Allan Massie

Old Masters

Twelve Voices from Greece and Rome: Ancient Ideas for Modern Times


Oxford University Press 274pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

In their preface to Twelve Voices from Greece and Rome, Christopher Pelling and Maria Wyke say that they were encouraged by participants in a Radio 3 series ‘to produce this book in which we explore the modern relevance of twelve Greek and Roman authors’. Whatever encouragement they received, this is not a promising opening. One feels about relevance rather as Kingsley Amis felt about ‘importance’. When someone dismissed the novelist Elizabeth Taylor as ‘not an important writer’, he said, ‘Importance isn’t important. Good writing is.’

Happily, Pelling and Wyke forget about it most of the time. Their twelve authors – or ‘voices’ – are Homer, Sappho, Herodotus, Thucydides, Euripides, Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Tacitus, Juvenal and Lucian, whom Pelling and Wyke divide

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter