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Pacesetter

Adrienne Mayor: Carthage, 24 June 2010

Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Mediterranean Civilisation 
by Richard Miles.
Allen Lane, 520 pp., £30, March 2010, 978 0 7139 9793 4
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... Those who discovered Salammbô at an impressionable age, before reading any conventional histories of the Punic Wars, know how difficult it is to shake off Flaubert’s intoxicating vision of the doomed Carthaginian Empire. Brimming with war and lust, vast riches and bizarre rituals, violence and tragedy verging on melodrama, his novel about the North African power that rivalled Rome in the third century BC received mixed reviews, but Salammbô herself – a high priestess of strange Punic rites, the femme fatale of Carthage – inspired operas by Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky, appeared in voluptuous Art Nouveau and Symbolist paintings, and even influenced Parisian fashions ...

Megafauna

Adrienne Mayor: Aristotle and Science, 2 July 2015

The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science 
by Armand Marie Leroi.
Bloomsbury, 501 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4088 3620 0
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... Thinkers​ who pondered the mysteries of nature used to be known as ‘natural philosophers’. For centuries there wasn’t a separate term for those few individuals who practised science (scientia, ‘knowledge’) in the sense of devising experiments and testable explanations and predictions in order to understand experienced reality. In 1833 William Whewell, a professor of mineralogy, created the term ‘scientist’ – by analogy with ‘artist’ – at a meeting of the new British Association for the Advancement of Science, to identify empirical thinkers who used all their senses and actually got their hands dirty in an effort to comprehend nature ...

They might be giants

Richard Fortey: Classical palaeontology, 2 November 2000

The First Fossil Hunters: Palaeontology in Greek and Roman Times 
by Adrienne Mayor.
Princeton, 361 pp., £22, May 2000, 0 691 05863 6
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... out such relics, and to revere them, as concrete proof of past events of a strange magnificence. Adrienne Mayor has trawled through the work of a dozen classical writers for evidence of fossil-hunting in antiquity, not for the most part the great and the famous authors, who seem rather to have despised the stories put about by fishermen of dredging up ...

Hot Flanks and Her Sisters

James Romm: Amazons, 22 October 2015

The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World 
by Adrienne Mayor.
Princeton, 512 pp., £19.95, October 2014, 978 0 691 14720 8
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... a zoster from Queen Hippolyta – a piece of armour ‘something like a massive concho belt’, Adrienne Mayor writes, and nothing like a ‘girdle’, though that’s how it’s often translated. Whether Heracles rapes Hippolyta, as the forcible removal of a belt might imply, is unclear. But his companion on the mission, the Athenian king ...

Butcher Boy

Michael Kulikowski: Mithridates, 22 April 2010

The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithridates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy 
by Adrienne Mayor.
Princeton, 448 pp., £20.95, November 2009, 978 0 691 12683 8
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... had been in life. Only Hannibal occupied the same place in the Roman pantheon of heroic enemies. Adrienne Mayor’s book is very good on the mythic accretions to the historical figure of Mithridates, and on the way that an ancient monarch might actively seek to live out mythologising narratives in order to remind friend and enemy alike of his ...

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