First of the widely celebrated and sumptuously illustrated series, this book reveals in intimate detail what life was really like in the ancient world. Behind the vast panorama of the pagan Roman empire, the reader discovers the intimate daily lives of citizens and slaves—from concepts of manhood and sexuality to marriage and the family, the roles of women, chastity and contraception, techniques of childbirth, homosexuality, religion, the meaning of virtue, and the separation of private and public spaces.
The emergence of Christianity in the West and the triumph of Christian morality with its emphasis on abstinence, celibacy, and austerity is startlingly contrasted with the profane and undisciplined private life of the Byzantine Empire. Using illuminating motifs, the authors weave a rich, colorful fabric ornamented with the results of new research and the broad interpretations that only masters of the subject can provide.
Private life has always been a matter of public conjecture. This admirable book brings it intelligently into the web of social history and is a model for historians and readers alike. Beautifully produced, it adds apt and rare illustrations to a text by experts who presuppose human curiosity, but no undue knowledge. Its range and level of argument will intrigue anyone who has wondered about past attitudes to such matters as sex and the family, households, social inferiors, dress and even undress.
This first volume is one of the most arresting, original, and rewarding historical surveys to be published in many years, and its value is enhanced by the hundreds of illustrations, which present almost every conceivable detail of private life as it was lived in the centuries.
A stimulating—indeed a provocative—and beautiful book on a difficult subject… It’s a treasure.
The five essays collected here…treat readers to a vast array of anecdotes and conjectures about the private life of our forebears.
A book which makes the reader think, teasing and encouraging with spicy details, long views, a capacity for the unexpected insight. Now for something completely different.
This is a long, demanding and very rewarding book. If the remaining four volumes are of this quality, the series will indeed, as the editors claim, be ‘a milestone in historical research.’
This absorbingly illustrated series is intent on presenting the past with both physical immediacy and with as little academic fuss as possible. The illustrations in the first volume have a subjective penetration of the text that is like an inner musical accompaniment. This volume does not pretend to roll out a complete rug of civilization… Few readers, even of I, Claudius, will have experienced pagan Rome with quite the freshness evident here… History-to-touch.
The new emphasis on the history of everybody has now been consecrated in [this] ambitious five-volume series… Copious illustrative materials—paintings, drawings, caricatures, and photographs, all cannily chosen and wittily captioned to display domestic life… Magnificent.
Together these five compact volumes cover much of the history of the classical world, and do so with both ease and authority.
- 688 pages
- 7 x 9 inches
- Belknap Press
- Series edited by Phillippe Ariès and Georges Duby
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