Entertaining Introduction to Classical Culture – It’s All Greek To Me by Charlotte Higgins

Posted by Justine Solomons on 21 January 2013, in Recommendations

Buy this book.

Review by Tracey Sinclair.

If you want to know more about the Ancient Greeks but are daunted about where to start, Charlotte Higgins’ lively book is just up your alley. Written with a thorough understanding of the subject but aimed squarely at the beginner, it’s a high speed romp through Greek legend and history and an examination of the impact this classical culture had on Western civilisation.

Cut into easily digested thematic chunks (looking at topics including warfare, politics, love, medicine, drama and the treatment of women), it’s packed with interesting facts but filtered through the author’s own (very modern) voice, which makes it feel deliberately informal and unstuffy. Higgins may occasionally allow her enthusiasm to tip into hyperbole (Plato’s Republic, for instance, is many things, but a ‘page turner’ it ain’t, whatever Higgins says), but her love for her subject is clear and contagious.

Given the broad scope of its remit, the book is necessarily a little superficial – if you’re looking for in-depth analysis you need to go elsewhere. But Higgins provides plenty of information on further reading if your appetite is whetted for more, and there’s a useful appendix that includes key dates, quotes and sayings from the classical era, with a focus on the origins of phrases that are still in use. Overall, It’s All Greek To Me is a delightfully enjoyable look at a time whose influence is still being felt today.

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