A HUMANITARIAN PAST by Adele Anggard

A HUMANITARIAN PAST

Antiquity's Impact on Present Social Conditions
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In her debut anthropological treatise, Änggård describes a more peaceful, egalitarian past for Europe.

Traditionally, the people of Europe and many of its former colonies have viewed themselves as heirs to the civilization of the ancient Greeks. Democratic Athens and her allies, they assert, laid down the philosophical and artistic template from which all Western societies subsequently sprung. Änggård also thinks that Europeans are heirs to the Greeks, but she says that the Greeks had an abusive, authoritarian society whose truly lasting gifts are patriarchy, exploitation, conquest and war. She argues that a better model would have been the Stone Age societies of Old Europe, which saw women as the equals of men and didn’t build walls around their villages. With her background in theatrical costume and set design, Änggård looks to visual clues, such as cave paintings, tombs and stone figurines, as evidence of a less violent time in history. She then analyzes how the civilizations of later antiquity attempted to dispel and write off those earlier societies. The book goes on to explain how the Greek inheritance plagues modern society even today: Sexism and racism still run rampant at the beginning of the third millennium, the author says, and aggressive, violent subjugation is still a viable political tactic. Änggård asks readers to imagine an alternate history that celebrates the ancients’ peaceful tendencies instead of warlike ones. She tracks her ambitious theory across many different cultures and eras, and her interpretation of ancient myths and texts to support her ideas is quite compelling. Her notion is that the foibles of human nature haven’t condemned societies to inequality and violence, and it’s an attractive proposition. That said, her theory is difficult to prove or disprove because so much of her case is based upon inherently subjective criticism of ancient cultural objects. For readers, it will simply come down to whether they’re swayed by her arguments or not. The book’s major achievement may not be that it shows readers how much they know about the past—but rather how much they can’t know.

An alternative, humanistic view of ancient Europe that’s worthy of readers’ consideration.


Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-1496993328
Page count: 310pp
Publisher: AuthorHouseUK
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2015




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