Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ancient Greece: Everyday Life in the Birthplace of Western Civilization by Robert Garland (2008)

This seems to be some sort of publishing remaster of an older book.  The e-book, which I also checked out from the library, has a new publisher, a completely different cover and totally different illustrations, but exactly the same text.  The new illustrations are slick; the book looks quite modern; I like the cover.  

This is an uneven book with a writing style that veers back and forth between academic and very folksy. Sometimes it feels like an academic paper (many sections end with a concluding section with the heading "conclusions"  which felt like a college essay.  But then Garland drops words here and there that jar you out of that academic feeling:  "a pretty young girl cost much more than an old hag" or "Domitius, an ungrateful old sod."  Or this stumbling sentence:  "Plato established his school in the vicinity of the Academy.  The name, which derives from a local hero named Akademos, is the origin of our word academic. "  Um, actually, it's the origin of our word "academy" which you just referenced in the sentence before this one."  Strange.  

So Robert Garland isn't the best writer in the world, but I still learned quite a bit and was fascinated by quite a bit more.  Did you know that the Athenians spent more on staging theater productions than they did on their war with Persia?  At least that's what Plutarch said, and if it's true, these are my kind of people (their gayness makes them my kind of people as well."  The Greeks say cool stuff  like Hippocrates (or as Garland sort of pretentiously spells it, Hippokrates, and then there is Sokrates, but I will not say another word from here on about the spelling of various words) said:  Ars longa, vita brevis: which means "Life is short, art is long" and then Garland continues with "opportunity fleeting, experiment dangerous, judgment difficult."  


I still liked Will Durant far, far better - he wrote with a definite style and elegance.   

We don't know all that much about the Greeks actually.  That was surprising, for how famous they are.


Ancient Greece: Everyday Life in the Birthplace of Western CivilizationAncient Greece: Everyday Life in the Birthplace of Western Civilization by Robert Garland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book see-saws between an academic style and a folksy style that is sometimes jarring. Garland can be writing along a bit dustily, and then refer to a woman as an "old hag" or a call someone "an ungrateful old sod." That lack of editorial control seemed to haunt this book. Robert Garland isn't the best writer in the world, but I still learned quite a bit and was fascinated by quite a bit more. NOTE: This appears to be a remastered version of a book published earlier, but from a different publisher. Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks is the same text, but the newer version is a slick publication with lots of great pictures and a fancy new cover. 


View all my reviews


No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Followers