Themed Book Lists

12 Books Inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome

September 17, 2013

Prompted by our Daily Feature on the design of books in the Loeb Classical Library, here are a dozen (plus one extra) books chosen by our contributors on or inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

Updated November 19, 2013: Now a “baker’s dozen,” this list includes Ancient Greek Architects at Work.

Ancient Greek Architects at Work: Problems of Structure and Design J. J. Coulton

From the Publisher. A study of the problems of structure and design, this book relates the architect to the society in which he worked; it shows him as a designer, structural engineer and director of works; it identifies the problems that architects encountered and suggests solutions.

Greek Gold Dyfri Williams
Jack Ogden

From the Publisher. The consummate mastery of Greek goldsmiths and the beauty of their designs elevated jewelry in the Classical period to glorious artistic heights. This volume presents nearly 200 of the finest surviving pieces made between the fifth and the early third century B.C., the era that also saw the creation of the Parthenon at Athens and the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the sculptures of Polykleitos, Praxiteles, and Lysippus, and the paintings of Polygnotos, Apollodoros, Zeuxis, and Nikias. Drawn from the unrivaled collections of the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the British Museum, London, the works in this book represent jewelry produced throughout the Greek world. Regional variations and preferences are seen in jewelry from Greece itself, as well as from the wealthy Greek cities in Asia Minor, the Crimea, and South Italy and from partially Hellenized areas such as Cyprus, Egypt, and the Eastern Mediterranean. The authors describe the goldsmiths’ techniques in detail, with the aid of specially taken scanning electron microphotographs, and they discuss how the jewelry was worn, its iconography, and how it relates to other arts, such as drawing and sculpture. Each piece is illustrated in full color, with numerous color details showing the intricacy and subtlety of these masterpieces of ancient Greek craftsmanship.

Rome: Profile of a City, 312-1308 Richard Krautheimer

From the Publisher. In this classic study, surveying the city's life from Christian Antiquity through the Middle Ages, Richard Krautheimer focuses on monuments of art and architecture as they reflect the historical events, the ideological currents, and the meaning Rome held for its contemporaries. Lavishly illustrated, this book tells an intriguing story in which the heritage of antiquity intertwines with the living presence of Christianity. Written by one of the great art historians of our time, it offers a profile of the Eternal City unlike any drawn in the past or likely to be drawn in the future.

On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura) Titus Lucretius
Translated by Frank Olin Copley

Epic philosophical poem written in the waning days of the Roman Republic, in which the poet Lucretius (c. 99 B.C.–c. 55 B.C.) lays out the beliefs of Epicureanism.

Catullus Amanda Kolson Hurley

From the Publisher. Catullus, who lived from about 84 to 54 BC, was one of ancient Rome's most gifted, versatile and passionate poets. In this accessible short book Amanda Kolson Hurley explores the many facets of Catullus’s poetry, discussing in detail over twenty of his most important poems, ranging from obscene and abusive epigrams to delicate lyrics and formal wedding hymns. Catullus relates many of his poems in the first person, and may therefore seem an artlessly sincere narrator, yet this impression is misleading. Hurley examines the skilful rhetoric the poet employs to gain his reader's sympathy, and confronts a major difficulty involved in reading Catullus: while the autobiographical hints in hist most famous poems make us want to learn more about him, much of his history has been lost. The book presents the poet's work clearly in the context of ancient Roman culture and society, and looks at the reception of Catullus in English literature, a tradition that has shaped modern thinking about the poet.

Classic Style Judith Miller

From the Publisher. Studied and evoked by great architects and designers from Palladio in 16th-century Italy to Michael Graves in 20th-century America, the effect of Greek and Roman art and architecture on the architecture and interior design in subsequent centuries and civilizations is uniquely enduring and pervasive. In Classic Style specially commissioned photographs capture the elegance of beautifully restored period interiors as well as imaginative and tasteful modern adaptations in homes throughout Europe and America. Extraordinary examples of classic style embodied in a house along the Hudson River, a Normandy château, and apartments in Paris, New York, and London rival each other for beauty and splendor. Featuring the work of such leading architects and interior designers as Michael Graves, Frédéric Méchiche, and Sills and Huniford, Classic Style offers a multitude of inspiring ideas in color and fabrics, wall and window treatments, moldings and woodwork, furniture arrangement, accessories and ornamentation—even fireplaces and stairs. The informative and carefully researched text reveals the importance of details and the key elements of the style—from features like columns to motifs such as wreaths and palmettes—and explains how readers can incorporate them in their own homes.

Favorite Greek Myths Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Troy Howell
Retells twelve tales from Greek mythology, including the stories of King Midas, Echo and Narcissus, the Golden Apples, and Cupid and Psyche.
Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome Anthony Everitt

From the Publisher. Born in A.D. 76, Hadrian lived through and ruled during a tempestuous era, a time when the Colosseum was opened to the public and Pompeii was buried under a mountain of lava and ash. Acclaimed author Anthony Everitt vividly recounts Hadrian’s thrilling life, in which the emperor brings a century of disorder and costly warfare to a peaceful conclusion while demonstrating how a monarchy can be compatible with good governance. What distinguished Hadrian’s rule, according to Everitt, were two insights that inevitably ensured the empire’s long and prosperous future: He ended Rome’s territorial expansion, which had become strategically and economically untenable, by fortifying her boundaries (the many famed Walls of Hadrian), and he effectively “Hellenized” Rome by anointing Athens the empire’s cultural center, thereby making Greek learning and art vastly more prominent in Roman life. By making splendid use of recently discovered archaeological materials and his own exhaustive research, Everitt sheds new light on one of the most important figures of the ancient world.

The Iliad Homer

From the Publisher. One of the foremost achievements in Western literature, Homer's Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode of the Trojan War. At its center is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his conflict with his leader Agamemnon. Interwoven in the tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, the besieged city of Ilium, the feud between the gods, and the fate of mortals.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony Roberto Calasso

From the Publisher. Presenting the stories of Zeus and Europa, Theseus and Ariadne, the birth of Athens and the fall of Troy, in all their variants, Calasso also uncovers the distant origins of secrets and tragedy, virginity, and rape.

Memoirs of Hadrian Marguerite Yourcenar

From the Publisher. Both an exploration of character and a meditation on history, Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel Memoirs of Hadrian has received international acclaim since its publication in France in 1951. Written in the form of a testamentary letter from the emperor Hadrian to his successor, the youthful Marcus Aurelius, the work is as extraordinary for its psychological depth as for its accurate reconstruction of the second century of our era. In it, Yourcenar reimagines Hadrian's arduous boyhood, his triumphs and reversals, and finally, as emperor, his reordering of a war-torn world

The Odyssey Homer

From the Publisher. The epic tale of Odysseus and his ten-year journey home after the Trojan War forms one of the earliest and greatest works of Western literature. Confronted by natural and supernatural threats – shipwrecks, battles, monsters and the implacable enmity of the sea-god Poseidon – Odysseus must test his bravery and native cunning to the full if he is to reach his homeland safely and overcome the obstacles that, even there, await him.

The Republic Plato

From the Publisher. Plato’s Republic is widely acknowledged as the cornerstone of Western philosophy. Presented in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and three different interlocutors, it is an enquiry into the notion of a perfect community and the ideal individual within it. During the conversation other questions are raised: what is goodness; what is reality; what is knowledge? The Republic also addresses the purpose of education and the role of both women and men as “guardians” of the people. With remarkable lucidity and deft use of allegory, Plato arrives at a depiction of a state bound by harmony and ruled by “philosopher kings.”

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