Book review – ancient history

She-devils on horseback: in search of the fabled Amazons

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Rumour will run wild about a society of warrior women, somehow free from the world of men. We all feel…

Palmyra was one of the ancient world’s great entrepots, trading in myrrh, incense, ivory, pearls and silk

The lovely ruins of Palmyra were destroyed out of spite

27 May 2017 9:00 am

In the welter of Syrian bloodshed, why should we remember the death of a single man? Because he was the…

A piece of the Antikythera Mechanism, on display at the Archaeological Museum, Athens. (Getty Images)

What exactly did the Greek sponge-divers drag in?

13 May 2017 9:00 am

The human urge for personal hygiene has had many improbable side-effects, and I can confidently assert that through the ages,…

Sign for a thermopolium (taverna) in Pompeii, depicting a phoenix, with the inscription ‘Phoenix Felix et Tu’ – ‘the Phoenix is happy (or lucky) – and you!’

The myth and magic of the phoenix

8 April 2017 9:00 am

The most appealing phoenix in literature is surely the eponymous bird from E. Nesbit’s 1904 classic, The Phoenix and the…

An 18th-century engraving of Praetorian guards by Jacques Grasset de Saint Sauveur and L.F. Labrousse

The double-edged sword of the Praetorian Guard

4 March 2017 9:00 am

The history of an army is essentially the history of its deeds. The history of an army within an army…

The ruins of the temple at Karnak by David Roberts

Unlocking the spell of the pharaohs

8 October 2016 9:00 am

Here’s a book to make an Egyptologist of everyone. A compendium of accepted gen on the gift of the Nile,…

The obelisk in the Place de la Concorde. Its transport from Luxor to Paris took seven years and involved the destruction of an entire village

Are Egypt’s obelisks more stunning even than the pyramids?

23 April 2016 9:00 am

On the banks of the River Thames in central London, an ancient Egyptian obelisk, known as Cleopatra’s Needle, reaches towards…

The sacrifice of Iphigenia: Agamemnon’s crime was ‘impious’, according to Lucretius

What did the ancient Greeks believe?

27 February 2016 9:00 am

It is a curious fact that the modern Hebrew for ‘atheist’, Tim Whitmarsh notes in passing, is apikoros. The word…

Statue of Augustus in Orange, southern France

Augustus: here was a Caesar! Or at least his great-nephew

5 September 2015 9:00 am

It’s strange that tourists rarely visit the most famous site in Roman history. The spot in Pompey’s assembly hall where…

Athenian general Xenophon

Financial crises are nothing new in Greece — they go back at least to the Peloponnesian War

11 July 2015 9:00 am

Financial crises are nothing new in Greece. Back in 354 BC, at a time when Frankfurt was still a swamp,…

Latrines dating from the second century at Ostia Antica, outside Rome

How the Romans went about their business

18 April 2015 9:00 am

When Ovid was seeking ‘cures for love’, the most efficient remedy, he wrote, was for a young man to watch…

The dreadful prospect of taking up agriculture in old age

Ancients on oldies: tips on ageing from the Romans are all Greek to Richard Ingrams

14 March 2015 9:00 am

A few months ago I went to a lunch at Univ, my old college in Oxford, to celebrate the 95th…

Roman mosaic from Pompeii depicting Darius III at the Battle of Issus (333 BC), in which he was defeated by Alexander the Great

Darius III: Alexander’s stooge

14 February 2015 9:00 am

The ‘Great Kings’ of Persia were renowned for their good looks and imposing stature, but they will always, throughout history, be eclipsed by the Greeks, says Tom Holland

What made Romans LOL?

7 June 2014 9:00 am

At the beginning of The Art of Poetry, Horace tells a story that, he promises, will make anyone laugh: ‘If…

Wall painting of a female head, Pompeii, 1st century AD

Pompeii’s greatest gifts are not all archeological

12 April 2014 9:00 am

The first visitor to take a break on the Bay of Naples was Hercules. He had just defeated some rebellious…

Management consultancy! Sculpture park! Sports stadium! The many faces of the Delphic Oracle

22 March 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith finds the most sacred site of Ancient Greece still a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

In defence of Herodotus

14 December 2013 9:00 am

How many writers would give their eye teeth to have a book reissued 2,500 years after their death? It certainly…