The Making of the Odyssey by M. L. West (OUP) £70 (20% off RRP in store)
The poet of the Odyssey was a seriously flawed genius. He had a wonderfully inventive imagination, a gift for pictorial detail and for introducing naturalistic elements into epic dialogue, and a grand architectural plan for the poem. He was also a slapdash artist, often copying verses from the Iliad or from himself without close attention to their suitability. With various possible ways of telling the story bubbling up in his mind, he creates a narrative marked by constant inconsistency of detail. He is a fluent composer who delights in prolonging his tale with subsidiary episodes, yet his deployment of the epic language is often inept and sometimes simply unintelligible. The Making of the Odyssey is a penetrating study of the background, composition, and artistry of the Homeric Odyssey. Martin West places the poem in its late seventh-century context in relation to the Iliad and other poetry of the time. He also investigates the traditions that lie behind it: the origins of the figure of Odysseus, and folk tales such as those of the One-eyed Ogre and the Husband’s Return.
Patterns of the Past (OUP) £55
Classical Greek consistently uses epitedeumata to signify ‘way of life’ or even ‘everyday habits’, but always refers to practices that are deliberately pursued, not traditions and customs that are passively carried on. In this volume, an international group of leading academics undertake an examination of epitedeumata in Greek history, looking at cultural practices as acts which relate meaningfully to perceived sequences of past acts. In doing so, the contributors ask what kinds of attitudes the ancient Greeks had towards their past, and what behaviour such attitudes provoked. Each of the original contributions to this collection focuses on different kinds of epitedeumata as act patterns in the Greek world, incorporating religion and myth, political behaviour, sexuality, and historiography.
The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World (PUP) £19.95 (20% off in store)
Amazons—fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world—were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons.
But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have never been seen before. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.
Mayor tells how amazing new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons prove that women warriors were not merely figments of the Greek imagination. Combining classical myth and art, nomad traditions, and scientific archaeology, she reveals intimate, surprising details and original insights about the lives and legends of the women known as Amazons. Provocatively arguing that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons, Mayor reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories. The Greeks were not the only people enchanted by Amazons—Mayor shows that warlike women of nomadic cultures inspired exciting tales in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Central Asia, and China.
Driven by a detective’s curiosity, Mayor unearths long-buried evidence and sifts fact from fiction to show how flesh-and-blood women of the Eurasian steppes were mythologized as Amazons, the equals of men. The result is likely to become a classic.
Adrienne Mayor is the author of The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy (Princeton), a finalist for the National Book Award and named one of the best books of 2009 by the Washington Post. Her other books include Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World (Overlook) and The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times (Princeton). She is a research scholar in classics and history of science at Stanford University.
“Mayor (The Poison King) looks at ancient writings and archeological evidence to argue that yes, ‘Amazons’ were based on real nomadic women, though much different from the way ancient Greeks or contemporary audiences imagine them. . . . Mayor speculates on the origin of such misconceptions in ancient writings and art, smartly suggesting that, though Amazons are usually depicted heroically in Greek art and mythology, the male-centric Greeks perhaps struggled to understand a society based on equality between the sexes. . . . Her expertise shines throughout.”–Publishers Weekly
“An encyclopedic study of the barbarian warrior women of Western Asia, revealing how new archaeological discoveries uphold the long-held myths and legends. The famed female archers on horseback from the lands the ancient Greeks called Scythia appeared throughout Greek and Roman legend. Mayor tailors her scholarly work to lay readers, providing a fascinating exploration into the factual identity underpinning the fanciful legends surrounding these wondrous Amazons. . . . Mayor clears away much of the man-hating myths around these redoubtable warriors. Thanks to Mayor’s scholarship, these fearsome fighters are attaining their historical respectability.”–Kirkus Reviews
“A must-read for anyone interested in either Amazonian myth or history.”–Fred Poling, Library Journal
The Classics Magpie by Jane Hood (Icon books) £12.99
Who first thought of atoms? How much can you learn about archaeology from an oil lamp? Who came up with the theory of the ‘wandering womb’? Oxford Classicist Jane Hood delves into the history, culture, literature, mythology and philosophy of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, using her expert eye to unearth unexpected gems, glittering fragments and quotable nuggets from a lost world. From ancient cosmetics to the earliest known computer, from the deciphering of ancient languages to the amazing things the Romans did with concrete, this is the essential miscellany for all curious minds, whether you learned the Classics at school or not.
A Short History of Ancient Greece by P. J. Rhodes (I. B. Tauris) £12.99
Classical Greece and its legacy have long inspired a powerful and passionate fascination. The civilization that bequeathed to later ages drama and democracy, Homer and heroism, myth and Mycenae and the Delphic Oracle and the Olympic Games has, perhaps more than any other, helped shape the intellectual contours of the modern world. P J Rhodes is among the most distinguished historians of antiquity. In this elegant, zesty new survey he explores the archaic (8th – early 5th centuries BCE), classical (5th and 4th centuries BCE) and Hellenistic (late 4th – mid-2nd centuries BCE) periods up to the beginning of Roman hegemony. His scope is that of the people who originated on the Greek mainland and Aegean islands who later migrated to the shores of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and then (following the conquests of Alexander) to the Near East and beyond. Exploring topics such as the epic struggle with Persia; the bitter rivalry of Athens and Sparta; slaves and ethnicity; religion and philosophy; and literature and the visual arts, this authoritative book will attract students and non-specialists in equal measure.
Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism (OUP) £47.99
Jonathan Klawans’s Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism cuts against the grain of rabbinic studies to establish the value of Flavius Josephus’s descriptions of the religious ideas of various Jewish sects for reconstructing the world of ideas (the theologies) at play in early Judaism. It is intended as a response to the prevalent approach to the study of early Judaism, which focuses on legal or halakhic issues rather than matters of religious belief. Klawans illuminates Josephus’s description of early Jewish sects (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes) against distinct bodies of literature including Rabbinic sources, Qumran scrolls, and wisdom literature, especially Ben Sira. He is also concerned to show how various beliefs operate in connection with historical events, from the Hasmonean rebellion to after the destruction of the Temple. He demonstrates, for example, that beliefs about resurrection may have been less a reaction to social or historical circumstances than scholars have claimed and that the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE may not have created such a severe theological crises as previously thought. He provides alternative explanations for beliefs about the afterlife and shows that the reaction to the Temple’s loss may have been more easily dealt with in terms of preexisting theological ideas and analogies. In each case, Klawans brings to the forefront Josephus’s own views about these matters and shows how they are important for a more balanced assessment of the history of early Judaism.
Aristotle on Perceiving Objects (OUP) Anna Marmodoro £47.99
How can we explain the structure of perceptual experience? What is it that we perceive? How is it that we perceive objects and not disjoint arrays of properties? By which sense or senses do we perceive objects? Are our five senses sufficient for the perception of objects? Aristotle investigated these questions by means of the metaphysical modeling of the unity of the perceptual faculty and the unity of experiential content. His account remains fruitful-but also challenging-even for contemporary philosophy. This book offers a reconstruction of the six metaphysical models Aristotle offered to address these and related questions, focusing on their metaphysical underpinning in his theory of causal powers. By doing so, the book brings out what is especially valuable and even surprising about the topic: the core principles of Aristotle’s metaphysics of perception are fundamentally different from those of his metaphysics of substance. Yet, for precisely this reason, his models of perceptual content are unexplored territory. This book breaks new ground in offering an understanding of Aristotle’s metaphysics of the content of perceptual experience and of the composition of the perceptual faculty.