The Bottom Line
"Why study classics?" is such an open-ended question that to get 321 pages that actually stick to the point -- more or less -- is pretty impressive. That Simon Goldhill does that while providing a survey of the classics and its impact on history, laced with many fascinating facts and truly illustrative photos is quite a feat.
- Superlative placement and use of illustrations
- Covers unexpected areas with lots of detail
- Actually answers the question
- Not uniform in relevance, detail, or treatment
- Does seem to go on and on about Germans and Germany
- The answer is not terribly convincing
- Summarizes the democratic system of ancient Athens, including the voting mechanism.
- Shows the problems with democracy then and now.
- Details ancient sexuality.
- Shows how modern unattainable standards of beauty have an ancient lineage -- but for the other sex.
- Shows the great importance of ancient festivals -- dramatic and gladiatorial.
- Explains that the reason we need to study the classics is to know where we come from.
- Looks at the relation between classic and early and reformation age Christianity.
- Sections on ancient sexuality, politics, entertainment, and 18-21st century thinkers.
Guide Review - Book Review Love, Sex, and Tragedy
Love, Sex, and Tragedy, by Cambridge Classicist Simon Goldhill, answers the question "why study classics?" Instead of simply looking at the obvious historical periods, the Renaissance and the French and American revolutions, Goldhill covers the Reformation and modern history. The answer he gives is that we need to know the classics in order to understand where we come from. Goldhill takes the Oedipus myth and Freud's fascination with it as the perfect example of how important to us is our search for our origin: the myth, about mistaken ideas about our origins, takes us back to the classical Greek tragedian Sophocles and the Dionysian dramatic festival. Goldhill is not afraid to cover controversial areas like the Elgin marbles, the Greco-Roman homosexual practices, the contrast between modern ideas of pronography and ancient acceptance of nudity, the Greco-Roman drunken symposium component of the Jewish Passover Seder, and the problems of democracy. Without overstatement, Goldhill makes us look at our fascination with violent sports or televised warfare to see that we haven't progressed beyond the stimulated fans at gladiatorial events. Some parts of Goldhill's book seem less central to his thesis than others, he doesn't make all his points convincingly enough, and some parts are written with more loving detail, but Love, Sex, and Tragedy covers an immense amount of material in just over 300 pages, and does so in an introductory format.