50 Sites that Explain the Classical World
Historian Charles Freeman’s beautifully-illustrated account of the evolution of the Classical World follows its development, mainly around the shores of the Mediterranean but with sites from as far afield as the sands of Syria and icy northern Britain.
View the book’s contents, index and some sample pages, and buy securely from blueguides.com here »
We didn’t take our copy of Sites of Antiquity with us when we went to Egypt but on our return, wanting to find out more about what we had seen and to put it in context, it was superb, confirming and often supplementing what we had been told by the ubiquitous egyptologists we had been guided by, neatly catching and combining the geography and history, and with amazing illustrations.
People who want more from their travel guide than just restaurant, hotel and shopping tips never leave home without a Blue Guide. Packed full of really useful information on an area’s history, art and architecture, they are a must for the cultured traveller. The latest in the series will pique the interest of anyone interested in the Classical World. Freeman eloquently expounds on sites we think we know all about, such as The Pyramids and the Parthenon, to lesser known gems like Segesta and Palmyra, educating us as to why they still retain so much importance to us today.
“For anyone planning trips this is an excellent resource for stimulating the curiosity of students about the sites to be visited. … Its scope is impressive.”
50 ancient sites, that, “its subtitle claims ‘explain the Classical world.’ True to form, it does this admirably”.
“Offering a good, clear introduction to the wider Classical world, this book would make the perfect Christmas gift for any travel-hungry friend who wants to skip lightly across many of the world’s most alluring sites – without ever leaving their arm-chair.” Editor Nadia Durrani in Current World Archaeology
Here is the full text of CF News’ review:
Tim Matthews writes : In this sumptuously illustrated book, Charles Freeman looks at fifty of the greatest ancient sites in the world, tracing the progress of civilisation from its roots in Egypt, through the flowering of intellectual life in Greece, to the rise of Christianity – taking us by the way of the Pyramids of Saqqara and Dahshur to the glories of Athens and Rome, to distant Hadrian’s Wall. At every step he helps to explain the links between the sites. Each one of these sites can be visited today. With a light touch Freeman, a freelance academic historian who frequently leads study tours of classical Greece, Italy and Turkey, breathes life into the ruins with which he is so familiar. First, he provides an historical overview to each section, enhancing the broad picture with fascinating facts and quirky anecdotes. When, for instance, did the Romans invent concrete? And did you know that in everyday Egyptian life facial hair was not a mark of status, but the gods were assumed to have beards and so a pharaoh was often shown with the false plaited beard protruding from his chin; even the female pharaoh Hatshepsat is depicted with one (Illustrated), Many pertinent quotations are scattered throughout the text. ” This forsaken city so haunted our imagination that at the sight the scattered ruins the army came to a halt of its own volition and spontaneously began to applaud. (Dominique Vivant Denon on the arrival of Napoleon’s army at Karnak in 1799). ” We think ourselves poorly off, living like paupers, if the walls [of our baths] are not ablaze with large and costly circular mirrors, if our Alexandrian marbles are not decorated with panels of Numidian marble, if the whole of their surface has not been given a decorative overlay of elaborate patterns having all the variety of fresco murals, unless the ceiling cannot be seen for glass, unless the pools into which we lower bodies with all the strength drained out of them by lengthy periods in the sweating room are edged with Thasian marble (which was once the rarest of sights even a temple), unless the water pours from silver taps. (Seneca, Letter LXXXVI). ” Let me now obediently sing aloud the new song because after those terrifying darksome sights and stories, I was now privileged to see and celebrate such things as in truth many righteous men and martyrs of God before desired to see on the earth and did not see, and to hear and did not hear . . . a day bright and radiant, with no cloud overshadowing it, shone down with the shafts of heavenly light on the churches of Christ throughout the world. (Eusebius, The History of the Church). The section that will, of course, be of greatest interest to readers of CF NEWS is ‘The Early Christian World’. Following historical overview there are items on Jerusalem, Christian Rome, Ravenna – ‘outpost of Byzantium’ – Constantinople and Saint Catherine’s, Sinai, the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the world. A map (most informative like others in the book) shows how swiftly Christianity spread in its first 300 years. It is explains how Charlemagne played his part in this great expansion, tells of Theodosius’s assault on paganism, the development of Christian philosophy, the birth of Christian art and of the design of the Christian basilica. There are well over 200 pages of beautiful photographs in this book (which comes from the stables of the justly famous Blue Guides, launched in the early 20th century and heirs to the great 19th century guidebook tradition). My only slight criticism is that the print is so small that the fascinating text is sometimes difficult to read. But what a wonderful Christmas present . . .
Peter Furtado, formerly editor of History Today:
“This is a beautiful, accessible illustrated book which really brings the Blue Guide imprint up to date. It offers a spin round the great classical sites of the Mediterranean and the Nile, plus a couple of Roman sites – Trier and Hadrian’s Wall – much further north. Each site is treated to a crisp introduction to the history and its excavation, when relevant, and each article is boosted with factboxes and sidebards contextualising and explaining what it was all about. Plus of course a range of gorgeous photos, some historic prints and a few reconstruction artworks. “You might feel there are a lot of books answering to a description like that, but this one stands out by being written by an author with real knowledge and a great deal of experience at explaining the things the reader/visitor really wants to know, as well as the things the reader or visitor ought to want to know. “You wouldn’t want to take it with you on a hot day in Karnak – too big and too heavy and not enough specific detail to be worth the effort – but you can buy a traditional Blue Guide for that. Instead, study it – and enjoy it – at home, or in your cruise cabin.”