The subject matter is engaging enough:an survey of ancient Egyptian, Carthaginian, & Greek expeditions outside of their own lands. This includes early Greek forays to the western Mediterranean and Black Sea; Egyptian & Carthaginian explorations around coastal Africa; ventures into the African interior (limited though they were), Pytheaus the Massilian's journey to Britain and Ultima Thule (Iceland?), etc.Along the way, it touches on a host of related subjects— geography, anthropology, trade, politics, ancient shipbuilding/seamanship, etc.The author tries, where possible, to rely upon ancient texts to recount these expeditions— primary ones where they exist, secondary ones where they do not— and then seeks to use modern knowledge of geography, linguistics, astronomy, climatology and ecology, and other features to see if it is possible to corroboratethese ancient accounts.As such, a lengthy quotation from say, Herodotus, may be followed by data from a publication of modern "Sailing Directions" from the U.S. Hydrographic Office.
So, why did I find this frustrating? Mainly, it was style. The prose is horribly long-winded, self-important, and contorted to my ears. Run-ons abound and even grammatically correct sentences are needlessly wordy.In nearly every paragraph, we get a phrase like,"In the light of such evidence it is impermissible to deny credence to the explicit statement that the Garmantes drove chariots…" that could have instead just been something like:"This evidence supports the claim that the Garmantes drove chariots."Also, rhetorical questions are plentiful, and there are times when the author utilizes the technique of argument-by-assertion, dismissing potential counter-arguments andpropping up his own weaker claims simply by stating that the claims are true (e.g. "We must assume that…" and "There can, of course, be no uncertainty about…" It all just made for a slow read, and one that made me think that the author was sometimes trying to lead me along by his sheer enthusiasm and confidence, rather than evidence.
Also, the book needed more maps.Lots more maps.
In fairness, though it should be noted that this is a 50-year old book, and that it's author was in his 70s when he wrote it— so, it may just be that some of my stylistic criticisms come down to a multi-generational gap in taste.(At times, it does read like a late Victorian novel, rather than a 20th century work of popular history.)Ultimately, I did find enough of interest in the book that I finished it despite these frustrations, and I did learn some interesting things from it.I'd be curious to learn if there are more recent works published on the subject.
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|Title||Beyond the Pillars of Hercules|
|File size||4.8 Mb|
|eBook format||Paperback, (torrent)|
|Book rating||4.37 (6 votes)
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