...How the Ancient World shapes our lives

In the pages of Love, Sex and Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives Simon Goldhill examines the impact of the ancient world, particularly that of Greece and Rome on how Western civilisation is now. It's slightly preachy in style occasionally, which can detract from the persuasive argument of this book that Classics matters because it's the foundation of Western society.

There are many "I didn't know that" moments throughout the book, ranging from the influence of Greek life on Christianity and Judaism - did you know, for example, that the Passover Seder as immortalised in the Last Supper, is actually based on the pattern of the symposium, a Greek drinking party? to Greek love - perhaps not quite what you were thinking of.

Sections of the book look at Greek, and to a lesser extent Roman, attitudes towards sex, marriage, and women, democracy - interesting to see that even at its height Greeks argued about the nature of democracy, and that Greek and Roman ideals would be corrupted to suit the claims of Fascism, the theatre - Greek theatre really was culture for all, sport and entertainment - are we that far removed from gladiatorial combat?, and religion.

What was stunning on reading this was re-discovering how much of our modern world owes its form or even existence to these earlier civilizations. I especially enjoyed the chapter on film, and the United States relationship with the Roman Empire. Fascinating stuff.


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