To an extraordinary extent we continue to live in the shadow of the classical world. At every level, from languages to calendars to political systems, we are the descendants of a “classical Europe,” using frames of reference created by ancient Mediterranean cultures. As this consistently fresh and surprising new audio book makes clear, however, this was no less true for the inhabitants of those classical civilizations themselves, whose myths, history, and buildings were an elaborate engagement with an already old and revered past—one filled with great leaders and writers, emigrations and battles. Indeed, much of the reason we know so much about the classical past is because of the obsessive importance it held for so many generations of Greeks and Romans, who interpreted and reinterpreted their changing casts of heroes and villains. Figures such as Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar loom large in our imaginations today, but they themselves were fascinated by what had preceded them.
A stunning work of research and imagination, The Birth of Classical Europe is an authoritative history, covering two millennia of human experience and casting new light on the world that in many ways still defines our own. In their thoughtful look at the twin engines of memory and culture, Simon Price and Peter Thonemann show how our own changing values and interests have shaped our feelings about an era that is by some measures very remote but by others startlingly close.