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Birds in the Ancient World Reviews

Birds in the Ancient World by Jeremy Mynott

Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words

Jeremy Mynott

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 7 Jun 2018
ISBN: 9780198713654

Birds played an important role in the ancient world: as indicators of time, weather, and seasons; as a resource for hunting, medicine, and farming; as pets and entertainment; as omens and messengers of the gods. Jeremy Mynott explores the similarities and surprising differences between ancient perceptions of the natural world and our own.

1 Prize for Birds in the Ancient World

The Wolfson History Prize
2019 Shortlist

Wolfson History Prize judges: "Charming, quirky, and lavishly detailed, this beautifully illustrated book helps us to understand ancient cultures from the unfamiliar angle of the ornithologist."

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
20 Jun 2018

"a glorious array of references, vivid images and his own astute philosophical commentary"

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is full of transformations: the raven was changed from white to black because of its love of gossip, and Ascalaphus was punished for spying on Persephone by being turned into “a slothful owl, a dire omen for mortal men”... with a glorious array of references, vivid images and his own astute philosophical commentary, Mynott deftly brings all this into sharp focus: are all these ancient associations, uses and abuses really so different from the way we see birds? We still kill, venerate or tame them. 

4 stars out of 5
1 Jun 2018

"His approach is nuanced and open-minded, and he writes with a light, often wry touch"

Mynott organises his elegant and thought-provoking book by theme and deploys a comprehensive range of quotes from throughout the classical period. His aim is to understand why and how deeply these ‘feathered bipeds’ and the signs and symbols they have given rise to are entrenched in our make-up. His approach is nuanced and open-minded, and he writes with a light, often wry touch... There are fine chapters on rearing and cooking birds (cruelty to animals was not a great concern) and on birds as pets, combatants and cures, each providing lively and entertaining examples. But the greatest insight into how birds and the ancients worked together comes in Mynott’s discussion of the widespread practice of augury.