The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press Reference Library) Review

The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press Reference Library)
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The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press Reference Library) ReviewDid you ever wonder what college professors of Ancient Western Culture did to keep their Chairs at the universities when the students in the 70`s and subsequent generations exhibited their disdain for studying all things which had to do with western culture by boycotting their classes? Well, they adapted, willingly or not. As such, you may want to consider this book to be a compilation of all of the important lectures they subsequently presented in order to keep students attending their classes.
First of all, what this book is not. It is not a reference book on ancient western classical thought or history per se. It is a reference book on the derivative impact and relevancy of Ancient Classical Western (principally Greek and Roman) culture on subsequent (including current) world culture.
For example, You will find no account of the Peloponnesian War here. When you search in the index for it, you will be referred to (for some strange reason) "Achilles" where you will find in the discussion of the "idea" of Achilles the notion of a disillusionment with the concept of Achilles because of the "general decay of values during the Peloponnesian War." (p.4)
What about Athens? The information on Athens begins, "Various cities and regions of the ancient world became symbols of self actualization in the collective consciousness of modern Western civilization...In this sense Athens competes for prominence with Egypt, Jerusalem, and especially Rome." (p. 97) Further on it states that, "Athens has achieved a unique status in what is generally called culture, a singular term of value, in terms of high or low culture." And again, "Athens` role as an icon of the classical per se begins not in the Middle Ages or modernity but in antiquity."

What about Alexander The Great? Surely some accounting of his exploits would be included. However, under his name, believe it or not, in the second sentence there is a discussion of Oliver Stone's "epic film, "Alexander." It notes that the movie "may have bombed with the American critics and failed at domestic box offices, but it went on to recoup around the world even more than the staggering $155 million it had cost to produce." (p. 25)
By this inherent widely-focused design it is not systematically organized into neat chunks of information. I dare you to compile the following under a large section: pornography, meteorology, Jesuits, sexuality, suicide, tragedy, music, glass, Deus ex Machina, comedy and the comic, etc.
In essence it takes the form of a potpourri of knowledge compiled by classical scholars in a single, finely bound, and affordable volume of theirs and other contributors lectures on how the Classical tradition influenced subsequent human activity. The list of contributors takes up a whopping seven and a half pages, single space list. If you wish to broaden your understanding of the influence of classical history or classical thought, this may make for a very handy compilation of useful information.
Finally, it is not designed to be read from beginning to end. Weighing in at over five pounds, it is organized alphabetically and comes with a handy index in the back. Given its heft I doubt that it would be pragmatic as a bedside reader or for (heaven forbid) "john reading."The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press Reference Library) Overview

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