Free Download PDF Naked Statues, Fat Gladiators, and War Elephants: Frequently Asked Questions about the Ancient Greeks and Romans


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Why didn't the ancient Greeks or Romans wear pants? How did they shave? How likely were they to drink fine wine, use birth control, or survive surgery?

In a series of short and humorous essays, Naked Statues, Fat Gladiators, and War Elephants explores some of the questions about the Greeks and Romans that ancient historian Garrett Ryan has answered in the classroom and online. Unlike most books on the classical world, the focus is not on famous figures or events, but on the fascinating details of daily life.

Learn the answers to:

How tall were the ancient Greeks and Romans?

How long did they live?

What kind of pets did they have?

How dangerous were their cities?

Did they believe their myths?

Did they believe in ghosts, monsters, and/or aliens?

Did they jog or lift weights?

How did they capture animals for the Colosseum?

Were there secret police, spies, or assassins?

What happened to the city of Rome after the Empire collapsed?

Can any families trace their ancestry back to the Greeks or Romans?


From the Publisher

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Everything starts with a question.

A few years ago, when I was teaching at the University of Michigan, I brought one of my classes to the Detroit Institute of Arts. As we were finishing our tour of the Ancient Greek and Roman Galleries, a student approached me. Leaning forward conspiratorially, he murmured: “Dr. Ryan—I have to ask—why are so many Greek statues naked?”

This book answers that question and dozens more. If you’ve ever wondered when the Romans started wearing pants, whether the Greeks believed their myths, what the ancient world’s best-paying jobs were, or how lions were captured for the Colosseum, you’ve come to the right place. Mysteries and magic, gladiators and assassins, fine wine and war elephants: this book has ’em all.

From Romans’ daily life and leisure to sports and war, this book has all the answers!

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How Were Fortified Cities Captured?

Although the goals of a siege remained the same from the beginning to the end of classical history, the techniques evolved constantly—as, of course, did the fortifications they were meant to circumvent… The most common siege engine was the ballista, a torsion device powered by twisted bundles of dried animal sinew…. Bolt-throwing ballistas were rated by the length of the missiles they hurled, which ranged from foot-long darts to twelve-foot javelins. Stone-throwing varieties, likewise, were classified by the weight of the ball they were designed to cast.

Did They Believe in Ghosts, Monsters, and/or Aliens?

The spirits of the departed were not thought to be completely severed from the land of the living… The Greeks believed that some souls possessed the power to bless or blight whole communities and had to be placated with special sacrifices. The Romans focused more on gaining the favor of the departed, leaving them offerings in household shrines and praying for their blessings during personal and national crises.

How Did They Exercise?

The ideal was a lean and toned physique—and to that end, many worked out with halteres. Originally designed to help athletes add distance in the running long jump, halteres—oblong pieces of stone or lead—were also used as dumbbells. Dumbbell exercises (“halter throwing”) were developed for every muscle group. Since halteres seldom weighed more than ten pounds, they were used primarily to improve flexibility, stamina, and general fitness.

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What Kinds of Pets Did They Have?

Indian parrots were especially prized and often trained to greet guests and perform other tricks. A Greek historian lived for twenty years with a parrot that could sing, dance, and address his visitors by name. Other parrots were taught to hail Caesar and, inevitably, to curse. It seems to have been a party trick to get the house parrot drunk and make it repeat dirty words. This, however, was a risky business; once a parrot starts swearing—one author laments—it never stops.

Publisher‏:‎Prometheus (September 1, 2021)
Language‏:‎English
Paperback‏:‎288 pages
ISBN-10‏:‎1633887022
ISBN-13‏:‎978-1633887022
Item Weight‏:‎13.3 ounces
Dimensions‏:‎5.58 x 0.84 x 8.55 inches
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