Art & Archaeology of the Greek World
Richard T Neer
Thames and Hudson
408pp, about 500 mainly colour illustrations, drawings and maps
Hardback, £45

This large format sumptuously illustrated book is a publication from Thames & Hudson doing what it does, and always did, best. Its author, Richard T Neer, is the Barbara E and Richard J Franke Professor of Humanities, Art History, Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, which means that Classical art is seen across a wide perspective, as well as in its cultural context, and is viewed with one eye on the present day.

This fresh and lively approach gives the subject a relevance and breadth that puts it in a league of its own, this is no stuffy ancient art history book, it is a pleasure to study its pages as Neer guides us through a 2000-year-old chronological sequence –stretching from Crete and the Cycladic Islands in the Bronze Age to the end of the Hellenistic Period.

He also asks how the visual arts impacted on everyday life in the Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean world and, whether they were affected by political thinking and religious belief and practice. The influence of Greece was felt as far away as Anatolia, Afghanistan and India. Greece, in turn, absorbed cultural input from other parts of the ancient world, such as Egypt.

Each chapter begins with a map and chronology – a visual guide to the places, periods and events it will cover – and ends with a summary. Ancient voices speak in boxes scattered throughout the book, as does a commentary that addresses subjects such as collecting, modern restoration and new discoveries.

Now in its second edition, the newly expanded Art & Archaeology of the Greek World offers a wider perspective with more images and archaeological context. For ancient world art-lovers this is a visual feast with some images appearing like old friends, while others surprise, delight and intrigue us like alluring strangers.

Lindsay Fulcher