by Philip Hooker
The Bookseller’s Buyers’ Guide to Autumn 2015 is now out – and these are the books on classical themes which publishers think will be of interest to the general public.
The big one – and a highlight – is SPQR from Mary Beard (“Britain’s favourite classicist”) due 6 October, just before “Super Thursday” when over 500 best-sellers are released – including Dictator from Robert Harris, the third part of his Cicero trilogy. It will be preceded, on 8 September, by Dynasty from Tom Holland, the sequel to Rubicon, about “the rise and fall of the House of Caesar”. If all three are energetically publicised, we will be hearing a lot about Roman history. There was talk of a television series from BBC2 but, if her blog is any guide, this is not something which Mary Beard has had time to do. She will, however, be at the Cambridge Literary Festival and, on 19 November, will be debating with Boris Johnson in Central Hall, Westminster (he will argue for the Greeks, she the Romans); this Classics for All fundraiser has long been sold out.
Other scholars will also be entering the fray. Nigel Spivey has just published Classical Civilisation, a history of the Greeks and Romans in 10 Chapters. Jerry Toner has a succinct The Ancient World in the Ideas in Profile series, with animation by Cognitive, available from iTunes. Richard Alston with Rome’s Revolution, Thomas Mitchell with Democracy’s Beginning and Peter Thoenemann with The Hellenistic World – using coins as sources – have produced what look like textbooks for students.
We also have more quirky miscellanea about the ancient world. Jane C Hood tells How to Win a Roman Chariot Race, Paul Chrystal offers In Bed with the Romans and Iain Ferris The Mirror of Venus: Women in Roman Art. And Peter Jones’ Eureka, all about Ancient Greece, is now out in paperback (and, we suspect, has proved to be a much better seller than the Edith Hall).
There is a new OUP text of Herodotus, edited by N G Wilson and a new translation/commentary on Plato’s Theatetus and Sophist from Christopher Rowe. Peter Rhodes has added a volume on Thucydides to the Ancients in Action series, Richard Stoneman’s biography of Xerxes has been out for a while, Robin Lane Fox’s Augustine: Conversions and Confessions is due in November. Eleanor Dickey is offering both An Introduction to the Composition of Greek Prose and Learning Latin the Ancient Way: Latin Textbooks from the Ancient World, decidedly pedagogical.
And, reflecting the current enthusiasm for ancient drama, Oberon is publishing The Fall of the House of Atreus (the Oresteia plus Iphigenia at Aulis) in iambic pentameters from Andy Hinds (assisted by Martine Cuypers), not the version used by the Almeida, and a Medea by Rachel Cusk (which they are using). Bryan Doerries offers The Theatre of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today, based on his work with traumatised veterans and others. Ken McMullen and Martin McQuillan have combined to produce Oki – an original screenplay inspired by Antigone concerning the current Greek predicament.
Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association. Look out for more of his posts covering Classics in the media!