by Philip Hooker
We have again studied the Bookseller’s Buyers’ Guide to pick out the new books on classical themes which publishers believe will be of interest to the general reader and have also called in some more from elsewhere.
We start with some of the more scholarly popular works. Liz Gloyn’s Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture deals with the creations of Ray Harryhausen, the television opponents of Hercules, Medusa, the Minotaur and more. In similar vein, Edinburgh’s Screening Antiquity series features Epic Heroes on Screen (Hercules and others), a set of papers edited by Antony Augoustakis and Stacie Raucci, and another set on Ancient Greece on British Television edited by Fiona Hobden and Amanda Wrigley.
Peter Wiseman offers The House of Augustus: A Historical Detective Story – the Palatine home of Augustus has often been called the Emperor’s palace, but close scrutiny of the archaeological and textual evidence reveals that he was no Emperor and it was no palace. Jerry Toner with Infamy: The Crimes of Ancient Rome moves forward to the times of Tiberius and Nero, exploring not just the excesses of the emperors but also the chances of a citizen being mugged in the street. Meanwhile in Troy: myth and reality, which accompanies the forthcoming British Museum exhibition, Lesley Fitton and others explore how Troy has inspired the storytellers and the classical artists over the ages.
Mary Norris in Greek to Me – Adventures of the Comma Queen explains how the New Yorker copy editor became an enthusiast for the Ancient Greek language and literature. Nicola Gardini, who teaches Italian in Oxford, has Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language (a best seller in Italy in 2016), which explores its history, authors, essential role in education and enduring impact on modern life. David Stuttard offers Roman Mythology: A Traveler’s Guide from Troy to Tivoli, which takes the reader on a tour of 18 ancient sites and the stories which accompany them (following on from a similar work on Ancient Greek sites). Dilys Powell’s An Affair of the Heart, a classic 1955 account of the 1931 Perachora dig undertaken by her husband and her later return to the site, has now been reprinted.
Daisy Dunn, already highly praised for her work on the two Plinies, now has Of Gods and Men: 100 Stories from Ancient Greece and Rome (and also a Ladybird Expert book on Homer). Bettany Hughes offers Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess, while Asa Bennett (a Classics graduate and now Brexit commissioning editor at The Telegraph) is publishing a Romanifesto: Modern Lessons from Classical Politics - what can Boudica teach us about Brexit, what could Emperor Hadrian teach President Trump about walls? We also have a good number of works of fiction, the latest by Robert Fabbri and Simon Scarrow among others; the most entertaining may be JM Alvey’s Scorpions in Corinth, the second in a series about a Greek comic poet turned detective.
Teachers should note Teaching Classics with Technology, edited by Bartolo Natoli and Steven Hunt, which reviews new developments in the US, the UK and elsewhere. In addition, Andrew Wilson (who previously produced an Ancient Greek version of Harry Potter) now has Avem Occidere Mimicam, a translation of Harper Lee’s “best-loved American novel”.
Among more substantial academic works we note Pindar, Song, and Space: Towards a Lyric Archaeology by Richard Neer and Leslie Kurke, a feat of “lyric archaeology” which considers both the poetry and the sites referred to therein; Author Unknown: The Power of Anonymity in Ancient Rome, an exploration of anonymous works of literature by Tom Geue; The Spartans (a very short introduction) by Andrew Bayliss; The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe by Barry Cunliffe; Magic in Ancient Greece and Rome by Lindsay Watson; The Great Fire of Rome: Life and Death in the Ancient City by Joseph J Walsh, which examines the fire of 64 AD with the aid of modern forensic techniques; The Ruler’s House: Contesting Power and Privacy in Julio-Claudian Rome by Harriet Fertik; Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity by Walter Scheidel; and a different view, Imperial Tragedy: From Constantine’s Empire to the Destruction of Roman Italy AD 363-568 by Michael Kulikowski. Julia Hell’s The Conquest of Ruins: The Third Reich and the Fall of Rome describes the way in which subsequent European rulers were fascinated by the history of the Roman Empire. There is also Postclassicisms by The Postclassicisms Collective: nine prominent scholars map a space for reflecting and theorising on the values attributed to antiquity and offer suggestions for a discipline in transformation structured around 12 concepts.
There are also several new texts and translations. Peter Liddel’s Decrees of Fourth Century Athens (403/2- 322/1 BC): Volume One describes the literary evidence. The latest Cambridge Green and Yellows include Virgil: Aeneid Book XI, Euripides: Ion, Aeschylus: Suppliants, Homer: Iliad Book VI, Longus: Daphnis & Chloe, and Greek Elegy and Iambus: A Selection. The Oxford series has Sophocles: Electra and Aristophanes: Wasps. Aris & Phillips has Terence: The Girl from Andros and Herodotus: Histories Book V. The latest Oxford World's Classics include Diodorus Siculus: The Library, Books 16-20 and Artemidorus: The Interpretation of Dreams (with a separate monograph from Peter Thonemann). Martin Goodman has also provided a monograph to accompany the recent edition of Josephus: The Jewish War. The latest Loebs include Appian: Roman History (three volumes) and Livy: History of Rome, Volume 5. We also note translated selections from Cicero (How to Think About God: An Ancient Guide for Believers and Nonbelievers) and Plutarch (How to Be a Leader: An Ancient Guide to Wise Leadership) as well as Pamela Mensch’s version of Theophrastus: Characters (An Ancient Take on Bad Behaviour), commended by A E Stallings as “a perfect gift for the person in your life who mentions Plato’s cave or Zeno’s paradox or wears a bow tie or uses a fountain pen or enjoys a bit of harmless armchair misanthropy”.
Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association, and writes regularly for the CA Blog on Classics in the Media