Confronting the Classics : Traditions, Adventures and Innovations, Paperback

Confronting the Classics : Traditions, Adventures and Innovations Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Mary Beard is one of the world's best-known classicists - a brilliant academic, with a rare gift for communicating with a wide audience both though her TV presenting and her books. In a series of sparkling essays, she explores our rich classical heritage - from Greek drama to Roman jokes, introducing some larger-than-life characters of classical history, such as Alexander the Great, Nero and Boudicca.

She invites you into the places where Greeks and Romans lived and died, from the palace at Knossos to Cleopatra's Alexandria - and reveals the often hidden world of slaves.

She takes a fresh look at both scholarly controversies and popular interpretations of the ancient world, from The Golden Bough to Asterix. The fruit of over thirty years in the world of classical scholarship, Confronting the Classics captures the world of antiquity and its modern significance with wit, verve and scholarly expertise.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Ancient history: to c 500 CE
  • ISBN: 9781781250495



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

This is a bunch of book reviews presented as though it is a structured monograph.

Review by

A few months ago I chanced to remark to a fellow official in the Department for Education as we queued at the coffee stall in Sanctuary Buildings that I now felt that Latin was the most useful subject that I had learned in school. I hadn't realised that the former Secretary of State, Michael Gove, was standing right behind me, so I was unprepared for the sudden fusillade of questions that he levelled at me, wanting to know where and when I had learned it, and why I had found it so helpful. To the great amusement of my colleague he led me off to one of the nearby tables and grilled me with his customary zest.Having subsequently studied English and maths in two discrete dalliances in higher education, I was able to explain how my understanding of grammar owed far more upon the relentless (and largely unacknowledged) exertions of Mr Stone, my Latin master for three years at Loughborough Grammar School, than to any of my English teachers or lecturers. Similarly, my (perhaps ill-judged) foray into postgraduate study of philology could not have extended much beyond the starting grid without the headstart in etymology that familiarity with Latin facilitates. Similarly, the habits of deconstruction and rational processing that are such a prerequisite (I'm sorry but I couldn't recall the Latin for 'sine qua non' …) instilled a certain mindset that proved invaluable when studying the arcana of mathematics.All this, of course, proved to be terrific grist to Mr Gove's mill, though the impact proved short-lived, and did not stop him rejecting some of my draft letters in the most peremptory manner later that same day. Still, that is all merely preamble to give some vague context to why my eye was caught in Waterstone's recently by the sight of this intriguing volume by Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge. This book is really more of an anthology of various reviews and articles that Professor Beard had published in various periodicals over the last few years (and the civil servant in me was especially impressed by the shameless recycling of previous work for a new market - we do that all the time!), but they demonstrate a great cohesion, fizzing with enthusiasm for her subject and conveyed with an enviable lucidity of thought. She addresses a wealth of aspects of classical study, and renders the subject immediately accessible without ever patronising her 'civilian' readers. She briefly reapitualtes Greek and Roman colonial expansion, the history of philosophy and, to a considerable extent, the philosophy of history. She manages to debunk Cicero - largely viewed today as a great orator and statesman, though Professor beard suggests that that impression is mainly a consequence of his successful career as a dedicated self-publicist. She also suggests that Shakespeare's representation of the assassination of Caesar might have been closer to the truth than was known at the time. Consideration of contemporary accounts shows that the murder on the Ides of march was almost farcical in its incompetence, similar to the near debacle of the assassination of Archdule Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo 1958 years later.All too often we seem to feel that an non-fiction work can be either academically rigorous or entertaining and accessible. In this book Professor Beard deftly demonstrates that those characteristics need not be mutually exclusive.

Review by

I must admit that I'm a little nervous of reviewing a book whose last chapter concerns the process of reviewing academic books. This is a surprisingly accessible account of what modern Classicists do and argue about, in the form of a series of book reviews, and one which I found enlightening and educational.

Also by Mary Beard   |  View all