Companion to the major new BBC documentary series CIVILISATIONS, presented by Mary Beard, David Olusoga and Simon SchamaThe idea of 'civilisation' has always been debated, even fought over. At the heart of those debates lies the big question of how people - from prehistory to the present day - have depicted themselves and others, both human and divine. Distinguished historian Mary Beard explores how art has shaped, and been shaped by, the people who created it. How have we looked at these images? Why have they sometimes been so contentious? In Part One, she examines how the human figure was portrayed in some of the earliest art in the world - from the gigantic stone heads carved by the Olmec of Central America to the statues and pottery of the ancient Greeks to the terracotta army of the first emperor of China. And she explains how one particular version of representing the human body, which goes back to the ancient world, still influences (and sometimes distorts) how people in the West see their own culture and that of others. Throughout this story, she is concerned not only with the artists who made images, but with those who have used them, viewed them and interpreted them. In other words: How Do We Look? In Part Two, Mary Beard turns to the relationship between art and religion. For centuries, religion has inspired art: from the Hindu temple at Angkor Wat to the Christian mosaics of Ravenna to the exquisite calligraphy of Islamic mosques. But making the divine visible in the human world has never been simple. All religions have wrestled with idolatry and iconoclasm, destroying art as well as creating it - and asking how to look with The Eye of Faith.
Companion to the BBC series CIVILISATIONS
Praise for Mary Beard: What she says is always powerful and interesting * Guardian * An irrepressible enthusiast with a refreshing disregard for convention * Financial Times * If they'd had Mary Beard on their side back then, the Romans would still have their empire * Daily Mail * [She] implicitly invites us to think about our own world, and about our answers to the question of what makes us human * Sydney Morning Herald * With such a champion as Beard to debunk and popularise, the future of the study of classics is assured * Daily Telegraph * Praise for SPQR: Fast-moving, exciting, psychologically acute, warmly sceptical -- Bryan Appleyard * Sunday Times * Vastly engaging ... a tremendously enjoyable and scholarly read -- Natalie Haynes * Observer * Sustaining the energy that such a topic demands for more than 600 pages, while providing a coherent answer to the question of why Rome expanded so spectacularly, is hugely ambitious. Beard succeeds triumphantly ... full of insights and delights ... SPQR is consistently enlivened by Beard's eye for detail and her excellent sense of humour * Sunday Times * Masterful ... This is exemplary popular history, engaging but never dumbed down, providing both the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life * Economist * Ground-breaking ... invigorating ... revolutionary ... a whole new approach to ancient history -- Thomas Hodgkinson * Spectator *
Mary Beard is a professor of classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the classics editor of the TLS. She has world-wide academic acclaim. Her previous books include the bestselling, Wolfson Prize-winning Pompeii, The Parthenon, Confronting the Classics and SPQR and Women and Power. Her blog has been collected in the books It's a Don's Life and All in a Don's Day. She is in the 2014 top 10 Prospect list of the most influential thinkers in the world.Find her on Twitter @wmarybeard