Review: Beard’s Confronting the Classics

Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations
Mary Beard

This is a collection of Beard’s reviews and essays from a number of publications, including many from the New York Review of Books. Organized in rough chronological order from Greece to the present, it is a bit of a hodgepodge. But what a wonderful hodgepodge it is.

Beard is my favorite classicist (if I can be so bold as to name someone my favorite classicist). She is a delightful writer, brilliant, and unafraid to bring call it like she sees it (Circeo, perhaps not the hero you thought?). She’s also excellent at bringing progressive political ideas to the study of the ancient world without having it come off as hackneyed or forced. If you care about classics in the contemporary world, you should care about the works of Mary Beard. This isn’t a major work by Beard, but it is a great way to dip her thoughts many aspects of Greek and Roman life and thought while also discovery scores of other books that are worth your time. If, like me, you’re early in your journey into understanding classic thought and history, this is well worth your time.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Beard and Henderson’s Classics

Classics: A Very Short Introduction
Mary Beard and John Henderson

A short, but clever little book co-written by one of my favorite writers, Mary Beard. This is not really an overview of the substance of “Classics” (i.e. the works of the ancient world).  Rather, it is an overview of the way we think about the ancient world and how that understanding has changed with time. She cleverly uses the temple at Bassae to investigate how we use the ancient world to understand our world, and the world of our forefathers for the Temple of Basse is one thing in ancient Greece, another in the Victorian era, and something else in the world today.

If you’re looking for an overview of the ancient world, you might be disappointed. If you’re looking for a history of classics, you won’t find one here. But if you’re interested in thinking about how we think about the ancient world, this little book is for you.

Recommended for the enthusiast.