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Panorama of the Classical World

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Panorama of the Classical World
By Nigel Spivey and Michael Squire. (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum: 2004. Pg. 368. 400 color and 190 black-and-white illustrations. 1 Map.) ISBN: 0892367695.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - November 11, 2004

Written by Nigel Spivey and Michael Squire, Panorama of the Classical World is a gorgeous coffee table book that contains more than 550 color and black and white illustrations that represent the breadth of Etruscan, Ancient Roman and Greek art, religion, society, military prowess, economic might, and intellectual endeavors. Accompanying the illustrations is a compelling narrative that chronicles the history of the classical world.

Rather than writing a chronologically based history, Spivey and Squire elected to take a humanities directed approach by organizing the text thematically.
This book surveys a past civilization, just one of many; yet it is naturally panoramic because the limits of the term "Classical' cannot readily be fixed. As an epoch of Greek and Roman history, we allow it a span of just over a thousand years - from the notional date of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC until the official closure of the Olympic festival c. AD 393. (Foreword, Pg. 7.)
The ten thematic chapters in this book are:
  1. Mortals: The Body in Classical Antiquity
  2. Higher Powers: Gods and Heroes
  3. Myth in the Making
  4. Manipulating Nature
  5. Political Animals
  6. Oikos and Economy
  7. Philosophy and Education
  8. Dionysos: Apollo
  9. The Classical Tradition of Art
  10. The Present Classical Past
Combined, the information presented in this book provides a comprehensive and readable account of the general history of the classical world, as told through the cultural material they left behind. In addition, the authors have included passages from classical literature, from authors such as Virgil, Seneca, and Pliny the Elder. These passages enhance the text and are informative in their own right. This book is equally accessible to both general readers and scholars. For those not already familiar with the Classical world, this book provides an intriguing introduction to an incredible period in history that greatly influenced the development of Western Civilization, and which still exerts its influence today.

Related Reviews:

Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World, Edited by G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar.
Late Antiquity is both an encyclopedia and a book of essays. The text will act as a guide, opening new vistas and encouraging you to pursue further study into a unique period of time. It is also an unparalleled and valuable reference work.

The Mediterranean in History, Edited by David Abulafia.
Covering over four thousand years of history, this text covers more than just the history of Mediterranean Sea and those that plied its waves, but also the history of the peoples that lives along the periphery of the waters edges.

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