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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:44 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Mary Beard, SPQR, A History of Ancient Rome.

It’s a book https://www.amazon.com/SPQR-History-Anc ... 1631492225

And a TV series (some of it on Youtube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYjnRAFFy4g and http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0797yqk and https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Beard-Col ... B01JZMZ1ZC

Reviews of the well written and accessible book are universally positive: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/book ... -more.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/ar ... ss/413143/
http://time.com/4105915/mary-beard-spqr-ancient-rome/

Reviews of the TV series/DVD are universally positive: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/04/2 ... h-beard-w/
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radi ... er-hi-tops

Its an example of everything Egyptology is not – with the possible exception of Rohmer and a small number of others. Beard presents not buildings, temples and mummies but describes how the political, social, legal, cultural and economic systems worked – both for the rich and for the average.

Its presented in an interesting and compelling way which answers modern questions like the role of women and how foreigners were integrated. On the second issue her anti-Brexit position is clear.

Just to show how non-Egyptology she is her approach is skeptical of dogma and certainty. She would never get a job in Egypt which is a good result for a Professor at Cambridge. In any event as an educated, ambitious, liberal and opinionated woman life in Egypt would be far from good – and probably worse.

In the book and the series Egypt hardly rates a mention because the Romans saw it, with the exception of Alexandria, as a backwater for food production. Alas the food production has declined but everything else is the same.

The book is well written in an accessible style and the TV series compelling and entertaining. From time to time she is droll, ironical or bawdy.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 7:46 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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People quibble about her appearance, like that matters. She is, and always has been, top quality in archaeology TV. Her shows are highly intelligent, detailed and entertaining, without fancy camera tricks, loud dramatic music, constant repetitions and announcements of "Next,..." to fill the time, as found in American history docos.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:46 pm  |  Posted from: United Kingdom
  

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I couldn't agree more Isis. John Romer made me interested in Egypt, and I think Mary Beard is just wonderful - I could listen to them both all day everyday and not be bored.

I had difficulty in not being drawn into Egyptology, but was quite determined as I was middle aged at the time and had a time consuming job. As I get easily addicted to things and I could see what it did to the lives of others who were obsessed almost with the subject, I took a advice from a relative who said " Old dead civilisation how are you either going to change it or introduce new information to the world" I couldn't see me just going down a well trodden path, so I enjoy Ancient Egypt at arms length. :up

Long live John Romer and Mary Beard say I! :lol:

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:59 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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I have her DVD "Ultimate Rome....Empire without Limit" and enjoy replaying it from time to time.

Unlike many Roman histories, it spends little time on the well-trodden Julio-Claudian period (maybe the book SPQR does - I haven't read it *) but instead gives an excellent insight to the foundation of the empire, how it flourished and dominated much of the known world and it's ultimate demise

Mary Beard is very watchable.

I'd love to see her take on ancient Egypt....but alas it's not her field (although I believe her son is an expert on Egyptian literature).

* Correction...I have it on my Kindle, Oooops.....senility beckons :(


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:11 am  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Newcastle - I'd love to see her promoted as the World's Greatest Egyptologist. At least she could read and write (without a paid assistant), stay out of the camera, use logic, not talk about her 'achievements', not do shopping center promotions of her books, not steal money, use irony, reject dogmatism, not promote herself and a hundred other things.

My guess is that she would have something to say about 'current circumstances' - given she has a brain and a conscience - and that could lead to jail.

Whether she could avoid an assassination/deliberate food poisoning by one of her vain and unhinged 'competitors' might be a question.

My guess/hope is that if she did it (very, very unlikely) she could turn 1,000 tombs and 40 museums into a single interesting, integrated narrative including broad themes and trends. Something the current generation of detail-minded idiots with microscopic minds have failed to do.

As an aside. Do any Egyptian TV stations make any history/Egyptology docos for local consumption/education? If not why not? If they do, do they include a spread of experts or just locals and does anyone watch them? Are any docos on any period of Egypt made?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 1:52 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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Mary Beard would have a problem giving Ancient Egypt (the BCE period) the SPQR treatment for the simple reason that not much happened to Egyptian society during that period!

Unlike Rome where, in a thousand years from its (probably mythical) origins as a group of down-and-outs who had to pillage surrounding towns for wives, it went through various kings (again, possibly mythical), through the Republic of Brutus, Pompey, Caesar, Cicero & Co, the dictatorial rule of Augustus and successive emperors to end up in 212AD as the hub of a vast empire of many nationalities, all free members of which were granted Roman citizenship.

In two and a half thousand years of Egyptian pre BCE history, one pharaoh followed another, monotonously (except for a very brief blip) worshiping the same deities, having the same hierarchy, maintaining, with little discernible change, the same science. art and culture....all within boundaries that didn't expand or shrink. A civilisation ruled by the timeless ebb and flow of the Nile.

Dr Who entering his Tardis as Khufu was building his pyramid, and leaving it 2,500 years later as Cleopatra lay dying with an asp clasped to her bosom, would be hard pushed to notice he'd gone far into the future at all!

Compounding Mary's problem would be the dearth of written material describing events at the top, or at the bottom of society. No letters from Cicero. No histories from Pliny or Suetonius. Some ramblings from Herodotus written two millennia after the event....as reliable as the myth of Romulus and Remus or Virgil's Aeneid. Maybe she could make something of the ostraca from Deir el Medina...but it would need a lot of "imaginative filling".

Regarding current Egyptian TV interest in Ancient Egypt the answer is "no". There's little to no interest in modern egyptology. You can't say there's that much in the West. Most of it's very repetitive......or fairly ludicrous costume dramas when they try to reconstruct the pharaonic era. Think "Cleopatra" or the "Mummy " films.

In Egypt itself there's not even this dross. Thankfully perhaps. Post islamic history gets a look in with early islamic conquests, the crusades etc....but nothing pharaonic.

Whilst in the UK, there are countless documentaries on the Plantagenets, Tudors, Victorians etc...and a huge amount of fictional, historically-based drama to go with it..... there's nothing equivalent on Egyptian TV or cinema until you reach King Farouk.

A shame, as my Egyptian friends tell me. They learn a little of the pharaonic period at school but it doesn't translate into much except a desire to dig in the desert for buried gold! However, they do carry away with them impressions of past greatness.

That must be quite depressing when they look around Egypt today.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 4:02 pm  |  Posted from: Australia
  

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Newcastle - Thanks - you make good, reasoned points but don't draw any conclusions - possibly because they are harsh/sad.

Maybe the unasked/unanswered question of Egyptology is why so little changed over 2,000 years. A time when there were external invasions of foreign cultures and a period when Egypt controlled foreign countries in the Sudan, Libya and the Middle East. Why was there so little change when there was contact with different people?

The Private Eye in me says that there is an Egyptian monomaniacal DNA problem - but its got to be more complex. For example both the Greeks and Romans absorbed the culture of the places they controlled and brought those values home.

That modern Egyptians know little or nothing of their history - including the history of 70 years ago does not surprise me. If you are a third rate dictatorship you do not want your people to know about capable and honest first rate people - let alone about the disasters of the past. If such histories or biographies existed (they don't in Egypt) the locals might start to judge the current rulers by objective standards.Who would want that.

My 'major' point is the same - if Mary 'did' Egypt would she be killed or imprisoned - or both.

Maybe the TV Egypt is 'better' left to corrupt bull... As if I believe in that - although now silent members of this forum were previous gushing and frequent advocates of him. I await their defense of their previous position. An admission of poor judgement would suffice.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:36 pm  |  Posted from: Egypt
  

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My description of pharaonic Egypt as an unchanging 2,500 year civilisation is, of course, a bit of a simplification and could be challenged on the micro, if not the macro, level.

For example, burials, at least for the elite, went from mastabas to pyramids, to rock cut tombs....and back and forth at some times.

The written language changed in form.

The popularity of the gods and their composition varied over time, for example with the supreme deity moving from Ra to Amun during the New Kingdom. The relationship between the pharaoh and priesthood also altered back & forth at times.

Egypt was influenced by its contact with its neighbours - absorbing new techniques (e.g. horses from the Hyksos) and gods from Mesopotamia.

But the overriding picture is one of continuity....for two main reasons I think :

a) Geographically, Egypt is isolated by deserts and sea, making large scale movements pf people (and conquering armies) problematic.

b) Stability inherent in the hereditary rule of a god-king over a people who took religion and their relationship with the gods seriously. On the occasions when Egypt was conquered by Libyans, Nubians, Greeks & Romans, the new rulers slotted into the Egyptian role of pharaoh. Egypt was never subsumed by its conquerors.

Furthermore, Egypt doesn't seem to have suffered any large scale collapse. It weathered and recovered from the droughts, plagues, invasions and internecine struggles which occurred from time to time.

Perhaps Mary could, after all, make something of it.

Maybe she'd point to the benefits - stability and continuity - conferred on a country by having a ruler with direct links to God. All powerful. Infallible. Whose word is law and beyond contradiction. That observation might go down well and save her from undue local criticism - or worse ;)


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