Medusa’s Gaze – The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese

Medusa’s Gaze – The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese, Marina Belozerskaya, OUP, 2013

£2 OFF at Blackwell’s, Oxford

The Tazza Farnese is one of the most admired objects from classical antiquity. A libation bowl carved from banded agate, it features Medusa’s head on its outside and, inside, an assembly of Egyptian gods. For more than two millenia, these radiant figures have mesmerized emperors and artists, popes and thieves, merchants and museum goers.

In this, the first book-length account of this renowned masterpiece, Marina Belozerskaya traces its fascinating journey through history. That it has survived at all is a miracle. The Tazza’s origins date back to Ptolemaic Egypt where it likely enhanched the power and prestige of Cleopatra. After her defeat by Emperor Augustus, the bowl began an amazing itinerary along many flashpoints in world history. It likely travelled from Rome to Constantinople. After that city’s sack by crusaders in 1204, it returned west to inspire the classical revival at the court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II at Palermo. The Tazza next graced Tamerlane’s court at Samarqand, before becoming an obsession of Renaissance popes and princes. It witnessed the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the turbulent aftermath of the French Revolution, and the birth of the Italian state.

Throughout its journey, the Tazza aroused the lust of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Mongol rulers, consoled a heartbroken duchess, inspired artists including Botticelli and Raphael, tempted spies and thieves, and drew the ire of a deranged museum guard who nearly destroyed it. More than a biography of the world’s most cherished bowl, Medusa’s Gaze is a vivid and delightful voyage through history.

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Logical Matters, Essays In Ancient Philosophy II

Logical Matters, Essays In Ancient Philosophy II, Jonathan Barnes, OUP


The second volume of Jonathan Barnes’ papers on ancient philosophy contains twenty-seven pieces under the broad heading of Logic. The volume also includes essays that were originally published in obscure places, and in foreign languages. All of the papers have been retouched, a few of them have been substantially revised, and papers originally published in French have been translated into English.

The first three essays in the volume are of a general nature, being concerned with ancient views on the status of logic and with the distinction between formal and material inferences. The next nine items deal with different aspects of Aristotelian logic: the copula, negation, the categoris, homonymy, and the principal of contradiction. Then come three papers about the connection (or lack of connection) between Aristotelian logic and Stoic logic. Two of the pieces discuss Theophrastus’ theory of ‘hypothetical’ syllogisms. After that, the essays run more or less chronologically: a short notice on the Dialecticians, three essays on aspects of Stoic logic, a pair of papers on ancient theories of meaning, items on adverbs and connectors, on Philoponus and Boethius, and on an anonymous tract written in the autumn of 1007 AD. All in all, there is matter to divert scholars and students of ancient philosophy.


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Class in Archaic Greece

class archaic greece

Class in Archaic Greece, Peter W. Rose, Cambridge University Press


Archaic Greece saw a number of decisive changes, including the emergence of the polis, the foundation of Greek settlements throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea, the organization of pan-Hellenix games and festivals, the rise of tyranny, the invention of literacy, the composition of the Homeric epics and the emegence of lyric poetry, the development of monumental architecture and large-scale sculpture, and the establishment of “democracy”. This book argues that the best way of understanding them is the application of an eclectic Marxist model of class struggle, a struggle not only over control of agricultural land but also over cultural ideals and ideology. A substantial theoretical introduction lays out the underlying assumptions in relation to alternative models. Material and textual remains of the period are examined in depth for clues to their ideological import, while later sources and a wide range of modern scholarship are evaluated for their explanatory power.

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Community & Communication: Oratory & Politics in Republican Rome


Community & Communication: Oratory & Politics in Republican Rome, Edited by Catherine Steel & Henriette van der Blom, OUP, 2012


This book addresses one of the key debates in Roman Republican history: the role of oratory in public life.

With careful attention paid to a wide range of ancient evidence, the nineteen contributions in this volume shift the focus from Cicero and the analysis of his oratory towards the various ways in which speech was used by different politicians, and how factors such as audience, speaker personality, and opposition combined with oratory to make speakers successful or unsuccessful. In so doing, the volume challenges the idea that Cicero was a normative figure and highlights the assortment of career choices and speech strategies open to Roman politicians in the Republican period.

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Hellenica, Volume II – M. L. West


Hellenica, Selected Papers on Greek Literature and Thought: Volume II: Lyric and Drama, M. L. West, OUP, 2012


Martin West is internationally known as one of the outstanding Classical scholars of our time, and one of the most prolific. Hellenica is a three-volume selection of ninety or so of his most notable papers relating to Greek literature and thought. This second volume contains thirty-one items chosen from over four decades of publication. It is devoted to the lyric poets and tragedy; there are papers on Archilochus, Alcman, Sappho, Stesichorus, Simonides, Pindar, Aeschylus, Euripides, and Corinna, among others, and the collection includes a previously unpublished lecture on Zeus in Aeschylus. Connoisseurs of Greek verse composition will relish the appendix containing a college dinner menu transformed into a hilarious parody of the Cassandra scene from the Agamemnon. The first volume is devoted to early epic and the third volume will contain papers on philosophy, music, metre, and other miscellaneous topics. Each volume contains a preface, indexes, and a full list of the authors other writings relating to the areas in question.

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The Praetorian Guard: A History of Rome’s Elite Special Forces

The Praetorian Guard: A History of Rome’s Elite Special Forces, Sandra Bingham, I.B. Tauris, 2012

Special Blackwell’s Price £23.00 (RRP £25)

From the Immortals, the personal bodyguard of the Persian Achaemenid kings; the death-or-glory Companions, Alexander the Great’s glorious cavalry corps; to Napoleon’s Imperial Guards, flower of the French army, select martial cohorts are perennially fascinating. And perhaps no special force commands the romance, the mystique or the enduring appeal of ancient Rome’s throroughbred protection and counter-insurgency squadron: the renowned Praetorian Guard.

This elite military unit existed for over 300 years. Conceived as a personal army for the emperor, the Guard soon took over a wide range of powers in Rome, and thus from the very beginning made a much greater impact on the city’s life than just as an imperial bodyguard. The Praetorians were in fact inseparable from the whole machinery of state, in some cases even making or breaking individual emperors. Sandra Bingham here offers a timely history of the Guard from its foundation by Augustus in 27 BCE to its disbandment by Constantine in CE 312. Topics covered include arms and insignia; the size, recruitment and command structure of the Guard; duration of service; the duties of individual soldiers and officers; and their familes and religion. The author also provides a lively and comprehensive survey of the Praetorians in the sources of antiquity. Augmented by carefully selected illustrations, maps and plans, this book will be vital reading for students and military history enthusiasts alike.

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Medieval Maps of the Holy Land

Medieval Maps of the Holy Land, P.D.A. Harvey, British Library, 2012


Neglected since the 1890s, the eight medieval regional maps of the Holy Land that are known to have existed are interesting, picturesque and mostly colourful. Many of the surviving copies and fragments are reproduced here for the first time, including three large maps that are among medieval Europe’s finest cartographic monuments. Painstaking detective work on the manuscripts reveals much that is new: two maps lurking behind others drawn over them, a map changed into an erotic fantasy by a nineteenth-century forger, the origin of the mysterious grid pattern on some of the maps and much else. This beautifully produced large-format book is an important contribution to our understanding of medieval culture, early mapping and crusading Europe.

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