Eureka!

This very enjoyable book presents its information in short entries for the modern distracted and highly distractible reader. Let's face it, we are not the sort of people who, like the Germans once upon a time, positively pride themselves on reading long and difficult academic books. We are will o' the wisps, chasing after other shiny lights as they flash in the near and far distance.

I do have a few minor criticisms. Despite what looks like an extensive index, it isn’t extensive enough, while the internal cross-referencing ('see p. —') is occasionally overdone (in one case we are asked to refer to the page we’re actually looking at: it’s just an editorial slip: the page we are meant to see is nowhere in the vicinity, as the index confirms). At times, despite the breezy tour-guide treatment, I felt that more precision was warranted. For instance, in the entry entitled 'An Actor's Lot', we're told that 'Playwrights were allowed only three actors (all males)...'. The obvious question is Why? (and By Whom?), but no reason is given or suggested. For another example, the Dardanelles are mentioned several times, but never once does Dr Jones take the opportunity to tell us that the straits used to be called the Hellespont (‘Greek sea’, in essence) from one mass of water (the Aegean) to another (the Black Sea). A strange omission. Given that many readers will have heard of the Hellespont, this can be somewhat confusing. ('Where does the Hellespont we heard about fit in?’). But unless you're an expert on all things ancient Greek, I'd go ahead and buy the book anyway.