Mary Beard is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge. Her Sather Lectures at the University of California, Berkeley, will be published in June as Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up. (March 2014)
The Parthenon Enigma by Joan Breton Connelly
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox
Spartacus by Aldo Schiavone, translated from the Italian by Jeremy Carden
How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians by Quintus Tullius Cicero, translated from the Latin and with an introduction by Philip Freeman
Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman
The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander edited by James Romm, translated from the Greek by Pamela Mensch
Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction by Pierre Briant, translated from the French by Amélie Kuhrt
Philip II of Macedonia by Ian Worthington
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Thucydides: The Reinvention of History by Donald Kagan
A Commentary on Thucydides, Volume III, Books 5.25–8.109 by Simon Hornblower
Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism by Cathy Gere
Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley
Caesar: A Life in Western Culture by Maria Wyke.
Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman
Caesar’s Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History by Denis Feeney
Augustus: The Life of Rome’s First Emperor by Anthony Everitt
Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris
Roman elections were all a matter of personal connections, charisma, and favor, not of manifestos and paid-up party loyalty. No patron would have a houseful of clients if he only offered to help those whom he knew he really could. That’s a different claim from a modern political view that you promise anything you like to get elected. In fact, in other ways too, the twenty-first-century relationship between the political hopeful and his voters and “clients” is the mirror image of the ancient one. But the modern clients, in the shape of Super PACs and the like, call the political tune to an extent that most of the supporters of the ancient would-be consul could not.
I am one of a team that has been redesigning the Greek and Roman Galleries in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. We’ve finished—and a couple of weeks ago the new display opened to the public. This is nothing on the scale of the new Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of course. But, after the British Museum and the Ashmolean in Oxford (also recently “re-hung”), the Fitz has the best collection of classical antiquities in the UK—thanks to generous donations since the mid-nineteenth century from professors and alumni of the University.
What is a “classic”? Is it simply (as Frank Kermode, I think, once put it) an old book that we still read? Or is there something a bit more sinister to the whole idea? An old book you feel you ought to have read? Or is it more casually serendipitous: An old book you have rediscovered and want to share with the world? And what does a “classicist” (in the Greek-and-Latin sense of the word) have to contribute to the debate?