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Take it Home: The Best Books on Ancient Greece

Inspired by our exhibition Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, our Book Buyer gives us her insider picks

A must-see for fans of ancient Greek history, art, and mythology, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World chronicles the three centuries between Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C. and the establishment of the Roman Empire in the first century B.C., known as the Hellenistic period. Bringing together over 250 artworks from the period—marble, bronze, and terracotta sculpture, gold jewelry, glass vessels, and engraved gems—the exhibition is a testament to the legacy and influence of artists from the period.

This rich expanse of history has served as a point of inspiration and debate for scholars and writers for centuries. Always popular with our visitors, the stunning catalogue was created by the exhibition’s curators, Carlos A. Picón and Seán Hemingway. The illustrated volume examines the rich diversity of art forms that arose through the patronage of the royal courts of the Hellenistic kingdoms, placing special emphasis on Pergamon. You can shop the catalogue by clicking here.

We spoke with our Book Buyer, Lauren Gallagher, to get her expert picks on the best books to take home from the show. For each exhibition, Lauren is tasked with sourcing books on the subject at hand, often sifting through hundreds of titles to bring us only the very best. Asked about her process, she said, “Books for Pergamon, as well as for any of our exhibitions, are selected by reading through the available material provided by the Museum or curators, including the full art object list; reviewing recent, available trade publications on the topic; and keeping in mind our incredibly broad customer base. Our audience is global and varied, and our shows attract everyone from academics, scholars, and educators to laymen, art and history buffs, and children.”

Find below a few of her favorite picks, and shop them online and at our Pergamon exhibition store.

Serial/Portable Classic: Multiplying Art in Greece and Rome

u-serial classic

Edited by Salvatore Settis, Anna Anguissola, and Davide Gasparotto, with associate editors Chiara Costa, Lucia Franchi Viceré, and Mario Mainetti

“Serial/Portable Classic is a beautifully designed, deeply informative book about the Roman fascination with replicating and emulating Greek art. An exhibition catalogue from a 2015 show at Fondazione Prada in Milan, this book gathers an array of recent scholarship from leading experts in the field, and has some fantastic surprises, such as the essay by Maurizio Ferraris in which he weaves Duchamp, Warhol, Ravenna mosaics, and cave paintings into a meditation on serialism across the millennia. The crisp modern design allows for a pick-up-and-put-down quality. One can read an essay every once in a while and not feel overwhelmed by a tome.”

The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man’s Wealth Shaped the World

treasures of alexander the great1

By Frank L. Holt

“Alexander looms large in Pergamon, and this is one of the latest books about him. Authored by Alexander scholar Frank L. Holt, Treasures dives deep into the conqueror’s finances and reveals another perspective with which to look at this historical figure. Holt’s take reveals a pirate-like titan who is frequently reckless with money and loot, an erratic spender in a position of power.”

The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book

the odyssey pop up book1

By Sam Ita

“This pop-up book by Sam Ita is a real showstopper. A great way to introduce children to Homer’s great adventure story, the book tells Odysseus’ story via a graphic novel framework, featuring key players such as the Cyclops, Circe, Charybdis, Zeus, Athena and Zeus, and includes exemplary 3D paper engineering of a Trojan Horse, the Sirens, and more.”

The Greek and Roman Myths: A Guide to the Classical Stories

greek and roman myths

By Philip Matyszak

“Mythology continues to fascinate us even in the 21st century, and the legends of gods and goddesses, and their interactions with mortals, has had an enduring appeal. Much like a basic understanding of the Bible, one’s knowledge of the ancient myths can enormously inform and color one’s comprehension of all forms of art and literature. This lovely, compact, beautifully produced, and accessible anthology is a small, bedside-table read that can serve equally well as a home reference, a page-turning storybook, or a lovely gift.”

The Iliad

the iliad1

Retold by Gillian Cross, Illustrated by Neil Packer

“Homer’s The Iliad tends to get short shrift compared to The Odyssey, but Gillian Cross’s retelling, combined with Neil Packer’s rousing illustrations, will hopefully make some converts among young readers. Geared toward advanced middle-grade readers and pre-teens, this edition captures the excitement and terror of Homer’s original story, which ultimately shows that war is catastrophic for both sides and is only ever “won” in the most technical sense. The exchange between Hector and his wife Andromache remains one of the most powerful examples of pathos in literature across all time.”

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