Athena Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue 1502 by Andrea Mantegna

Opening Pandora’s Box: Phrases Borrowed from the Classics and the Stories Behind Them by Ferdie Addis

This is a light-hearted and easy journey through the history of language. Particularly well-known phrases and words that originate from ancient Greece and Rome. I have to admit that reading the Iliad, Aesop’s Fables and other long epics from this time has been something I have continually wanted to do, but put off because of a lack of time and patience.

So to find this book as a guide to common phrases from antiquity, helps me to shed some light on these classical stories, from the point of view of common turns of phrase. Others will surely disagree with me and tell me that I should read the longer, original stories. However Opening Pandora’s Box is a cheat’s guide to the English language and to how remnants of ancient Rome and Greece aren’t only in the Mediterranean but infiltrate every aspect of our daily lives.

For example the word cereal derives from the name of one of the quieter Roman deities, Ceres. The Romans decided she was the same goddess as the most important deities in ancient Greece – Demeter, and so they honoured her with a festival in April called Cerialia. While other gods demanded the slaughter of many animals, Ceres was far more chilled out and was kept happy with only the gift of a dry millet cake.

The origins of many other common expressions are explained, such as:

Sour grapes

The goose that laid the golden egg

The lion’s share

The tortoise and the hare

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

The boy who cried wolf

Struck by cupid’s arrow

If you are in love with language, storytelling, folklore or classical history then you will love this book. It’s short at only 162 pages. However Opening Pandora’s Box punches well above its weight in terms of quality with many amusing and shocking stories from classical history to enjoy.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply