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Robin Lane Fox is a university reader in ancient history and an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford. The author of The Classical World and Alexander the Great, Fox lives in Oxford, England.
Image credit: Robin James Lane Fox at Financial Times 125th Anniversary Party, London, in June 2013

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Associated Works

The Oxford History of Greece & the Hellenistic World (1986) — Avustaja, eräät painokset675 kappaletta
The Illustrated Garden Book (1986) — Toimittaja, eräät painokset256 kappaletta
Rulers of the Ancient World (1995) 47 kappaletta
The Faber Book of Gardens (2007) — Avustaja — 45 kappaletta
Literacy and Power in the Ancient World (1994) — Avustaja — 37 kappaletta

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Pagans and Christians, Ancient History (marraskuu 2012)
sibyx and ronincats tackle Pagans and Christians, 75 Books Challenge for 2011 (tammikuu 2012)


This book is written in an engaging style and covers the key aspects of these great civilisations in a single volume, bravo! The author focuses his analysis on the historical developments with 3 themes: freedom, luxury & justice. Very insightful on how approaches and attitudes to these cultural aspects change over time especially in Greek democracy, Roman Republic and then Empire. Anyone looking to see the forest rather than the tress this is a worthwhile resource to enjoy.
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Daniel_M_Oz | 28 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Apr 4, 2024 |
Not as high audio or lecture quality as courses from The Teaching Company, sadly. Listening was challenging in the car, which made it difficult to follow the narrative.
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ryner | 2 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 28, 2024 |
I was first introduced to Oxford historian Robin Lane Fox when I read his book, Pagans and Christians. In addition to authoring many scholarly works, Lane Fox has written on a variety of topics for the general public. What I enjoy most about his writing style is that he occasionally breaks the fourth wall and writes directly to you, the reader. He shares his intentions so that you can follow his train of thought throughout the work. This puts the reader on the lookout and because you understand what he is trying to achieve, you have the luxury of deciding if you agree with his approach while you read rather than react to it after the fact.

I’ve read other reviews of Lane Fox’s book and several of them refer to his dry style and the sloggish nature of the book. I wholeheartedly disagree. I found The Oxford History of the Biblical World to be more dry because of its more formal style. No breaking of the fourth wall there. Lane Fox not only speaks directly to his dear reader, he throws in little bits of dry English humor that bring you up from the slog to laugh a bit. My favorite is this: “There were ancient prophesies of a future king, the ‘stem of Jesse’, chosen by the Lord: many of the most explicit texts about him had been invented under foreign domination during the years of exile in Babylon. Ideas of this future super-star had multiplied freely…”

In writing The Unauthorized Version, Lane Fox, an atheist, set out to explain for himself and others what he meant when he once told a friend, “I believe in the Bible but not in God.” He starts by considering a question. “In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells Pilate, ‘To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hearest my voice.’ ‘What is truth?’ asks Pilate and does not receive a reply.” (pp 13)

Lane Fox then explains what he intends to achieve with his book: “I intend to take Pilate’s question and turn it back on the Bible itself. First, I will explore the view that the Bible’s very nature and origin give it a coherence which answers Pilate’s question. Then I will explore its narrative to see if there is a level at which it corresponds to fact.” (pp 14)

I won’t give away Lane Fox’s plot. You’ll have to read the book if you want to learn what he concludes. I will say, however, that there’s a fascinating plot twist in his final conclusion that is moving whether you’re a believer or not.
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Mortybanks | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 15, 2024 |
Faced with a jumble of bewildering ruins, modern visitors to Hisarlik in northwest Turkey, the site of ancient Troy, may find themselves perplexed and sometimes disappointed. The wide bay where the Greeks so famously beached 1,000 ships is gone, buried in silt from a local river, while beyond the fine sloping walls, a palimpsest of settlements spanning 4,000 years lies scarred and disfigured by the deep trench gouged by Heinrich Schliemann, its first archaeologist, during two decades of digging in the 19th century. Schliemann had been drawn to Hisarlik, and also to mainland Greece, by his passion for the Homeric poems, the Iliad and Odyssey, and his conviction that they described or reflected real societies and events, not least the decade-long Trojan War. So enthusiastic was he that when (in controversial circumstances) he ‘found’ a cache of jewellery at Troy, he proclaimed it had belonged to Helen. At Mycenae, excavating a royal grave, he lifted a gold mask and, swearing that the features beneath it had survived for an instant before crumbling to dust, informed the king of Greece by telegram: ‘I have gazed on the face of Agamemnon.’ In fact, both artefacts were earlier than the presumed date of the Trojan War: the mask by some centuries; the jewels by more than a millennium. In a sense, however, this did not matter. Schliemann had achieved what he set out to do. He had discovered key Homeric sites and shown that the poems were grounded in reality.

But what of those poems themselves, specifically the Iliad, which takes its title from Troy’s alternative name, Ilion (itself derived from the Hittite Wilusa)? Since antiquity, scholars have debated but never agreed on how it came to be written. Multi-layered Hisarlik might well serve as a metaphor for their often-contorted arguments. Most accept that the Iliad has its roots in oral poetry performed at gatherings held in the Greek ‘Dark Ages’ and perhaps earlier; some suggest that it is an amalgam, a ‘stitching together’ of shorter works made over many years; others that it is a ‘snowball’ with a core of original material expanded over generations by different hands. While classical authors believed that it was the product of one man, sometimes imagined as a blind poet from Samos, few in modern times have felt compelled to try to track down who that man might have been. Enter Robin Lane Fox. Having used topographic and literary detective work to ‘find’ Hippocrates on the island of Thasos (in his recent and brilliant book, The Invention of Medicine), he now uses his sleuthing skills to try to discover Homer, the man who he believes authored most of the Iliad.

‘Authored’, not ‘wrote’. Homer was, Lane Fox maintains, an oral poet, taught by great masters, part of a long tradition which may have stretched back to the Bronze Age. But whereas previous reciters were content to link together existing free-standing episodes to form a linear narrative, the Iliad is different, its details interlinked throughout the text, which ‘only make sense in the light of the whole’. It is partly this structure which reveals the genius of a single author who dictated his rehearsed, perfected composition to scribes versed in the newly honed Greek alphabet (which may even have been invented for this purpose). Already well known, his oral Iliad (Lane Fox’s ‘preferred guess’ is that Homer ‘first performed a version for troops who were out at war’) was the product of autopsy and experience. Based on the west coast of Asia Minor, somewhere between Ephesus and Miletus, he travelled south to Lycia and north to Troy to garner detail. But according to Lane Fox he was not simply a poet. He may have been a charioteer – ‘I like to believe he drove a racing team himself’ – a hunter, even a ‘putative gardener’. In fact, as he sharpens into focus, this Homer increasingly becomes a mirror image of Lane Fox, himself a great horseman, who once declared: ‘On my deathbed I will think of Homer, then gardens, the great women I know, and lastly my best days fox hunting. And then I’ll die.’

Read the rest of the review at HistoryToday.com.

David Stuttard is the author of Phoenix: A Father, a Son and the Rise of Athens (Harvard University Press, 2021).
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HistoryToday | Aug 24, 2023 |



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