It's Day 3 of our 12 Days of Christmas special- and today we're coming to you with gifts that could surpass those given in the original 12 days of Christmas song because they're all Classically related- what more could you want?
Have you left your Christmas gift shop to the last minute again this year? Racking your brain for weeks and still can’t find anything nice for that special Classicist in your life? Preparing to accept defeat as you head to the chocolate aisle in the supermarket to buy your universal but perhaps not as thoughtful as you'd like present?
Worry no more! Welcome to the ultimate Classical Christmas gift guide with our top ten picks for last-minute (or belated) Christmas gift ideas for those Classics lovers in your life! Ranging from books and decorations to handmade jewellery and bespoke experiences, this guide has everything you might need to become the greatest gift giver this holiday season!
1. Books - no surprises here, you can't go wrong giving a Classicist more things to read!
As a Classicist, your recipient probably has a book wishlist about a mile long! Getting them one or two of their most coveted novels or texts is an instant way to make them happy this Christmas. When it comes to books, there are so many options and shops that this is the perfect last-minute idea if you need that special gift ASAP. However, it is also very easy to get overwhelmed so here are some ideas for what is good right now in the Classical text market.
Classical texts themselves are a great way to gift a timeless piece that will more than likely come in handy for future study! Think about what kinds of authors or subjects your recipient has mentioned before and see if there is an interesting translation of that. Some examples are Emily Wilson’s ground-breaking translation of the Odyssey (£13.99), which is the first-ever published translation by a woman and brings a whole new angle to the Homeric tale. Furthermore, Stephen Fry’s recent reimagining of Homer in his book Troy (£8.49) is also a great read for any Classicist wanting something for their leisure time.
Speaking of leisure time, maybe your recipient prefers Classical novels that are based on texts, and if so they’re in luck! There have been so many recent publications of Classical novels that you no longer have to rely on Percy Jackson or The Song of Achilles. This year alone has seen the publication of Pat Barker’s The Women of Troy (£16.99), sequel to Silence of the Girls (£8.99), and Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne (£14.99), all excellent, feminist reimagining’s of Classical stories. Not to mention Madeline Miller’s extremely popular Circe (£8.99) from last year, or Phoebe Wynne’s Madam (£14.99) as an alternative to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. As said, you can never go wrong with books and once you get to the Classics section of any Waterstones of Foyles you will be spoilt for choice!
As you can already tell, we (like most Classicists), love books and there is never a shortage of good books to give. However, since it’s Christmas it might also be nice to splash out a bit and elevate your book-gifting game…
When gifting fancy Classical books, there are again tons of options. If your recipient loves the original texts, then leather or clothbound editions of their favourites will be a thoughtful and luxurious addition to their collection. Our favourite examples are the Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Classics edition of Homer (£26.21), or the Penguin Clothbound Classics edition of the Aeneid (£16.99), or Ovid’s Metamorphoses (£25). Keeping with the theme of fancy editions of texts, a nice Loeb will definitely be a treasured gift for any Classicist trying to build a collection. They feature an enticing green cover for Greek texts and a striking red for Latin ones. The Hellenic Book Service by Tufnell Park, London hosts a huge collection of second-hand Loebs (alongside a massive collection of other Classical books), while the Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus has a whole wall of them.
Beyond texts, there is also the option to gift a special edition of an already published Classical novel, like the special edition of The Song of Achilles (£20) or Ariadne (£14.99). There are many Classical themed decorative books, such as Charlotte Higgins’ new book Greek Myths: A New Retelling (£20), which retells myth from a feminine perspective and boasts a gorgeous cover. There's also Bettany Hughes’ new publication Venus and Aphrodite (£9.99), which is more non-fiction than a novel but it’s so pretty that we have to mention it! Either way, any Classical themed book will likely go down very well and is one of the easiest and most thoughtful last-minute gifts!
2. Classical Stickers- because everyone should know that stationery is an elite Classics gift!
What better way to let a Classicist show off their passion than by gifting them stickers to put on absolutely everything they own? Stickers are a great and super easy gift for anyone to feel special and get creative, and with so many small businesses able to design them, there is plenty of choice for every type of Classicist out there!
First things first, we have to cheekily mention the Academus sticker shop as the first place to look for Classics-themed stickers. All the designs are so cute and original and they are the perfect price point for a little stocking filler or Christmas season treat! Some of our favourite designs are the Odysseus and Sirens vase sticker, or the Achilles and Penthesilea one. We also can’t wait to get a hold of the Christmassy Io Saturnalia sticker or the iconic Achilles and Patroclus sticker. They come in a variety of sizes and finishes and start at only 90p so it’s definitely a win-win giving and receiving this gift.
Neo-Classicist on Redbubble also offers an excellent range of playful, pop-art themed stickers of Classical figures and statues that would look amazing on any laptop, phone or notebook. We have a special soft spot for the Discobolus and Crouching Venus statues and Neo-Classicist’s reimagining of these as stickers are absolute favourites. There are also reimagining’s of figures from Homer to Augustus, and starting at only £1.09, you can’t go wrong in picking anything from this seller!
Another sticker store we love is Flaroh with more beautiful designs that breathe modern life into a variety of Classical art and architecture. We love the sticker sets you can purchase about iconic figures such as Sappho. As well as the beautiful landscapes, which we can assure you don't get any better anywhere else on the internet!
Sales of all these stickers also help to support good causes so you can feel extra good buying these gifts!
3. Classical Jewellery, for when you want to look and feel like a real-life Graeco-Roman Deity
Glamming up laptops and notebooks is fine, but glamming up yourself is definitely an extra special treat. This Christmas, giving your favourite Classicist some handmade, Classics inspired jewellery is the quickest way to ensure the title of best gift-giver of the year!
Our very own Meg (Agamegnon) here at Academus actually handmakes Classical coin jewellery, with a range of pieces in both gold and silver. There are endless possibilities to mix and match the designs or create a cohesive set that will be a timeless and incredibly sentimental experience for your recipient whenever they use it. Our personal favourites are the gold necklaces (£20) and earrings (£25), but there is definitely an elegant, everyday subtlety to the silver bracelet (£15).
4. Museum Merch - it's not all guidebooks and postcards these days!
Perhaps your recipient wants a more decorative gift but you have no idea where to start looking for Classics merch. Worry not, because many of our beloved Museums have taken it upon themselves to produce beautiful works of their own which are available to purchase via online stores. For example, the British Museum gift shop is a one-stop-shop for a huge range of Classical gifts and the Met also has a broad array of gifts for every occasion you may have in mind.
A main item that will definitely be thoughtful for the holiday would be a British Museum exhibition companion book; maybe for an exhibition that they loved to visit that has ended, or one they can’t get to anymore. Our personal favourite exhibition book is Defining Beauty: the body in ancient Greek art (£15), but more recent exhibitions include Troy: myth and reality (£20) or Nero: the man behind the myth (£19.99).
The British Museum has much more to offer though! Maybe your Classics lover would appreciate a small replica bust of Aphrodite (£25) for their desk, or a Greek Alphabet Coaster (£9.99), or a vibrant Story of Troy tote bag (£11.99).
5. Stay hydrated with the Chilly’s Greek Dream Bundle
Maybe your Classical recipient likes to live the eco-friendly, sustainable life on-the-go and has been looking at a new water bottle since forever. If so, what better choice is there for the conscientious classicist than the new Chilly’s water bottle and coffee cup in the limited edition Greek Dream design.
This design is a cult classic of Chilly’s that was previously discontinued, but is making a brief comeback this season as part of the Chilly’s “Greatest Hits” series. This design itself is very elegant and features a striking cobalt blue base on a matte metal surface, covered in brilliant white effigies of women, vases, and pillars around the entire bottle. The design is all metal and will not scratch off easily, or overlap at the edges, which, paired with the unique design, will make this a very special and long-lasting gift for any Classics lover out there.
The water bottle is the standard 500ml Chilly’s bottle and can be customised with different lids and accessories. It is also airtight and vacuum insulated to prevent leaks and condensation and is able to keep liquids cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. Meanwhile, the coffee mug is 340ml in size and double-walled to avoid burnt fingers while it keeps your drink nice and warm. Both are also made from durable stainless steel. The set itself comes pre-wrapped in a decorative gift box featuring the design on the outside, so is perfect with or without any wrapping paper.
This set does stand on the pricier end of gifts at £46, but is definitely worth it if you are willing to splash out. If not, the bottle alone is only £26 while the travel mug is £23. Overall, this set is the perfect balance between Classics and sustainability, and is highly recommended as a way to keep hydrated in style through exams!
6. Candles to burn in those moments of Classical inspiration
Ok so, maybe none of the presents mentioned so far have spoken to you. Maybe your Classics lover wants an elegant and sophisticated centrepiece for their study space, or an aromatic addition to their routine. Candles are both the perfect decorative and functional gift and will definitely go down well if it is Classics based!
Cambridge-based brand Lil’ Something hand-make soy wax candles in a range of modern and sleek, classically inspired designs. Starting at the low price of £13, they are a perfect little gift to add elegance to any Classicist’s space.
In addition, the Classical Candle Co. have a wide range of fun and chic scents to brighten the atmosphere of any room. What's more, if you want to go all out you can purchase the full Olympus set and have an entire Pantheon burning in your house, whilst that comes in at a fairly hefty £65 you are getting 10 candles meaning they work out at £6.50 a candle!
7. Decorations because everyone should have a Greek vase in their living room
Maybe your favourite Classicist needs something stylish and Classical to enhance their room or workspace. If so, a little sculpture or vase will make them instantly feel at home, and think of you every time they see it.
It’s All Greek is the perfect place to find every kind of Classically inspired gift you could imagine, made in real, solid materials like bronze, marble, and stone – it’ll feel like you dug up this gift right from Pompeii itself to give them! The most cost-effective and cute gift is definitely the little bronze dolphin statue (£9), but the mini lekythos vases at £20 each are also too good to resist.
Little stone monuments also provide sentimental and encouraging quotes in Latin, such as “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body) or “festina lente” (more haste, less speed). There is an endless selection of Classical inspired gifts and replicas; it’s a true last-minute gift because that’s exactly how long it will take you to find something amazing from this store!
Written and compiled by Katrina Millett