by Peter Jones
London: Atlantic Books / Chicago: Trafalgar Square, 2016. Pp. xvi, 384.
Maps, biblio., index. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 1782395164
The Greeks, Warts and All
British classicist Jones, author of Vote for Caesar, Reading Ovid, and several other similar humorous works on Classical antiquity, gives us an amusing, but accurate overview of the history and achievements of the ancient Greeks from the Bronze Age through the end of the Hellenistic Era, roughly from about 2000 to 27 BC.
Although perhaps not as funny as his earlier Veni, Vidi, Vici on the Romans, Jones still manages quite a number of good jokes and puns. For example, so we learn that of the bull of Minos was “Pasiphaed” by Queen Pasiphae, and that the Minoan court kept detailed records, even keeping track of sheep using “baa codes”. In this fashion, Jones delves into myth, history, warfare, literature, art, politics, commerce, social customs, agriculture, religion, philosophy, and more.
He also considers the influence -- not always positive -- of the ancient Greeks on Western culture down to the present, and, unusual in works on Greek cultural influence, discusses how the Western perception of the Greeks has evolved over the years.
Eureka! is a very good introduction to the ancient Greeks for the novice, while being amusing and often informative enough to prove rewarding reading even for the expert on the subject.
Note: Eureka! is also available in hardcover, $32,95, ISBN 978-1-7823-9514-0, and as an e-pub, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-78239020-6.