Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy

Bettany Hughes

Bettany Hughes

For 3,000 years, the woman known as Helen of Troy has been both the ideal symbol of beauty and a reminder of the terrible power beauty can wield.In her search for the identity behind this mythic figure, acclaimed historian Bettany Hughes uses Homer's account of Helen's life to frame her own investigation. Tracing the cultural impact that Helen has had on both the ancient world and Western civilization, Hughes explores Helen's role and representations in literature and in art throughout the ages. This is a masterly work of historical inquiry about one of the world's most famous women.From the Trade Paperback edition.
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The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life

The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life

Bettany Hughes

Bettany Hughes

From the celebrated British author and historian: a dazzling new book in which she combines historical inquiry and storytelling élan to give us a brilliantly vivid portrait of Socrates and of the Golden Age of Athens.Socrates' life spanned "seventy of the busiest, most wonderful and tragic years in Athenian history," and Bettany Hughes re-creates this fifth-century B.C. city, drawing on the latest sources--archaeological, topographical, and textual--to illuminate the streets where Socrates walked, to place him there, to show us his life as he lived and experienced it. She takes us through the teeming Agora where Socrates often spoke, and where he was condemned to death. We visit the red-light district, the gymnasia, the shrines he frequented, and the battlefields where he fought. We meet the men, and the few women, who were central to his life. And we come to see the profound influences of time and place in the evolution of his eternally provocative... From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. The brilliant cultural historian Hughes (Helen of Troy) has again produced an intriguing and entertaining biohistory of one of the most important individuals in the ancient world, and of the Athenian society that condemned him to death for daring to question all received wisdom. Drawing on the abundance of contemporary references by both supporters and opponents to the philosopher, Hughes illustrates that "bsolutely of his time, he is also of ours," "the first ironic man" in an unironic age, a gadfly to Athens' citizens and leaders. Moreover, through careful description of fifth century B.C.E. Athens, she brings to life the social, political, economic, literary, and military realities of Socrates' society, in particular the centrality of the agora. Hughes devotes a substantial part of her account to the trial and forced suicide of the great philosopher, events which communicated Socratic humor mixed with courage. Regrettably, she offers little in the way of criticism of modern authors such as I.F. Stone who have clouded Socrates's reputation by championing the populist and "democratic" tyrants. But she aptly conveys the continuing urgency of Socrates' devotion to the inquiring mind. 16 pages of color illus.; 33 b&w illus.; 5 maps. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. FromThere are certain historical figures whose lives merit perpetual reexamination because their impact continues to reverberate century after century. According to historian Hughes, author of Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore (2005), Socrates is one of these seminal social and cultural architects. Beginning at the end of Socrates’ long life, she reaches back in time, analyzing the historical context responsible, in part, for spawning such an exceedingly influential thinker. If, as she purports, “we think the way we do because Socrates thought the way he did,” it is important for us to understand why and how he posited the relentless questions about what it means to be human that drew attention to his famous philosophical method of inquiry and debate. This, then, is not only a lively and eminently readable biography of Socrates the man but also a vivid evocation of Athens, the city-state on the cusp of originating many of the greatest precepts of modern Western civilization. --Margaret Flanagan
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