Ryan Patrick's Reviews > The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine

The Birth of Classical Europe by Simon Price
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's review
Jul 05, 12

bookshelves: ancient-history, non-fiction-2012
Read from May 14 to July 05, 2012

Caveat emptor! While a fascinating read, this book is not what it appears. I expected a relatively straightforward narrative of the history of Ancient Greece and Rome. Although there is some sense of narrative and chronological advancement in the text, it does seem to assume a certain amount of knowledge of the basic facts of that history. While not absolutely essential to following the authors' argument, it is important to at least realize that we don't anything close to whole story in this book. In that sense, this is not as good as the third volume of this series about Medieval Europe. This reminds me a little bit of several of the entries in the "Very Short Introduction" series by OUP in that the authors don't actually write an introduction but more of a rumination on the assigned topic. This can make for interesting reading, but also disappointment - when I pick up a book entitled "an introduction" or "a History", I have certain expectations, such as a chronological narrative of the essential and main people and events in a clear and straightforward manner.

What we actually get in this book is a rumination on how the Greeks and Romans viewed themselves and their relationship to their own past throughout their own history. It is quite interesting and well worth the read. I know the narrative already, so I could really appreciate what they were saying, but I wonder what my students made of it. For example, you could easily read the last two chapters on the Roman Empire and have almost no sense of which emperors lived when and what the most important things they did were. Only those emperors who happen to be used to illustrate some larger point about identity and memory actually appear. I will say, though, that this was one of the best treatments of Romanization in the high empire that I have ever read. So, I would only recommend it to those with a real interest in history and some knowledge of the Classical history already.
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Reading Progress

05/22/2012 page 144
35.0% "This last chapter definitely needed more detail."
07/03/2012 page 300
72.0% "On to the end now..."
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