Catullus’ Bedspread by Daisy Dunn, now in stock: £13.99
Daisy Dunn’s immediate narrative rediscovers the life and poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus, Rome’s first ‘modern’ poet, a dandy who fell in love with another man’s wife and made it known to the world through his timeless verse. Famed for his lyrical, subversive voice, Catullus was Rome’s first and foremost poet. Amid the death of the Roman Republic, his life, as told through his poetry, was beset with love, loss, political conflict and above all, a desire for escape. Catullus’ Bedspread follows the young poet’s journey from his native Verona to Rome, filled with all the indulgences and sexual, social mores of the time, and then his lasting affair with the married Clodia, whom he would immortalise in his poetry. While Catullus and Clodia made love in the shadows, the whole of Italy was quaking as Caesar, Pompey and Crassus forged a doomed allegiance. When the older Clodia in turn betrayed Catullus for another man, the result was his greatest work, Poem 64: the wonderful, mythical tale of a sorrowful marriage and a lover’s desertion, told through a picture on a bedspread. For a year Catullus turned his back on Rome, Italy and love. In his journey of escapism he encountered new geography, new cultures and at last an understanding that there was no escape, that yearning for the past, recent or ancient, is futile. Following a brush with the might of Caesar, and a cunning evasion, Catullus died, at the age of just thirty. Drawing on his peerless poetry and turbulent circumstances, Daisy Dunn’s immediate narrative rediscovers Catullus the man, Rome’s most ‘modern’ poet – oscillating between the glorious past and the vivid, sensual present.
Battling the Gods by Tim Whitmarsh (Faber £20 £5 off RRP £25)
How new is atheism? In Battling the Gods, Tim Whitmarsh journeys into the ancient Mediterranean to recover the stories of those who first refused the divinities. Long before the Enlightenment sowed the seeds of disbelief in a deeply Christian Europe, atheism was a matter of serious public debate in the Greek world. But history is written by those who prevail, and the Age of Faith mostly suppressed the lively free-thinking voices of antiquity. Tim Whitmarsh brings to life the fascinating ideas of Diagoras of Melos, perhaps the first self-professed atheist; Democritus, the first materialist; and Epicurus and his followers. He shows how the early Christians came to define themselves against atheism, and so suppress the philosophy of disbelief. Battling the Gods is the first book on the origins of the secular values at the heart of the modern state. Authoritative and bold, provocative and humane, it reveals how atheism and doubt, far from being modern phenomena, have intrigued the human imagination for thousands of years.
1, SPQR – Mary Beard
2, Dynasty – Tom Holland
3, Augustus – Adrian Goldsworthy
4, The Ransom of the Soul – Peter Brown
5, Confronting the Classics – Mary Beard
6, Democracy – Alecos Papadatos
7, Introducing the Ancient Greeks – Edith Hall
8, The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece – Josiah Ober
9, Eureka – Peter Jones
10, 1177BC – Eric H Cline
Democracy (Bloomsbury) £14.99 (£4 off RRP £18.99)
It is 490BC and Athens is at war. Leander, trying to rouse his comrades for the morrow’s battle against a far mightier enemy, begins to recount the story of his own life. Having witnessed the evils of the old tyrannical regimes and the rise of a new political system, Leander tells a tale of danger, bravery and big ideas, of the death of gods and the tortuous birth of democracy. Through a series of breathtaking scenes, we see that democracy was forged from chance and historical contingency – but also through the cunning and courage of a group of highly talented, driven individuals. Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna, artists behind the international phenomenon Logicomix, together with writer Abraham Kawa deliver a graphic novel bursting with extraordinary characters and vibrant colour, one that offers fresh insight into how this greatest of civic inventions came to be.
Herodotea. Studies on the Text of Herodotus by N. G. Wilson (OUP) £50
Although it is often thought that Herodotus is a simple author, and that his Histories do not contain many passages requiring textual criticism, closer investigation reveals this view to be inaccurate. Written to accompany and augment the new Oxford Classical Texts edition of the Histories – which has been substantially revised by Nigel Wilson from the original edition by Danish scholar C. Hude in 1906 – this volume attempts to take account of discussion of numerous passages where there is reason to question whether the text as transmitted in ancient or medieval manuscripts is exactly what the author intended. A wide range of conjectures is represented, and work by scholars whose contributions have been neglected or insufficiently appreciated, in particular J. V. Pingel, H. Richards, and J. E. Powell, is taken into account.
The Lagoon. How Aristotle Invented Science now in Paperback 3 for 2 in store 30% off online!
In the Eastern Aegean lies an island of forested hills and olive groves, with streams, marshes and a lagoon that nearly cuts the land in two. It was here, over two thousand years ago, that Aristotle came to work. Aristotle was the greatest philosopher of all time. Author of the Poetics, Politics and Metaphysics, his work looms over the history of Western thought. But he was also a biologist – the first. Aristotle explored the mysteries of the natural world. With the help of fishermen, hunters and farmers, he catalogued the animals in his world, dissected them, observed their behaviours and recorded how they lived, fed, and bred. In his great zoological treatise, Historia animalium, he described the mating habits of herons, the sexual incontinence of girls, the stomachs of snails, the sensitivity of sponges, the flippers of seals, the sounds of cicadas, the destructiveness of starfish, the dumbness of the deaf, the flatulence of elephants and the structure of the human heart. And then, in another dozen books, he explained it all. In The Lagoon, acclaimed biologist Armand Marie Leroi recovers Aristotle’s science. He goes to Lesbos to see the creatures that Aristotle saw, where he saw them, and explores the Philosopher’s deep ideas and inspired guesses – as well as the things that he got wildly wrong. Leroi shows how Aristotle’s science is deeply intertwined with his philosophical system and how modern science even now bears the imprint of its inventor.
Philosophy in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds: Volume 2 by Peter Adamson (OUP)
£16 (£4 off RRP £20)
Peter Adamson offers an accessible, humorous tour through a period of eight hundred years when some of the most influential of all schools of thought were formed: from the third century BC to the sixth century AD. He introduces us to Cynics and Skeptics, Epicureans and Stoics, emperors and slaves, and traces the development of Christian and Jewish philosophy and of ancient science. Chapters are devoted to such major figures as Epicurus, Lucretius, Cicero, Seneca, Plotinus, and Augustine. But in keeping with the motto of the series, the story is told ‘without any gaps,’ providing an in-depth look at less familiar topics that remains suitable for the general reader. For instance, there are chapters on the fascinating but relatively obscure Cyrenaic philosophical school, on pagan philosophical figures like Porphyry and Iamblichus, and extensive coverage of the Greek and Latin Christian Fathers who are at best peripheral in most surveys of ancient philosophy. A major theme of the book is in fact the competition between pagan and Christian philosophy in this period, and the Jewish tradition also appears in the shape of Philo of Alexandria. Ancient science is also considered, with chapters on ancient medicine and the interaction between philosophy and astronomy. Considerable attention is paid also to the wider historical context, for instance by looking at the ascetic movement in Christianity and how it drew on ideas from Hellenic philosophy. From the counter-cultural witticisms of Diogenes the Cynic to the subtle skepticism of Sextus Empiricus, from the irreverent atheism of the Epicureans to the ambitious metaphysical speculation of Neoplatonism, from the ethical teachings of Marcus Aurelius to the political philosophy of Augustine, the book gathers together all aspects of later ancient thought in an accessible and entertaining way.