Dating Aphrodite: Modern Adventures in the Ancient World By Luke Slattery ABC Books .95 IT IS hard to imagine a more companionable guide to the myths and heroes, ideas and attitudes of the ancient Greeks and Romans than Luke Slattery.

But he shows us how these things sit together; like much good education his writing encourages a more sensible view of ourselves.

It is striking that Slattery achieves this liberation not by bludgeoning us with clever arguments or forcing a grudging intellectual assent, but by example - by being nice to us.

A deeper insight into relevance is given in the fine discussion of nostalgia.

I had always felt embarrassed by my own tendencies in this direction, fearing that there was something disreputable about this emotion.

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Slattery is determined to display the continuing relevance of Greek and Roman culture for us today.

Ironically, pushing relevance too hard has a bathetic effect - it veers to the ridiculous.

Slattery is bold enough to say what he honestly feels: that the ancient world has left us a legacy of "undying value"; and wise enough to know that appreciating that legacy is a matter of enjoyment, not duty.

Because Slattery has made his name as a journalist (and his journalistic inheritance is a little too apparent in the sub-chapter headings) we might not appreciate just how sharp his insights are.

Then Slattery is off to Ithaca, the home Odysseus took so long to reach.