Twelve Voices from Greece and Rome: Ancient Ideas for Modern Times by Christopher Pelling & Maria Wyke - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

Old Masters

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

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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 up between themselves. Only the last may surprise: Lucian, Greek essayist of the

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