|Books released during the week of October 6, 2014|
|The Bhagavad Gita:
Richard H. Davis
“This is an exciting book about an exciting book, namely, the Bhagavad Gita, a text in which Hinduism comes closest to possessing a universal scripture. Davis traces the varying course of its semantic trajectory through history with erudite clarity. A must-read for anyone interested in the Gita.”–Arvind Sharma, author of Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography
|Biomolecular Feedback Systems
Domitilla Del Vecchio & Richard M. Murray
“This is an excellent compendium of the most important techniques and results in the application of feedback and control to biomolecular systems. Biomolecular Feedback Systems is very timely, and a must-read for students and researchers.”–Ernesto Estrada, University of Strathclyde
|Birds of New Guinea:
Thane K. Pratt & Bruce M. Beehler
Illustrated by John C. Anderton & Szabolcs Kókay
Praise for the first edition:”This book is not only indispensable to any bird-watcher visiting New Guinea and the adjacent islands, but, owing to the wealth of its information, it will be of great interest to anyone who is seriously interested in birds.”–American Scientist
|Birds of Western Africa:
Nik Borrow & Ron Demey
Praise for the first edition:”Invaluable for serious birders and scientists working in or visiting the area. It would also make an excellent addition to a collection of field guides for home or office use.”–Condor
|The Birth of Hedonism:
The Cyrenaic Philosophers and Pleasure as a Way of Life
“The Cyrenaics were the earliest philosophical hedonists. Evidence for their views is limited, but Kurt Lampe combines expert historical scholarship and imaginative sympathy to offer a compelling account of what they believed, what it might have been like to inhabit their worldview, and why it matters today. His itinerary takes him in the end to Walter Pater, who offered late Victorians the profound experience and attractions of a ‘new Cyrenaicism.’ This is a learned and important book, in which Lampe, like Pater, brings aspects of a lost Greek philosophical past to life.”–Charles Martindale, University of Bristol and University of York
|Change They Can’t Believe In:
The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America
Christopher S. Parker & Matt A. Barreto
With a new afterword by the authors
“A scathing analysis of the Tea Party movement, linking it in spirit to the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society. Taking today’s conservative populists to be dangerous and their ideas self-incriminating, the authors speculate that Tea Party supporters may perceive of social change as subversion. Based on research and interviews, they suggest racism, desire for social dominance . . . drives the Tea Party.”–Publishers Weekly
|The Fourth Pig
With a new introduction by Marina Warner
“At her best, Naomi Mitchison is forthright and witty, writes with brio and passion and lucidity, and conveys a huge appetite for life, for people, for new adventures, and for breaking through barriers.”–From the introduction by Marina Warner
|Genealogy of the Tragic:
Greek Tragedy and German Philosophy
“There is no body of work as important for understanding the idea of the tragic as German Idealism, which fundamentally changed modernity’s notions of tragedy. I can think of no better guide to these formidable writings than Joshua Billings, who takes the reader through them with clarity, deep knowledge, and revelatory exposition. A great achievement, this is a book that scholars and students of tragedy have needed for years.”–Simon Goldhill, University of Cambridge
|The Great Rebalancing:
Trade, Conflict, and the Perilous Road Ahead for the World Economy
With a new preface by the author
“[Michael Pettis is] a brilliant economic thinker.”–Edward Chancellor, Wall Street Journal
|How to Solve It:
A New Aspect of Mathematical Method
With a foreword by John Conway
“Every prospective teacher should read it. In particular, graduate students will find it invaluable. The traditional mathematics professor who reads a paper before one of the Mathematical Societies might also learn something from the book: ‘He writes a, he says b, he means c; but it should be d.’”–E. T. Bell, Mathematical Monthly
The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Jon D. Levenson
“[T]he figure of Abraham has more often been a battleground than a meeting place. This is the brilliantly elaborated theme of Levenson’s book, which retells the Abraham story while examining the use made of Abraham in later Jewish, Christian, and (to a lesser extent) Muslim thought.”–Adam Kirsch, New York Review of Books
Transformation in America’s Largest Church
“Matovina gives a detailed examination of the different pastoral approaches that have been adopted to deal with the influx of Latino immigrants, with some advocating the need to assimilate quickly to American ways and others preferring to focus on preserving the religious and cultural heritage that the immigrants have brought with them. . . . Matovina’s book should be mandatory reading for all bishops, clergy, and lay leaders, and for anyone else who wants to understand the future of American Catholicism.”–Michael Sean Winters, New Republic
|The Life of Roman Republicanism
“As a demonstration of how reading Roman literature becomes absorbing political argument, this book succeeds brilliantly. Joy Connolly possesses a keen mind and her approach is informed by an astonishing stock of contemporary intellectual perspectives. She is also a deeply imaginative reader with a gift for explaining complex ideas lucidly and compellingly. I learned a great deal from this book: about Hannah Arendt and Philip Pettit as well as about Cicero, Sallust, and Horace.”—Andrew Feldherr, Princeton University
|The Meaning of Relativity:
Including the Relativistic Theory of the Non-Symmetric Field (Fifth Edition)
With a new introduction by Brian Greene
“A condensed unified presentation intended for one who has already gone through a standard text and digested the mechanics of tensor theory and the physical basis of relativity. Einstein’s little book then serves as an excellent tying-together of loose ends and as a broad survey of the subject.”–Physics Today
Writing between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine
“This is a work of immense accomplishment dedicated to understanding what it means to write in two languages about a condition of life that is, at once, both shared and separate. Lital Levy’s critical speculations are careful and courageous as her beautiful prose moves back and forth across the borderline of Israel/Palestine, forging a way of moving toward a solidarity built of sorrow and survival, failure and hope. Read Poetic Trespass and reflect anew on the ethical and poetic possibilities of a translational dialogue in a star-crossed region.”–Homi Bhabha, Harvard University
Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest
“Rarely does a work of history unite so many seemingly disconnected fields of inquiry in such new and exciting ways. Masterfully interweaving urban, Native American, and environmental history, Power Lines is a sobering assessment of Phoenix’s expansive postwar development. The legacies of the region’s coal-powered history continue to shape contemporary politics, spaces, and our shared environmental future, making Power Lines as timely as it is insightful.”–Ned Blackhawk, Yale University
The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
Richard P. Feynman
With a new introduction by A. Zee
“Physics Nobelist Feynman simply cannot help being original. In this quirky, fascinating book, he explains to laymen the quantum theory of light, a theory to which he made decisive contributions.”–The New Yorker
|The Struggle for Equality:
Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction
James M. McPherson
With a new preface by the author
“Must surely be assigned an important place in the literature of the history of ideas and of race relations in the United States.”–The Times Literary Supplement
|Theories of International Politics and Zombies:
Daniel W. Drezner
“Drezner . . . comes up with an intriguing intellectual conceit to explain various schools of international political theory. He imagines a world overrun with zombies and considers the likely responses of national governments, the U.N and other international organizations, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs). . . . This slim book is an imaginative and very helpful way to introduce its subject–who knew international relations could be this much fun?”–Publishers Weekly
|Theory of Stellar Atmospheres:
An Introduction to Astrophysical Non-equilibrium Quantitative Spectroscopic Analysis
Ivan Hubeny & Dimitri Mihalas
“This eagerly anticipated book is an excellent guide for anyone interested in radiation transport in astrophysics, as well as for those wanting to make detailed analyses of astrophysical spectra. Comprehensive, lucid, and stimulating, Theory of Stellar Atmospheres is ideal for students and scientists alike.”–Bengt Gustafsson, Uppsala University
Old Tales Told Again
Walter de la Mare
With a new introduction by Philip Pullman
Illustrated by A. H. Watson
Praise for previous editions: “Walter de la Mare has given the familiar old tales so much sparkle and humor and romance that they are like new stories.”–Horn Book Magazine
|The Two-Mile Time Machine:
Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future
Richard B. Alley
With a new preface by the author
“Although not all scientists will agree with Alley’s conclusions, [this] engaging book–a brilliant combination of scientific thriller, memoir and environmental science–provides instructive glimpses into our climatic past and global future . . . “–Publisher’s Weekly
The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman
“[A] biography worthy of the man. Adelman brilliantly and beautifully brings Hirschman to life, giving us an unforgettable portrait of one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary intellectuals. . . . [M]agnificent.”–Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker
The Crash Course series by John and Hank Green posted an episode on the collapse of the Bronze Age Civilization. Watch the video below and if you would like to learn more about this period in history we encourage you to read 1177 BC by Eric Cline. It has been our best-selling book for months in print, ebook, and even audio formats. Enjoy!
About this episode: Crash Course In which John Green teaches you about the Bronze Age civilization in what we today call the middle east, and how the vast, interconnected civilization that encompassed Egypt, The Levant, and Mesopotamia came to an end. What’s that you say? There was no such civilization? Your word against ours. John will argue that through a complex network of trade and alliances, there was a loosely confederated and relatively continuous civilization in the region. Why it all fell apart was a mystery. Was it the invasion of the Sea People? An earthquake storm? Or just a general collapse, to which complex systems are prone? We’ll look into a few of these possibilities. As usual with Crash Course, we may not come up with a definitive answer, but it sure is a lot of fun to think about.
The Year Civilization Collapsed
Eric H. Cline
Amazon Beauty Face Mask Recipe
Oh, and you will need one of these.
“The women make a mixture of cypress, cedar, and frankincense. They pound these ingredients into a paste on a rough stone, adding a little water. When this substance takes on a smooth, thick consistency, they cover their faces, and indeed their whole bodies, with the paste and retire for the night. When they remove the plaster on the next morning, comments Herodotus, a sweet odor is imparted to them and their skin is clean and glossy.”
Read more about the ablutions of the Amazons at Wonders and Marvels: http://www.wondersandmarvels.com/2014/09/beauty-secrets-of-the-ancient-amazons.html
And while you’re there, enter to win a copy of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor.
Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World
We have an Amazons personality quiz on PlayBuzz, here’s a bit more about the results! For more Amazon names and their meanings, please visit our Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/princetonupress/the-amazons/
The meaning of Harman Dali is “Crazy-Brave”. Harman Dali was a beguiling berserker in the Turkmenistan region who thrived on killing would-be suitors who accepted her famous challenge: “I’ll only marry the man who beats me at wrestling and I chop off the heads of the losers.” She issued this challenge to Koroglu, a bandit hero, and in the course of their wrestling, he is overcome with desire and gives up. He sings for Harman Dali and she not only spares his life, but invites him to share her bed for one night.
Though Kepes appears on a 6th-century Circassian vase, little other than the meaning of her name is known. However, when the meaning of your name is “Hot Flanks/Eager Sex,” perhaps that is enough.
The meaning of Penthesilea is “She Who Brings Grief”. When Troy was under attack, they sent forth requests for help. One such request was sent to Penthesilea–a legendary warrior queen whose name would strike terror into the hearts of the Greeks. Penthesilea did have a starring role in the legendary Trojan War, though she did die there, struck down by Achilles.
The meaning of Sanape is “From Wine Country.” In Greek thinking, extreme passion for warfare went hand in hand with compulsive drinking, so it is not surprising that tipsy Amazons could be synonymous with war-loving Amazons. Sanape’s name is derived from a Circassian word for wine, though whether this was because she was from a wine-producing region or because she was a drunk is unknown. What we do know is that the Sinopeans celebrated their Amazonian history by issuing coins with Sanape’s image and held a bacchanalian procession on the city walls of women dressed as armed warriors.
The meaning of Sisyrbe is “Shaggy Goat-Skin”. Little is known of Sisyrbe, but given the meaning of her name, she must have cut a striking figure in the Ancient World. Actually, the reality is a little less hairy. Herodotus reported that several of the Libyan nomad tribes practiced free love, like the Amazons and the Massagetae, and noted that the women dressed in goat leather. In all likelihood, Sisyrbe is one of these nomad women.
The meaning of Pantariste is “Best of All,” so you have earned bragging rights. Use them wisely.
The meaning of Hypsicratea is “High or Mighty Power.” Hypsicratea was married to Mithradates, the famed Poison King, and they are often depicted riding together on horseback. “The queen Hypsicratea loved her husband Mithradates with boundless affection,” wrote Valerius Maximus. “She was happy to trade her splendid beauty for a masculine style, for she cut her hair and accustomed herself to riding horses and using weapons so that she could participate in the king’s toils and share his dangers.”
The meaning of Atalanta is “Equal, Balanced.” Atalanta is the original Amazon, selected to accompany Hercules on his quest for the Golden Fleece. Self-reliant, with a “fiery, masculine gaze,” she wrestled like a bear and could outrun any animal or man.
This information is taken from Adrienne Mayor’s new book The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World. You can read a free excerpt from the book here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10302.pdf
Inspired by new research by Adrienne Mayor, available for the first time in her forthcoming book The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, we present this personality quiz. Leave a comment below with your Amazon alter ego. If you want to read more information about these women, please click here.
Throwback Thursday: Week 3
It’s Thursday again, folks, and you know what that means: time for a Throwback (#TBT)! This week’s #TBT honors Erwin Goodenough’s Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (1992), another fundamental text found in the Princeton Legacy Library. Here’s a little bit of information on your favorite relic – both a literal and figurative designation, in this case:
This volume presents the most important portions of Erwin Goodenough’s classic thirteen-volume work, a magisterial attempt to encompass human spiritual history in general through the study of Jewish symbols in particular. Revealing that the Jewish religion of the period was much more varied and complex than the extant Talmudic literature would lead us to believe, Goodenough offered evidence for the existence of a Hellenistic-Jewish mystic mythology far closer to the Qabbalah than to rabbinical Judaism.
David M. Hay of Studia Philonia Annual 1 praises the volume, saying that, “[s]ince [Jacob Neusner's one-volume abridgement] presents the fruits of Goodenough’s decades-long study of ancient Jewish art, climaxed by his study of the third-century synagogue at Dura-Europas, it is probably the best introduction to Goodenough’s mature thought. Neusner contributes a twenty-nine-page foreword that explains the enduring importance of the entire thirteen-volume work.”
And if we’ve peaked your interest with this book, you can find similar materials over in Mythos: The Princeton/Bollingen Series in World Mythology. We hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Throwback Thursday (#TBT), and we’ll see you next week!
Quick Questions for Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World
Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in classics and the history of science at Stanford University. Her work searches for precursors to modern science in mythologies and folk traditions of peoples around the world. Mayor’s previous books include The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times (2000) and Fossil Legends of the First Americans (2007), which examine pre-Darwinian cultural awareness of prehistoric life in antiquity and Native America, linking legends of monsters to the discovery of fossils. Her biography The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy was a finalist for 2009 National Book Award in Nonfiction and won the 2010 Gold Medal in Biography at the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Mayor’s upcoming book, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, explores the familiar Greek myth of warrior women from a global perspective. Citing stories from China, India, Egypt, Persia, and Central Asia, as well as new archaeological discoveries, Mayor unearths the roots of Amazon legends and reveals some surprising insights on gender in the ancient world.
Now, on to the questions!
What would you have been if not an historian?
If I had not become so obsessed with uncovering germs of historical and scientific realities in ancient mythology and legends, I would still be a full-time freelance copyeditor for about a dozen trade publishers and university presses (including Princeton University Press). That was my career until I published my first book (The First Fossil Hunters for PUP, 2000). Before I began concentrating on writing, in my free time I was an artist, making and selling etchings illustrating stories based on my readings in classical literature.
“I find writing a book a slow, intricate process, a kind of obstacle course punctuated with great rewards.”
What was the most influential book you’ve read?
Two influential books: The Histories of Herodotus, the world’s first “anthropologist,” an insatiably curious Greek historian who reported on barbarian cultures based on his research, travels, and interviews in the fifth century BC. I was also influenced by Mott T. Greene’s Natural Knowledge in Preclassical Antiquity (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?
I had been gathering material about ancient women warriors for decades. But I began the serious research for The Amazons in 2009 and started the actual writing in 2012. I find writing a book a slow, intricate process, a kind of obstacle course punctuated with great rewards. But research is always thrilling and I tend to incorporate newfound material up to the very last minute. I write in two very different places: my desk in Palo Alto, California is piled high with myriad jumbled books and papers whose stratigraphy is a challenge. Summers in Bozeman, Montana, I write in a spare space, surrounded by interesting rocks and fossils instead of books, on an old oak table with nothing but my laptop.
What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?
Thanks to modern DNA testing, we now know that a significant number of battle-scarred skeletons buried with weapons in ancient steppe nomad graves belonged to women, the real-life models for Greek myths about Amazons. So Amazons were not just a figment of the Greek imagination, brought to life in exciting myths only to be killed off by Greek heroes. But even more surprising, it turns out that the Greeks were not the only people of antiquity to spin tales about heroic warrior women. And the non-Greek stories of warlike women differ radically from the dark mythic script demanding death for all Amazons. Instead, legendary heroes of Persia, Egypt, and Asia were so impressed with the valor of their female foes that they desired the women as companions in love and war. We are used to thinking of Amazon myths in terms of violence against uppity women, but the ancient evidence also reveals a vision of gender equality.
How did you come up with the title and jacket?
My working title was “Amazons in Love and War” because there are as many romances as battle stories about warrior women. The final title embraces both mythology and history and conveys the geographic scope of the book far beyond the ancient Mediterranean world. I wanted to find a unique picture for the cover, something arresting and unexpected, a departure from the standard classical Greek vase or Roman statue. I was struck by the strong image and narrative quality of a postage stamp issued by the Kyrgyz Republic. It shows the horsewoman-archer Saikal, heroine of the most famous Central Asian epic poem Manas. The black and white illustration is by Teodor Gercen, a German artist who worked in Kyrgyzstan.
What are you reading right now?
I am enjoying a well-researched adventure novel translated from Danish, The Lost Sisterhood (Random House, 2014) by Anne Fortier (Ph.D. Aarhus University, History of Ideas). The story follows an Oxford professor on a quest in North Africa and Troy to discover a legendary “Amazon treasure,” following clues left by her eccentric grandmother who claimed an Amazon queen as her ancestor.
Adrienne Mayor is the author of:
|The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor
Hardcover | September 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691147208
536 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 maps | Reviews
Interested in learning more about how to do math like an ancient Egyptian, check out David Reimer’s book Count Like an Egyptian.
It may seem strange, but as James Turner argues on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Conversations blog, the modern humanities may not be at “death’s door,” as so many commentators imply. He says that a longer view–one that extends back to ancient times–tells us that what we are seeing is a reemergence of a generalist, philological approach to the humanities. Back to Philology indeed!
Listen to the dire talk around colleges and universities, read op-eds and magazines, and you might think the humanities were in greater danger than the earth’s climate. In fact, despite the overheated rhetoric, the humanities are not at death’s door. Contemporary pressures will more likely push them into a new shape, even ultimately a healthier one.
That claim might seem bizarre. The proportion of college students majoring in the humanities has sunk to an all-time low. Students have turned their backs on art history and literature in favor of studies, like accounting and nursing, that lead directly to jobs. Governors like Florida’s Rick Scott have worked to undercut fields of study not tuned closely to employment. President Obama wants education to stress science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Funds for research in disciplines like history and linguistics are drying up. Congress has already slashed the budget of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and now Rep. Paul Ryan wants to kill it.
Analysts of higher education paint a more ambiguous picture. How many years ago you start counting—either majors or research dollars—determines how gloomy the humanities numbers look. And with more and more Americans going to college only to qualify themselves for work, most time-honored fields of study have taken a hit, not just the humanities. But even at a traditional, elite institution like Stanford, majors in humanities disciplines have fallen so low as to alarm faculty members into unprecedented missionary efforts.
To see how, paradoxically, a starvation diet may rejuvenate the humanities, it helps to take a long view. First of all, the humanities disciplines familiar in American higher education today did not even exist 200 years ago. Sure, in 1814 students learned the Greek and Latin languages, but no discipline called “classics” devoted itself to ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Yes, a college president in that era was likely to lecture on moral philosophy, but the broad range of topics covered by a modern philosophy department had no place in his institution.
Continue reading at The Chronicle of Higher Education web site: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/06/09/yes-the-humanities-are-struggling-but-they-will-endure/
In the eye of the storm – that is to say, in the unrelenting public discussion that is climate change – author Eric H. Cline’s latest Op-Ed for The New York Times packs quite a gale force.
Holding both ancient and contemporary society up to the proverbial light, Cline asks if we’re really all that different from our forebears and whether or not we’re capable of avoiding a similarly abrupt end.
Eric H. Cline, a Professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University and the Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute, doesn’t hesitate to present these very early, and very scary repercussions of environmental catastrophe. He reminds readers that these events have acted as catalysts of warfare and harbingers of destruction since the days of old, or, more specifically, since the tail-end of the Late Bronze Age.
In his new book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Cline reveals that the thriving cultures within Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia didn’t necessarily succumb to the military prowess of the ‘Sea Peoples’ alone, but rather, fell victim to Mother Nature herself: earthquakes, changes in water temperature, drought, and famine hearkened in a period of rebellion, followed by complete ruin.
“We still do not know the specific details of the collapse at the end of the Late Bronze Age or how the cascade of events came to change society so drastically. But it is clear that climate change was one of the primary drivers or stressors, leading to the societal breakdown.”
The real question Cline seems to be getting at is: “Why not us?” We’re no more able to control the weather than they were – or are we? Recent debates about global warming suggest that we might just be able to put off our own demise, at least temporarily.
What happens if we don’t change our habits, however, is less certain; but Cline is fairly convinced, based on the evidence from his book, that it won’t be good. For him, the possibility of total collapse is far from the realm of the ridiculous, and his article is not so much a threat as it is a warning. Maybe if we know what brought our ancestors into the Dark Ages, we can stay in a light for just a little while longer.
Eric H. Cline is the author of:
|1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline Hardcover | 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691140896
264 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 halftones. 2 maps. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400849987
Reviews Table of Contents Prologue[PDF]
Dear Friends, Book Lovers, and Knowledge Seekers:
A recent government-issued report on the security threats posed by climate change warns of the potential for widespread conflict due to food shortages and competition for resources. The fragility of our interconnected and interdependent global civilization is at stake. An unprecedented event? Not at all. In the 12th century B.C., the great civilizations of the late Bronze Age came tumbling down one by one wracked by war, famine, drought and numerous other calamities which in part may have been caused, recent evidence indicates, by an apparent change in climate. The archaeologist Eric Cline tells the story of this collapse in his fantastic and best-selling new book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed. The book is part of a brand new series just launched here at the press: Turning Points in Ancient History, edited by ancient historian Barry Strauss. Professor Cline’s book is one the most exciting I have ever published (if you don’t believe me, watch this trailer).
The collapse of the Bronze Age is, as the ancient historian Ian Morris put it, “one of history’s greatest mysteries.” And yet so few people are aware of this pivotal event in human history. Eric Cline’s book is going a long way to remedy that. And so far, readers like it—they really like it.
Would the inhabitants of the Bronze Age World have seen it coming if they had an oracle like the famous one at Delphi? Probably not. As Michael Scott points out in his new book, Delphi: The History of the Center of the Ancient World, the oracle’s pronouncements were almost always cryptic and open to the interpretation those seeking answers wanted to give it—often with disastrous empire-ending results (see Croesus, King). Yet people from around the ancient world flocked to the site for nearly a thousand years for religious, political, and even financial reasons as Delphi was also the banking capital of the Greek city-states. A sacred site indeed. Michael Scott tells the full story of this magnificent site from its founding to its archaeological rediscovery in the 19th century. It truly was the center of the world in ancient times. In fact, the Greeks called the site the omphalos or “the belly-button of the ancient world” (which I guess is better than being “the armpit of America” like us here in NJ).
Speaking of seeing it coming, I recently came across a peculiar ad in the New York Subway system for the Manhattan Mini Storage reminding (warning?) New Yorkers that in 1789 the French aristocracy failed to see the revolution that was in their midst—a revolution which would end with many of them headed to the guillotine.
Does Manhattan Mini Storage know something we don’t? What exactly were the signs of the coming revolution that those decadent aristocrats missed (and which apparently should have had them heading for their storage lockers)? To find out more about the animating ideas of the French Revolution (and possible signs for our own times) read historian Jonathan Israel’s major new intellectual history of the French Revolution, Revolutionary Ideas.
As we head into Memorial Day weekend, I can heartily recommend any of these books for reading at the beach (or the shore if you live in New Jersey), especially if you’d like to impress your fellow beachgoers with your intellect, if not your tan. Our Bronze Age is better for your skin anyway. But as you work on your tan, it would do you well to remember that vanity has its drawbacks, as the philosopher Simon Blackburn reminds us in his wonderful meditation on the use and abuses of self-love, Mirror, Mirror.
It’s been a great pleasure to work on these books and so many other important and fascinating books this past year. I hope you’ll find one you like. Or why not more than one? After all, you’re worth it.
Happy reading this summer!
Rob Tempio, Executive Editor of Philosophy, Political Theory, and the Ancient World