Brisk and illuminating, with much surprising information.


A swift overview of the history, design and functions of one of the world’s most recognizable buildings.

Although Hopkins (Ancient History/Univ. of Cambridge) did not live to see the publication of this work (he died in March 2004), his collaboration with Beard (Classics/Univ. of Cambridge) is a happy one. Part of Harvard University Press’ “Wonders of the World” series, this volume does well what all such summary works should do: tell a compelling story, correct historical errors and common misconceptions, animate readers to pursue the subject further. The authors begin with some comments from a Victorian guidebook, then whisk us through some well-known literary works that involve the Colosseum (The Marble Faun, The Innocents Abroad). They also refer occasionally to popular culture—Ridley Scott’s film Gladiator (2000), Paul McCartney’s 2003 concert in the ruin—and they endeavor, always, to keep in mind that most readers are not classical scholars. We learn that colosseum is a medieval term (the Romans called it the “Amphitheatre” or the “Hunting Theatre”); that Nero neither sat nor fiddled there (it was erected after his death); and that there is no contemporaneous evidence that Christians ever fed lions there (these accounts were written some centuries later). The authors explore what is known about gladiatorial combat, pointing out that there is more to these deadly contests than Hollywood would have us believe. It’s not definite, for instance, which way the Romans turned their thumbs to signal life or death. The authors attempt to explain the overall design of the building (above and below ground), but their efforts are hampered not only by the great ongoing debate about that very complex question but also by an insufficient number of supporting illustrations. A final chapter offers practical information for tourists.

Brisk and illuminating, with much surprising information.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-674-01895-8

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?