The Classics: All You Need to Know, from Zeus's Throne to the Fall of Rome by Caroline Taggart

I am a fan of short but informative books so I was intrigued when The Classics: All You Need to Know, from Zeus’s Throne to the Fall of Rome came in the mail. I am also interested in classical mythology and history so it seemed like a good fit.  And it turned out to be a fun and informative read.

Here is the publishers description:

It’s no myth: this lively refresher course fills in all you need to know about ancient studies-from Zeus’s throne to the fall of Rome-in pithy little quips. It covers the impressive advances made by Greek and Roman societies, from language to medicine, from art to architecture. You’ll learn:

  • The Greek alphabet, from alpha to omega
  • The history and characteristics that define Greek and Roman architecture and its influence on modern building
  • Greek and Latin words, which make up more than 30 percent of the words in the English language, and how you can build your vocabulary by learning the roots
  • The Greek and Roman gods, the mythology surrounding them, and the part these figures play in our culture
  • Almost 1,000 years of Greek and Roman history, from the birth of democracy to Caesar’s empire
  • The philosophies taught by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and what their ideas have contributed to the world we live in today
  • How modern cultural staples such as the Olympics were formed by classical literature written by authors such as Homer and Cicero
  • A fascinating introduction to the world that became the foundation for Western Civilization, The Classics puts the same information from stuffy textbooks at your fingertips in one entertaining read. Make this and all of the Blackboard Books(tm) a permanent fixture on your shelf, and you’ll have instant access to a breadth of knowledge. Whether you need homework help or want to win that trivia game, this series is the trusted source for fun facts.

    Taggart keeps the prose lively and the snarky commentary to a minimum (too often these type of books emphasize humor to the detriment of information). It is an easy read but still manages to cover a lot of basic ground on classical history and culture.

    A good example of an area I found helpful is architecture. I had a basic understanding of some of this but it was great to have a short chapter on the main styles of classical architecture (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) with the building blocks involved and some famous examples.

    This is a great book for adults who want to refresh their memory on the touch-points of classical culture (or who never received a quality education in this area) and for younger readers who want a readable introduction to the subject.

    Kevin Holtsberry
    I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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