GREAT CITIES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD by L. Sprague de Camp

GREAT CITIES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

de Camp continues sifting through the detritus of vanished civilizations (The Ancient Engineers, 1963, Ancient Ruins and Archaeology, 1964), addressing his passing speculations on the polity of pre-Christian cities -- Thebes, Jerusalem, Babylon, Syracuse, Athens, Carthage, Rome -- to the casually curious stroller sighting a temple here, the remnant of an aqueduct or once-mighty tower there, in this miscellaneous heap of archaeology and legend. Checking Biblical and classical sources (Homer, Virgil, Plutarch) with the verdicts of contemporary researchers, he spends a lot of time demystifying and debunking: Babylon doesn't deserve its reputation for depravity; the Queen of Sheba for all we know ""may have had the face of a camel and the heart of a pawnbroker""; Carthage was not the colorful metropolis of barbarian splendor Flaubert evoked in Salammbo but an ""egregiously inartistic"" prosaic city of shopkeepers. As prosaic as de Camp himself strewing his random notes on ancient class structure, dress styles, economic life and religious observance with no pretense of any cohesive view on the dynamics of ancient urban centers. A few attempts to draw parallels with modern cities (Rome's welfare program, Constantinople's disarmament policy) are tacked on, and some biographical snippets re the great rulers -- Ramenes II, Solomon, Khammurabi, Hannibal -- who brought their empires to transient glory -- are interspersed in this catchall mix. For the dilettante antiquarian.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1972
Publisher: Doubleday