Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day

Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day - Philip Matyszak *3.2 Stars*

Scorecard: (Out of 10)
* Quality of Writing - 6
* Pace - 5
* Plot development - 5
* Characters - 6
* Enjoyability -7
* Insightfulness - 8
* Ease of Reading - 7
* Photos/Illustrations - 7
Final Score: 51/80 = 64%

*The Gush*

What I like about these travel books is how much you learn even though you feel you’re not learning at all. It doesn’t feel like a lesson or a boring history book yet I learned far more from this small book then any class I ever took on the subject. Setting it up as a travel guide allows the author to detail the society, the culture, the traditions – in short, the essence of the people while also providing the historical backdrop necessary for understanding. The chapters are broken up for easy understanding and the pace flows logically if a bit disjointedly.

The true gem of this book is the humor the author inserts so perfectly throughout the text. One of the best examples is the following: “A symposium may involve a discussion of Sophocles’ use of divine allegory…On the other hand, the symposium may be something considerably less refined, involving drunken carousing with naked flute girls, smashing of furniture…Or something between the two extremes. Select according to taste.” Loved that. The writing is droll and he gets plenty of these little quips in. The above however does also highlight another aspect of this book. While the author is careful to not…describe certain aspects of life in ancient times, he has to mention them as they were a part of life in those times. So be mindful of your age and the ages of any you suggest this to.

The author also includes references to pop culture: “Research has failed to determine whether Hermione, daughter of Helen of Troy, was surnamed Oikostos (i.e. Granger).” Things like this remind the reader as well how we are still connected to ancient Athens through literature, science, words, etc.

*The Rant*

Having read its sister book [b:Ancient Egypt on 5 Deben a Day|8868482|Ancient Egypt on 5 Deben a Day|Donald P. Ryan||13743955], I have to say that over all, the previous book is better. I found the information in this more interesting but the other book has a passion that shows and the reader can’t help but be caught up in it. I was more interested in this book but enjoyed the other one more simply because the author draws me in and makes me interested in the subject.


A wonderful way to learn a bit about what’s called the cradle of Western Civilization beyond the historical facts, and see what the culture and the society would be like. While not flawless, it connects well with the casual reader. I will admit, when I heard about these books, I pictured a shelf in the library of the Doctor’s Tardis where he could grab one of these and try to fit in to the world outside his police box. I’ve greatly enjoyed these basically time traveler’s guide books; I suggest you check them out yourself and see how fun they are.