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Matyszak, Philip. Ancient Athens on 5 drachmas a day; where to eat, drink and meet a philosopher--your guide to the cradle of Western culture.

MATYSZAK, Philip. Ancient Athens on 5 drachmas a day; where to eat, drink and meet a philosopher--your guide to the cradle of Western culture. Thames & Hudson. 136p, illus, index, c2008. 978-0-50028765-1. $18.95. SA

This is a wonderful introduction to ancient Athens. It is aimed at YA readers, but it could be read quickly by adults too for pure enjoyment. Where it excels is in illuminating the essentials of classical Athenian society. The text is clear, incisive, relatively sparse, and it is in no way patronizing. The illustrations pack a huge wallop. The book has nine chapters: I. Getting There (Thermopylae, Delphi, Attica, Marathon); II. The Piraeus (The Harbours, Piraean People, The Long Walls); III. Orientation (Where to Stay, Athenian Society); IV. Athenian Pastimes (The Academy, Cock-fights & Taverns, Shopping, Money); V. Meet the Athenians (Socrates, Thucydides, Phidias, Sophocles, Aristophanes); VI. Activities (A Morning at the Pnyx, An Afternoon at the Theatre, An Evening Symposium); VII. A City of Gods (Hephaestos & Friends, Athena & the Panathenaia, The Eleusinian Mysteries, Witchcraft & Superstition); VIII. Rites of Passage (Military Service, Funerals, Weddings); and IX. Must-See Sights (In the Agora; On the Acropolis: the Proylaea, the Erechtheion, the Parthenon).

The book covers a lot of material. Its focus is mostly on architecture, and more generally on the physical evidence of ancient Athens. Once in Athens, the reader will need a good pair of walking shoes, along with a standard guidebook with plans of the Acropolis and Agora, and details of what the National Museum in Athens contains. This book is actually a very useful companion to any standard tourist guide to ancient Athens. What it does most effectively is to explain the society that produced the ruins the tourist will see. The illustrations include some color plates of what Athens looked like in Classical times. The other illustrations are equally excellent. The author has published a similar book for ancient Rome entitled Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day (reviewed below). Prof. John Rosser, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

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Author:Rosser, John
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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