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A Cambridge classics professor who was recently named Royal Academy of Arts professor of ancient literature, Beard's encyclopedic knowledge of the ancient world is matched by her enthusiasm and wry wit.

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She tells us about an incident in the third century B. Among the book's most memorable takeaways is how ancient political spin has influenced contemporary perceptions of classical characters and events. Our modern sense of Cleopatra, for example, is almost entirely built on myths inspired by Imperial Roman propaganda. Beard is a tough, fair critic. She cannot brook academic invention, the "combination of scholarship, conjecture and fiction" that classicists sometimes deploy to fill in historical gaps. She prefers that writers work with what they have instead of inventing what they don't.

In the essay that opens the book, Beard elegantly defines and ardently defends the importance of classical study.

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She describes the wonderment of connecting with the stories and values of people who lived two millennia ago, and she warns that abandoning the classics altogether "would mean bleeding wounds in the body of Western culture - and a dark future of misunderstanding. She does not believe that everyone should study Latin and Greek. E-mail: books sfchronicle. Photo: Liveright. If you have that, however, this book is full of intriguing ideas. The chapter on Alexander the Great , challenges the reader to re-examine their understanding of his character by thinking about who was writing about him — namely the Romans.

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  4. Wiseman comes in for some especially exasperated criticism as Beard complains about his tendency to rely on historians or playwrights whose work has been lost or possibly never existed in the first place. As a reader, it is enjoyable to piggyback on her knowledge and feel pleasantly superior to the authors she writes about. Despite the fact that this is a collection rather than a single discussion, a prevailing argument does begin to surface.

    Confronting the Classics, by Mary Beard

    Instead, Beard praises those authors who look at representation. She asks how figures like Caligula were depicted and why? How the Colossus built by Nero survived his bloody end and came to represent different things at different times? Her final chapter on Classical reception demonstrates how scholars might look at the Classics sideways.

    The last point is rather ironic since Mary Beard herself is something of a scholarly popular icon.

    Confronting the Classics

    Spinning Caesars Murder. Imperial Rome Emperors Empresses Enemies. Looking for the Emperor. Married to the Empire. Caligulas Satire?

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    Neros Colosseum? Bitpart Emperors. Hadrian and his Villa. Arms and the. Dont Forget your Pith Helmet.

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    Pompeii for the Tourists. The Golden Bough. Philosophy meets Archaeology. Reviewing Classics. Further Reading.

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    7. List of Figures. She has world-wide academic acclaim.