Saturday, August 7, 2010

How To Mellify A Corpse by Vicki Leon

Author: Vicki León
Publish Date: July 6, 2010
ISBN: 9780802717023
List Price: $17.00
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Jacket Synopsis:
In How to Mellify a Corpse, Vicki León brings her particular hybrid of history and humor to the entwined subjects of science and superstition in the ancient world, from Athens and Rome to Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Carthage. León covers subjects as diverse as astronomy and astrology, philosophy and practicalities of life and death (including the titular ancient method of embalming), and ancient mechanical engineering. How to Mellify a Corpse of course invokes legendary thinkers (Pythagoras and his discoveries in math and music, Aristotle's books on politics and philosophy, and Archimedes' "Eureka" moment), but it also delves deeply into the lives of everyday people, their understanding and beliefs.

A feast for the curious mind, How to Mellify a Corpse is not only for those with an interest in the experimental: it's for anyone who's inspired by the imagination and ingenuity humanity uses to understand our world.
My Comments:
ARC Winner! What a great read! León's writing style is interesting, yet humorously objective. Her goal is to give you insight into old age superstitions and social beliefs from the Greco-Roman times while applying some common sense with a humorous voice. She also relates them to society's beliefs and superstitions today which is often hysterical. León paints a colorful picture of Greek and Roman times which explores the day-to-day lives, beliefs, social politics, and personal rituals of great philosophers of the time, kings/conquerors, other notable figures, and average citizens.

If you are wondering about that title, it has to do with the preservative benefits of honey. It was common to preserve foods in honey, but it also led to other important preservations. Alexander the Great mellified his lover and himself upon their deaths. Other superstitions about necromancy and "learning secrects from the dead" has an interesting tale as well. Cleomenes became king and he cut off the head of his best friend, Archonides, and preserved it in honey in a large jar in his room. This allowed King Cleomenes to consult with Archonides about battles and political issues. "It may come as no surprise to learn that the honeyed skull of Archonides agreed with everything he said." (pg. 64)

This book touches on philosophy, astronomy, construction, politics, science, music, medicine, and the history of these civilizations. We journey into the lives of Aristotle, Plato, Emperor Octavian, Pliny the Elder, Cicero, Pythagorus, Archimedes, and many others. We also cross such lands as Greece, Italy, Spain, France, England, Asia Minor (now Turkey) and the Middle East.

I like León's writing style because it flows smoothly and intelligently while still entertaining. She covers a great deal of material but keeps it from being overwhelming or boring as some historical reads can become. The topics switch often but are connected either by a historical figure, topic, or place to keep the reader on track and mentally connected to the material. You will definitely remember this read because you are able to relate it to today and intelligent humor stays with you.

I have already acquired her other series called "Uppity Women" of Ancient Times, Medieval Times, and Shakespearean Times. I cannot wait to get started on this series!

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