Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens

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9780002555913: Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens

The luxury of the ancient world is legendary, but the Athenian reputation is sober because this wealthy, successful city-state spent all its money on the conspicuous consumption of ephemeral things. Their consuming passions for food, wine and sex drove their society, as well as generating the rich web of privilege, transgression, guilt and taboo for which they are remembered today. Using pamphlets, comic satires, forensic speeches - from authors as illustrious as Plato and as ignored as Philaenis - as source material - this study combines a traditional classicist's rigour with an appreciation of the new analytical techniques pioneered in gender and cultural studies to provide an alternative view of ancient Athenian culture and to bring its reality into a focus easier on the modern eye.

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Review:

‘Davidson is the best thing to happen to ancient history writing for decades’
Andrew Roberts, Mail on Sunday

‘There are pleasures and authors who lie dormant for a century or more until a new kind of vividness, a super-freshness descends on them. James Davidson has that skill.’
Spectator

‘If little boys are still being made to learn dead languages, and expected to enjoy them, I hope their Greek master reads Davidson’s fascinating and witty book, and tells them the best stories from it. This certainly ought to wake them up at the back of the class.’
Sunday Times

From the Back Cover:

The lifestyle of the classical Greeks often seems disappointingly modest. Where are the marbled floors, the pillared halls, the gilded rooms? Even the Athenians, the richest and most powerful of the Greeks, were said by one contemporary to dress no better than slaves.

Athenians, however, were as skilled at spending as their tragedians were at tragedy. Vast estates disappeared overnight, squandered not on material luxury, but on eating, drinking and sex, ephemeral pleasures that left no monuments but are remembered in numerous ancient texts.

Much of what they describe seems familiar – the pleasures of wine, the dangers of seduction, a mouth-watering plate of squid – but some stories are more puzzling: savages on the shores of the Persian Gulf who live off bread made from fish-flour; Alexander the Great drinks a toast that kills him; Socrates interrogates a beautiful woman who lives in luxury with no obvious means of support.

By unravelling these strange anecdotes James Davidson throws new light not only on ancient pleasures but on the Ancient World in general, unearthing surprising insights into Athenian society and the politics of the world's first democracy.

James Davidson lectures in Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He was previously Research Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. 'Courtesans and Fishcakes' is his first book.

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Book Description HarperCollins., New York, 1977. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Fascinating investigation of how ancient Athenians looked at food and women and sex. ". new light not only on ancient pleasures but on the Ancient World in general, unearthing surprising insights into Athenian society and the politics of the world's first democracy." HC. 272p. illus.bibliography.index. Condition : New. Bookseller Inventory # 12724

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Davidson, James
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Book Description HarperCollins., New York, 1977. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Fascinating investigation of how ancient Athenians looked at food and women and sex. ". new light not only on ancient pleasures but on the Ancient World in general, unearthing surprising insights into Athenian society and the politics of the worl d's first democracy." HC. 272p. illus.bibliography.index. Condition : New. Bookseller Inventory # 12725

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