What the Greeks Did for Us (Hardcover)

What the Greeks Did for Us By Tony Spawforth Cover Image
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An enjoyable, accessible exploration of the legacy of ancient Greece today, across our daily lives and all forms of popular culture

Our contemporary world is inescapably Greek. Whether in a word like “pandemic,” a Freudian state of mind like the “Oedipus complex,” or a replica of the Parthenon in a Chinese theme park, ancient Greek culture shapes the contours of our lives. Ever since the first Roman imitators, we have been continually falling under the Greeks’ spell.

But how did ancient Greece spread its influence so far and wide? And how has this influence changed us?

Tony Spawforth explores our classical heritage, wherever it’s to be found. He reveals its legacy in everything from religion to popular culture, and unearths the darker side of Greek influence—from the Nazis’ obsession with Spartan “racial purity” to the elitism of classical education. Paying attention to the huge breadth and variety of Hellenic influence, this book paints an essential portrait of the ancient world’s living legacy—considering to whom it matters, and why.

About the Author

Tony Spawforth is emeritus professor of ancient history at Newcastle University. As well as leading cultural tours in Greece, he has presented eight documentaries for the BBC and has published thirteen books, including The Story of Greece and Rome.

Praise For…

A survey of “the survival of ancient Greek culture in the modern age” that is “of some interest to budding classicists and students of world history.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Fascinating! Spawforth steers a judicious and entertaining course among the welter of possible topics—sport, sex, theatre, democracy, philosophy, and much more. He does not avert his gaze from the less savoury aspects, the most prominent being race purity, toxic masculinity (and its concomitant, the repression of women), and slavery. In ways great and small the ancient Greeks have held us back as well as improved us.”—Robin Waterfield, author of Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece

“Tony Spawforth’s track record as an author speaks very loudly for itself. This latest book is most cleverly organised and as comprehensive as the inexhaustibly fascinating subject will allow.”—Paul Cartledge, author of Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece

“With effortless erudition Spawforth demonstrates the past is never dead. Revealing the amazing and the distressing that people have created from what they believed about ancient Greece, he supplies a head-spinning diversity of insights ranging from autobiographical to global.”—Thomas R. Martin, author of Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times

“Spawforth examines how Greek antiquity textures and shapes daily life and cultural taste. It is a fun, fluent and refreshingly nuanced journey through the Anglosphere’s rich and stormy relationship with Hellas. As warm-hearted and sensitive as it is encyclopaedic in its learning, this is a kaleidoscopic joy ride from Classical Athens to our divided present.”—Henry Stead, author of A People’s History of Classics

“Tony Spawforth takes us on a roller-coaster ride through the vastly diverse heritages that the ancient Greeks have left to the world of today. He is an expert and genial guide, always ready with an ingenious juxtaposition of the ancient and modern that leaps off the page.”—Roderick Beaton, author of The Greeks: A Global History
“Tony Spawforth makes a genial, but not complacent, tour-guide through hundreds of concepts, categories, things, institutions, cultural and artistic practices which the modern world has, for better or worse, derived from ancient Greece. There will be very few readers who will not find themselves saying again and again ‘I didn’t know that!’”—Oliver Taplin, author of Greek Tragedy in Action

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300258028
ISBN-10: 030025802X
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: May 16th, 2023
Pages: 352
Language: English