Confronting the Classics
By Mary Beard
Review by Katie K (Classics)
As a person who really wanted to study Classics at university, I realised didn’t know a lot about Classics at all. Classical books can be very intimidating – I felt like I needed to know everything! – which is why Mary Beard’s Confronting the Classics is such a good read. Having received it for my birthday, I began reading. I was determined to learn everything ever about my subject and finished certainly not knowing everything, but at least feeling like I did. Which was a good start.
It covers a good range of topics and some interesting situations – suggesting that the emperor Caligula appointed a horse as a consul for joke, for example, which makes the whole thing far more enjoyable to read than a textbook. There is a mix of more serious topics, some of which I referenced in one of my Oxford interviews, with some light-hearted ones,, such as the chapter right near the end entirely dedicated to the Asterix comic. Beard is a fantastic and accessible writer, which is incredibly important when learning about a topic for the first time – you want to be informed, but you also want to enjoy what you’re reading!
However, what I found best in this book is that it didn’t simply give you information – it explored and challenged ideas, and again and again it justified the importance of Classics to the modern world. In a world where people are constantly asking “what are you going to do with your Classics degree?”, that’s an incredibly important thing.
Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard
Try checking the availability of this book at your school or local library or explore second hand bookshops and websites. You may also wish to purchase from either Amazon or Blackwell’s.