني في باساي محورا رئيسًا للحديثِ في كيفيةِ التعاملِ مع النصوصِ الكلاسيكية التي تسعى إلى تحسين معرفتنا باليونان وروما، فهنالك مكتشفونَ دخلوه في أيام الخلافةِ التركيةِ ونقلوا خزائنه لبريطانيا، ويومياتٌ كتبها الإغريقي باوسانياس، وعبيدٌ استعملوا لبناءه "آلات ذو صوت بشري"، يتناولُ كل ذلك في الكتابِ، هو كتابٌ متخمٌ بالتساؤلاتِ الباحثةِ عن الاجوبةِ
Oct 19, 2008 Guy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture
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
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!
Dec 21, 2015 Laurent rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In all its shortness, this Very Short Introduction takes a long time to introduce its premise. Although I admire the way that Mary Beard has approached the vast expanse that is Classics, the opening chapters of this book are extremely slow-paced. I must say that for a person who has a massive passion for Classics to be bored by a book about CLASSICS! the authors must have EFFED UP pretty badly.

This said, the book picks up speed as it moves along. In fact, it is almost distributed like the invers
May 29, 2014 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
M. Ashraf
Jan 20, 2016 M. Ashraf rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vsi
I expected other kind of Classics.
The book spent most of the time around the Bassae, Greece and Rome.
It was not a fun experience, I had better time with Will Durant The Life of Greece
It was short and The figures were good though.
My least favorite of the series so far.
Kuba Zajicek
Jul 16, 2015 Kuba Zajicek rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks Mary Beard, I yawned myself to shit. I always thought that the classical world is a storehouse of good ideas for people to raid. And yet, Beard's dull narrative gives the impression that the classical world is essentially as mundane as her own use of the English language, which it certainly isn't. This book is so boring presumably because the scope of it is unfortunate; instead of focusing on the interesting literary side of Classics or its contemporary relevance, she offers long and unin ...more
Dec 31, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
I recently bought SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard and realized that I hadn't read this book yet. This book was quite readable, and a good intro to the study of Greece and Rome, and their influence in today's world.
Reading this ten-chapter book, I think, is an inspiring introduction to the term “classics” itself as regards the meaning, scope, application, etc. in which few could know and understand thoroughly. Recommended by John Godwin, it’s been praised because “The authors show us that Classics is a ‘modern’ and sexy subject.” (back cover) Some may wonder how so it would suffice in the meantime to say that we need to read it for better understanding rather than leave it as an academic myth preached by s ...more
David Fulmer
Dec 24, 2013 David Fulmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 03, 2013 David rated it liked it
Shelves: ancient-history
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
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
Kevin de Ataíde
Nov 03, 2012 Kevin de Ataíde rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 06, 2012 Susan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 06, 2012 Kestrell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Bell
Jun 10, 2015 Jason Bell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful look into the notion of "Classics". The authors cover a wide range of art, literature, history, and philosophy and the impact of classics in an engaging and entertaining way. As a reader who has studied both the Latin and Greek languages, this little introduction generated some great perspective and explored questions about how we engage our culture and the past.
Jul 17, 2015 Howard rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vsi
This book is not about Classics. It doesn't provide any general information on the history, culture and philosophy of that time. It's about what the modern perspective on Classics should be, i.e. how the modern mind should treat Classics as a discipline.

Very unhelpful.
Nov 30, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 16, 2016 Alda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very clever small book. Mary Beard is one of my favorites writers of history. Very simple and entertaining, starting with the description of the discovery of a Greek temple, she uses the same temple to explain all the major themes. From architecture to myth, literature and art, from past until the present, all subjects were referred and analysed in a synthetic but relevant way.
Feb 27, 2015 matteo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Daaren Durga
The book starts off intriguing and nice-like, but the last few chapters seem more like filler, else the authors lost their way and started rambling.
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).
Dec 13, 2013 Emmett rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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
Feb 10, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can now understand a little better what my daughter is studying in college!
Sep 09, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really engaging. Turned me on to Classics. Love this book series. Starting a second one now.
Julie Hunt
Jan 23, 2016 Julie Hunt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-in-2016
Listened to audiobook in the car.
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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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Very Short Introductions (1 - 10 of 448 books)
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  • Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction
  • Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction
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  • Psychology: A Very Short Introduction
  • Islam: A Very Short Introduction
  • Politics: A Very Short Introduction
  • Theology: A Very Short Introduction
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