Κυριακή, 17 Νοεμβρίου 2013

A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Cradle of Western Civilization





The ancient Greeks were a wonderful people. They gave us democracy, drama, and philosophy, and many forms of art and branches of science would be inconceivable without their influence. And yet, they were capable of the most outlandish behaviour, preposterous beliefs, and ludicrous opinions.

Like its companion volume, A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities, this is an uproarious miscellany of odd stories and facts, culled from a lifetime of teaching ancient Greek civilization. In some ways, the book demonstrates how much the Greeks were like us.

Politicians were regarded as shallow and self-serving; overweight people resorted to implausible diets; Socrates and the king of Sparta used to entertain their children by riding around on a stick pretending it was a horse. Of course, their differences from us are abundantly documented too and the book may leave readers with a few incredulous questions.

To ward off evil, were scapegoats thrown down from cliffs, though fitted out with feathers and live birds to give them a sporting chance of survival? Did a werewolf really win the boxing event at the Olympic Games? Were prisoners released on bail so that they could enjoy dramatic festivals? Did anyone really believe that Pythagoras flew about on a magic arrow? Other such mysteries abound in this quirky and richly illustrated journey into the "glory that was Greece."

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