Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Book review: The City of the Sharp-nosed Fish

Another review of City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek lives in Roman Egypt by Peter Parsons Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 320pp, ISBN 0297645889. Review by William Dalrymple.
"Much of the excitement of Parsons's book derives from the astonishingly contemporary feel of much of the material. A little boy, Theon, writes to his parents: "If you don't take me with you to Alexandria, I won't eat, I won't drink, so there." A correspondent named Akulas writing from cosmopolitan Alexandria admits he is missing his puppy, Soteris, and worries about her "since she now spends time by herself in the country". There is gossip about politicians consorting with rent boys, complaints about tax and death duties, even some muttered anxieties about the growing influence of Alexandria's Jewish lobby. And then there are the horribly contemporary religious fanatics, running around Egyptian city centres trying to lynch and assassinate writers and freethinkers, and to destroy idols and temples - though, in the fifth century, these fanatics were not Islamists, but early Coptic saints like St Cyril and his monks, 2that black-robed tribe who eat more than elephants, sweeping across the country like a river in spate ravaging the temples'.
See the above page for the rest of this comprehensive review.

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