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To Wake the Dead: A Renaissance Merchant and the Birth of Archaeology

3.26  ·  Rating Details ·  27 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, a young Italian bookkeeper fell under the spell of the classical past. Despite his limited education, the Greeks and Romans seemed to speak directly to him—not from books but from the physical ruins and inscriptions that lay neglected around the shores of the Mediterranean.As an international merchant, Cyriacus of Ancona was ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 31st 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published August 1st 2009)
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Jo Walton
This was a ton of fun.

Cyriacus of Ancona was a merchant who became a humanist and wandered around the Mediterranean in the decades immediately before the fall of Constantinople trying to get people to have a crusade to protect ancient ruins from the Turks. He recorded a lot of ancient ruins, found a lot of books and antiquities, and met a lot of people.

There were several bits of information here I didn't have, and lots of nifty gossip.

There's a little much "as he looked at x he must have though
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
In the 1420s, Renaissance clerk Cyriacus of Ancona fell in love with the dilapidated ruins of classical civilization and undertook a personal campaign to document and plead for their conservation. When this led him into the courts of the pope, Holy Roman, Emperor and Byzantine Emperor, it also led to the discovery that archeology, even proto-archeology, is the best possible cover for middle eastern spying. Apparently, as the British would shamelessly exploit later, there is no better way to get ...more
Christine Rebbert
Dec 13, 2009 Christine Rebbert rated it really liked it
I guess it never occurred to me that in earlier times, people wouldn't have even thought about preserving and protecting ancient buildings, art, etc. Since we do it now, I guess I thought it was always done. But this book tells the story of how it was NOT always done, and if it hadn't been for Cyriacus of Acona, this 15th century guy from Italy south of Venice, we probably wouldn't today have the Forum and the Colisseum in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens, etc. People back then were basically ...more
Lauren Albert
Oct 17, 2011 Lauren Albert rated it liked it
I think it is a misnomer to call Cyriacus an archaeologist. What he did greatly benefited later archaeologists since many of the sites he drew and described had since been destroyed or further deteriorated. But he was an antiquarian rather than an archaeologist since except for his meticulous notes and drawings, he used no scientific methodology. But Belozerskaya does us a service by bringing him to light--it is amazing that so much that would have been lost to modern times was only preserved ...more
Jun 03, 2010 Sandy rated it did not like it
The force was not strong enough in me…… I was a little more than halfway through last night, looked up at Rob and said “This book sucks.” I took this book back to the library this morning. This book should come with a warning that it is extremely hard to engage in, even if it is a subject you are so very interested in. At first I was making excuses for the author thinking it was translated from Russian, but alas its first language is English. I am saddened that I only now know a small bit more ...more
Sue Myers
Nonfiction about the life of Cyriacus, father of Archaeology. I found his story fascinating. As a shipping accountant for an Italian port in the 1400's, Cyriacus was a collector of artifacts and through his travels, drew, sketched and described many of the treasures of the ancient world. He influenced a pope to launch a Crusade against the Turks, he traveled extensively in hostile territory, and fervently pushed for a reconciliation between the Christian church in Rome and the one in ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Alexis rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon this book on a shelf in my local library; I cannot recommend it highly enough. Non fiction written like a novel makes a man living in the 1400's come alive, makes a period I as a Greek American knew little about fascinating. I read non-fiction to continue learning, learn new things; I did both with this book. She's an excellent writer.
Jun 01, 2010 Larry rated it liked it
Interesting book about Cyriascia (?) 1400s Italian merchant who provoked interest in saving antiquities of the ancient world of Greece/Italy. He also spied and helped push forward the fifth (?) and last (?) Crusade. He got around.
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