Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean

Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean

Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean

Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean

Synopsis

Long sources of mystery, imagination, and inspiration, the myths and history of the ancient Mediterranean have given rise to artistic, religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions that span the centuries. In this unique and comprehensive introduction to the region's three major civilizations, Egypt, Greece, and Rome draws a fascinating picture of the deep links between the cultures across the Mediterranean and explores the ways in which these civilizations continue to be influential to this day. Beginning with the emergence of the earliest Egyptian civilization around 3500 BC, Charles Freeman follows the history of the Mediterranean over a span of four millennia to AD 600, beyond the fall of the Roman empire in the west to the emergence of the Byzantine empire in the east. In addition to the three great civilizations, the peoples of the Ancient Near East and other lesser-known cultures such as the Etruscans, Celts, Persians, and Phoenicians are explored. The author examines the art, architecture, philosophy, literature, and religious practices of each culture, set against its social, political, and economic background. More than an overview of the primary political or military events, Egypt, Greece, and Rome pays particular attention to the actual lives of both the everyday person and the aristocracy: here is history brought to life. Especially striking are the readable and stimulating profiles of key individuals throughout the ancient world, covering persons from Homer to Horace, the Pharaoh Akhenaten to the emperor Augustus, Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar, Jesus to Justinian, and Aristotle to Augustine. Generously illustrated in both color and black-and-white, and drawing on the most up-to-date scholarship, Egypt, Greece and Rome is a superb introduction for anyone seeking a better understanding of the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean and their legacy to the West.

Excerpt

I would like to think that this book had its inception when I was 9. Holidaying with my mother in Scotland, she and I climbed up to the top of Wardlaw Hill near Dumfries and scrambled over the remains of a Roman fort. I seem to remember that I fully expected to find some form of treasure concealed among the scattered stones. It was not to be, but for the rest of the holiday we explored other ruined sites and an interest was born. By the time I was in my teens I was digging up Roman bath-houses and plotting the lines of Roman roads across my native Suffolk.

I was also studying the classics at school. I had been born into the tradition. My mother counted among her ancestors Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1515-47), who had introduced blank verse into English literature through the medium of a translation of the Aeneid, Books Two and Four, and his greatgrandson Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585-1646). Thomas was the socalled 'Collector Earl' who scoured the Mediterranean for antiquities and to whom, as one of his English admirers wrote, 'this corner of the world owed their first sight of Greek and Roman statues' (His vast collections were dispersed on his death but some sculpture remains as part of the original core collection of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.)

The historian Clarendon described Thomas Howard as 'willing to be thought a scholar and to understand the most mysterious parts of Antiquity', hinting perhaps that his learning was not as deep as was his purse. My Freeman ancestors did, however, have some claim to be considered real scholars. My great-greatgreat-grandfather, Henry Baber, was Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum for twenty-five years in the early nineteenth century and responsible for an edition of the Codex Alexandrinus, the fifth-century Greek text of books from the Old and New Testaments preserved in the Museum. His daughter Ann, whom the family records describe as having been born 'at the British Museum', a fact which has always added some flavour to my visits there, married my great-greatgrandfather, Philip Freeman. Philip was Craven University Scholar at Cambridge in 1838 and Senior Classic in 1839 (and later Archdeacon of Exeter, from which position he resolutely denounced Darwin). Some sixty years later his grandson, my great-uncle Kenneth, also won the Craven Scholarship and was Senior Chancellor's Medallist. Tragically Kenneth died aged only 24, having already written a scholarly introduction to Greek education, Schools of Hellas, which was republished in the United States as recently as 1969.

I still have over a hundred books from the libraries of these scholars and marvel at the ease with which they must have devoured Greek and Latin texts. I never . . .

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