Classic cities

The past is another country, and the farther back in time we try to go, the harder it is to get there. If it is difficult to understand daily life in Rome and Athens today, even if we are there in person, able to see the sights and walk the streets with a native guide, then imagine how much more difficult the task to go back several thousand years. The natives are long gone, and only the shattered remains of marble buildings and monuments remain to guide us.

“The Ancient City” shows us, with a wealth of pictures and artistic reproductions, what life may have been like when Rome and Athens were the centers of their respective empires. Illustrator Peter Connolly draws on the latest archaeological finds to recreate buildings that range from the well-known, such as the Parthenon and the Colosseum, to tenements, temples, public baths and latrines (of the one in Rome — dedicated to topping any other city — boasted of one that featured an open-air design and over 100 seats).

Connolly also recreates statues, reliefs, frienzes and pottery, sometimes adding the original color scheme, creating a startling effect to an eye used to seeing plain white marble. The text, co-written with Hazel Dodge, describes daily life, how the people dressed, wed, entertained, worshiped and died.

Short of building your own time machine, “The Ancient World” is a worthwhile passport to the past.