The book “How to Fit All of Ancient Greece in an Elevator” by Theodore Papakostas is a position presenting ancient history in the form of a dialogue in a closed elevator between an archaeologist and a random person. The publisher of the book is Wydawnictwo HI:STORY.
The author of the book is Theodore Papakostas, a Greek archaeologist and popularizer of ancient history on social media. On his Instagram profile, he has amassed a large group of followers, and with his posts, he tries to make people interested in history in a pleasant and direct way. I must admit that I did not know about the author before and this is my first meeting with him and his work. From what I’ve read, Theodore Papakostas is a fairly popular figure and more famous in the West.
Moving on to the publication, which is probably the first book by the author on the Polish market – it aims to lead the reader through the period of antiquity in a playful, loose and extremely simple way. The author had one goal – to create a simple message and reproduce a discussion that a person who does not have much to do with ancient history could have with an archaeologist. The author of the book places the action in an elevator, which is supposed to add humour to the position. The book is de facto divided into 11 chapters, in which the interlocutors go through the following historical periods – the Stone Age, the Minoan civilization, the archaic, classical and finally the Roman period. The themes focus mainly on the Greeks and Romans. The author tries to answer in an accessible way questions that may intrigue many – for example, how excavations are carried out and which finds are the most valuable or who was the first archaeologist.
As I am interested in ancient history, especially Roman, the position seemed infantile to me and did not fully meet my expectations. I am perfectly aware of the purpose of such a publication, but the directness and simplicity of the statement do not quite suit me, although I understand that there are people who would certainly accept it. I also noticed an error in the Polish edition – on the last page, showing the ancient history in a graphic way, the year 324 BCE is given as “the beginning of Constantinople”; of course, it should be CE.
On the plus side, there is certainly a nice edition and the placement of illustrative drawings here and there, which diversify the message.
To sum up, if you are a person who likes loose transfer of knowledge and you are interested in ancient history, you may like the position. I think the book would also be an interesting gift for teenagers. For those who like more challenging science fiction, or simply expect a more professional approach to discussing history, I would advise against this book.