A spirited, informative classical history from an expert on the subject.



A vivid portrait of ancient Thebes.

In 1880, archaeologists discovered a mass grave, dug by Thebans in 338 B.C.E., containing 254 skeletons laid side by side. The discovery was never published, the grave covered up. Thankfully, a researcher for this book located the chief excavator’s notebook, containing drawings of each skeleton—several reproduced in this volume—that document in meticulous detail the unique features of the burial site. As Bard College classics professor Romm reveals, the skeletons composed “a unique infantry corp” of male lovers, fighting in pairs, known to Greeks as the Sacred Band.” The Age of the Sacred Band spanned four decades, 382 B.C.E. to 335 B.C.E., during which Thebes enjoyed victories against Sparta and Athens, the two cities most prominent in histories of ancient Greece. The author offers a corrective to that view by focusing on democratic Thebes, which had founded Messene, “a city that sheltered Sparta’s escaped slaves”; defeated Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra in 371; and remained undefeated until, in 338, it confronted the ruthless Alexander the Great. Decades of war saw decisive shifts of power: Sparta occupied Thebes and invaded Boetia; Thebes invaded the Peloponnese and nearly captured Sparta. “Athens had aided Thebes when Sparta was winning,” Romm writes, “then allied with weakened Sparta against Thebes.” Romm weaves into a brisk narrative of military strategies, expedient alliances, supernatural interventions, and political rivalries an examination of the idea of the male eros, which Greek texts—including Plutarch’s Parallel Lives and Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus—as well as the existence of the Sacred Band itself, made visible for the first time. Drawing on 19th-century documents, Romm shows how deeply the Sacred Band interested homosexuals such as Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, and John Addington Symonds, who identified himself as “Uranian,” a term derived from Plato. As in ancient Greece, Uranians were heartened to discover the connection of male eros to heroism and valor.

A spirited, informative classical history from an expert on the subject.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9801-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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