A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Cradle of Western Civilization

ISBN : 9780199982103

J. C. McKeown
304 Pages
139 x 225 mm
Pub date
Jul 2013
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The ancient Greeks were a wonderful people. They gave us democracy, drama, and philosophy, and many forms of art and branches of science would be inconceivable without them. And yet they were capable of the most outlandish behavior, preposterous beliefs, and ludicrous opinions. Nearly everything in this book illustrates the not-quite-so wonderful aspects of Greek life and thought. Like its companion volume, A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities, this is an amusing and serendipitous miscellany of odd stories and facts, culled from a lifetime of teaching. In some ways, the book hopes to show how much the Greeks were like us. Politicians were regarded as shallow and self-serving. Fat people resorted to implausible methods of weight control. Even Socrates and the king of Sparta used to entertain their children by riding around on a stick pretending it was a horse. Of course, their differences from us are abundantly documented, too-and the book may leave readers with a few incredulous questions. To ward off evil, were scapegoats thrown down from cliffs, fitted out with feathers and live birds to give them a chance of survival? Did a werewolf really win the boxing event at the Olympic Games? Were prisoners released on bail so that they could enjoy dramatic festivals? Did Greeks wear an amulet, to promote virility, the penis of a lizard caught while mating? Did anyone really believe that Pythagoras flew about on a magic arrow? Other such mysteries abound in this wonderfully illustrated and charming journey into the "glory that was Greece."


CHAPTER 1 Food and Drink
CHAPTER 2 Children and Education
CHAPTER 5 Animals
CHAPTER 6 Athens
CHAPTER 7 Sparta
CHAPTER 8 Alexander the Great
CHAPTER 9 Greeks at Sea
CHAPTER 10 Greeks and Barbarians
CHAPTER 11 Athletics
CHAPTER 12 Homer
CHAPTER 13 Drama
CHAPTER 14 Spectators and Critics
CHAPTER 15 Books and Papyri
CHAPTER 16 Philosophers
CHAPTER 17 Mathematics
CHAPTER 18 Science and Technology
CHAPTER 20 Tourists and Tourist Attractions
CHAPTER 21 Religion, Superstition, and Magic
CHAPTER 22 Prophecy
CHAPTER 23 Words and Expressions
CHAPTER 24 The Soros
The Coin Images
Illustration Credits

About the author: 

J. C. McKeown is Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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