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Theophrastus' Characters


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WHEN ARISTOTLE WROTE that "comedy is about people worse than ourselves," he may have been recalling a hard-edged gem of a treatise written by his favorite student, Theophrastus. Characters is a joyous festival of fault-finding: a collection of thirty closely observed personality portraits, defining the full spectrum of human flaws, failings, and follies. With piquant details of speech and behavior taken straight off the streets of ancient Athens, Theophrastus gives us sketches of the mean, vile, and annoying that are comically distorted yet vividly real. Enlivened by Pamela Mensch's fresh translation-- the first widely available English version in over half a century--Characters transports us to a world populated by figures of flesh and blood, not bronze and marble. The wry, inventive drawings of acclaimed illustrator Andre Carrilho help envoke the cankered wit of this most modern of ancient texts. Lightly but helpfully annotated by classicist James Romm, these thirty thumbnail portraits are startlingly recognizable twenty-three centuries later. The characters of Theophrastus are archetypes of human nature that remain insightful, caustic, and
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"This well-chosen collection of Seneca's writings on death demonstrates James Romm's gift for making the people and ideas of antiquity vivid for general readers. The introduction is graceful, the translations are accurate and readable, the annotations are nicely judged, and the epilogue featuring Tacitus's account of Seneca's suicide is indispensable."--Robert A. Kaster, Princeton University (review quote for previous work)

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