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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter PDF, ePub eBook In the fourth volume of the acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill brings his characteristic wit and style to a fascinating tour of ancient Greece. The Greeks invented everything from Western warfare to mystical prayer, from logic to statecraft. Many of their achievements, particularly in art and philosophy, are widely celebrated; other important innovations and In the fourth volume of the acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill brings his characteristic wit and style to a fascinating tour of ancient Greece. The Greeks invented everything from Western warfare to mystical prayer, from logic to statecraft. Many of their achievements, particularly in art and philosophy, are widely celebrated; other important innovations and accomplishments, however, are unknown or under-appreciated. In Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, Thomas Cahill explores the legacy, good and bad, of the ancient Greeks. From the origins of Greek culture in the migrations of armed Indo-European tribes into Attica and the Peloponnesian peninsula, to the formation of the city-states, to the birth of Western literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, art, and architecture, Cahill makes the distant past relevant to the present. Greek society is one of the two primeval influences on the Western world: While Jews gave us our value system, the Greeks set the foundation and framework for our intellectual lives. They are responsible for our vocabulary, our logic, and our entire system of categorization. They provided the intellectual tools we bring to bear on problems in philosophy, mathematics, medicine, physics, and the other sciences. Their modes of thinking, considered in classical times to be the pinnacle of human achievement, are largely responsible for the shape that the Christian religion took. But, as Cahill points out, the Greeks left a less appealing bequest as well. They created Western militarism and, in making the warrior the ultimate ideal, perpetrated the assumption that only males could be entrusted with the duties of citizenship. The consequences of their exclusion of women from the political sphere and the social segregation of the sexes continue to reverberate today. Full of surprising, often controversial, insights, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea is a remarkable intellectual adventure—conducted by the most companionable guide imaginable. Cahill’s knowledge of his sources is so intimate that he has made his own fresh translations of the Greek lyric poets for this volume.

30 review for Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter

  1. 4 out of 5

    J

    I rather thought, when I picked this book up, that it would provide a great number of little known facts about the Greeks, that it would draw clearly the often hidden connections modern life has to the earliest democracy, and that Cahill would underline the importance of studying Greek culture for what it can teach us today. Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter is not really that book. In fact, Cahill’s book is really a quick dip in the bath of well-known Greek history and art, a cul I rather thought, when I picked this book up, that it would provide a great number of little known facts about the Greeks, that it would draw clearly the often hidden connections modern life has to the earliest democracy, and that Cahill would underline the importance of studying Greek culture for what it can teach us today. Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter is not really that book. In fact, Cahill’s book is really a quick dip in the bath of well-known Greek history and art, a cultural CliffNotes. Cahill, who became pop-famous for his book How the Irish Saved Civilization, detailing how Irish monasteries kept up writing and copying manuscripts throughout the Dark Ages, has parlayed that success into a series of pop histories he names Hinges of History. These hinges are points in which the whole world could have gone one way or the other and why they fell the way they did. Hinges hold up doors; they should slam this one shut. At no point does Cahill demonstrate that this moment constitutes a hinge nor does he actually go about proving that the Greeks matter. Does he show us how we can use Greek thought in the current world? No. Does he dig up forgotten Greek wisdom of some staggering utility for now? No. What he does is jog through the history and culture of a time and occasionally mention how that notion sure came in handy once upon a time. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea spends a great, great deal of its length quoting liberally, using Homer’s epic poems (replete with deus ex machina out the wazoo and anachronisms up the ying yang) as though they were historical documents on par with Thucydidies — who he also ladles out with heavy hand. For this mythical leaning one can thank his Jesuit upbringing/education which does the same thing substituting the Bible for The Iliad. As the book progresses, Cahill lifts from Joyce, Auden, Tennyson, and every third Greek writer of note, padding out the thinness of his own ideas with poignant bits of poetry. When Cahill discusses the origins of the alphabet, first a Semitic-Phoenician accounting tool, then with vowels added by the Greeks, there are rather interesting tidbits and I smacked my lips in pleasure. This was all I got, however, tidbits. The book lacks anything like scope of ideology, just sampling here and there from the Greek culture platter. For tidbits, we are treated to this fact: the earliest Greek inscription currently known is on the side of a cup and notes that the finest dancer will receive the cup as a prize. Cahill comments that this differs from the furrowed brow of the believer (the Jews) and the green-eye shade hardness of the accountant (the Phoenicians), the two previous possessors of language. Irreverence makes its first recorded appearance at 700BCE on a cup inscription recommending drinking and fucking. The more you learn of Greek history, the more it seems that had the Greeks remained dominant, Western society would sure be a lot more fun. Cahill takes a moment here to laud Greece’s phonetic alphabet innovations as being the seed-germ of enlightenment. His observation that if we wrote in cuneiform today we’d still have slavery is hard to argue against, as it is so filled with supposition that there is no point in even making the observation. It’s like suggesting that if we drank more wine we’d have fewer reality TV shows. You can not prove such an argument nor can you prove it’s faulty. It’s a Jesuitical fallacy one wishes Cahill’s editor had sliced from his reasoning or at least his teachers had drummed out of him lo those many years ago. As a natural result of discussing alphabets, Sailing sails on to literature, where Cahill skims the surface a good deal and never dives deep into this wine-dark sea. Instead, he suggests that we shouldn’t take the comedy of a society as a good representation of the morality of a society, yet he makes no end of other kinds of literature, such as epics and epithalamia. This is simply the intellectual abuse of comedy that I’ve grown increasingly tired of the older I’ve gotten, the kind of commentary exposes an author’s narrow thinking. If comedy is of no use in determining morality — after all, what is funnier than pricking pompous moralists and shocking delicate sensibilities? — then neither are epics or any other form of literature. One just might as well have said that abstract painting is no way to understand the psyche of an era, and out goes Picasso’s Guernica as any kind of commentary on war in general and war in specific. The discussion of literature leads to drama, which does allow Cahill to waste time regaling us with an excruciatingly detailed account of the story of Oedipus, including giving away that hoary old chestnut, the riddle of the Sphinx, in the bargain. He dwells on non-textual issues like how the black blood gushes from Oedipus’ sockets after he gouges out his eyes, demonstrating that Cahill was at least quite struck by one stage production he saw. But why does he go into such complete and total detail? Has anyone over the age of seventeen not heard this story yet? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Oedipus Rex is taught in the grand majority of English-speaking high schools. I’d even go so far as to say that having to read Oedipus Rex is as much an adolescent rite of passage as getting over wanting to fuck your parents. (I suspect if you were to read his other books, like the one on the importance of the Jews, you’d be treated to such things as lengthy Biblical quotes and a summary of the story of the crucifixion.) Drama of course leads to philosophy’s most dramatic writer, Plato. Cahill’s chapter on philosophy doesn’t provide any cohesive arrangement that moves along, demonstrating refinement and the various arguments still at the heart of philosophical debate today. Rather, he gives us one little anecdote and character after another. This guy says water’s at the heart of the universe, this guy says fire, this guy says seeds. Whew, thanks for clearing that up. The remainder of the chapter consists of several page long Socratic dialogues lifted directly and lengthy summaries of same. Let me save you the trouble of reading this chapter and simply direct you to read the introduction to any volume of Plato dialogues (which will almost certainly include snippets of the pre-Socratic schools of thought) then read the dialogues themselves. The book’s sixth chapter is almost entirely without any recognizable merit. Cahill, instead of using this space to educate the reader or to quote the half of The Republic he left out of the philosophy chapter, lends his lyre to straining metaphors, letting us know that ancient Hebrew is a tense, terse language, as efficient and stubborn as a Jewish desert nomad while Latin is the language of precise farmers who’ve gone into real estate as empire and Greek is the language of ebullient self-lovers. This is followed up with airy speculation on kouros (Greek statuary) as a projection of the ideal. And a thumbnail sketch of a variety of sculpture, next to worthless in audio form as we only have Cahill’s maudlin descriptions to go on. Cahill proves a strident mind reader, filling us in on what the various characters in sculpture and pottery paintings are thinking as they go about their drinking, gaming, lusting. And apparently according to Cahill, the only way we can know that females were at some point well-considered or publicly considered was if any nude sculptures ever were made of them. Internet porn and beer advertisements have shown how well that turned out, yeah? Moving on to politics, Cahill quotes the full text of Pericles’ Funeral Oration, a 3,000 word speech about how great democracy is and how noble those who die to support it truly are. This is followed by Cahill’s lengthy love letter to John F. Kennedy as a man who really knew his Pericles. Politics leads to the destruction of Greek culture and Cahill slanders various factions, none more in Greece than the Epicureans who he paints as no more than debauched gluttons, the usual ignorant depiction. And none outside Greece come in for more spanking than the Romans, who he falsely declares as having no spirituality or sense of religion save what they stole from Greece. As though they had no beliefs prior to usurping the Greek model. This is so obviously false I won’t go into schooling readers of Cahill, save to recommend any other book on Mediterranean history than this one. Having barely introduced us to “the plodding Romans” Cahill rushes them off the stage to suggest that it was only the meeting of Greek culture and Judeo-Christianity that was of any value in the development of Western culture. I won’t deny how influential Greek ideas were in the development of Christianity, but the shabby treatment of the Romans is unbecoming of a historian. It is the expansion of the Roman Empire, the absorption of the local mythologies of those they conquered, that shaped the hierarchies and ceremonies of the Catholic Church and through them the Protestants. What happened to more Greek influenced Christianity? It became the hodgepodge of Byzantium iconography enslaved by the Ottoman Empire, a poor companion to the lusty life that Western Christianity experienced as the mistress of Roman Imperialism. Almost the whole of the Church calendar is of Roman derivation, not Greek. Once you subtract Cahill’s lengthy quotations and lengthier plot summaries of Greek literature, you’re left with not much more than a pamphlet on why the Greeks matter. And they do matter: they gave us democracy and types of warfare and literature about people. They matter like any other sterile old manuscript, dusty with age. Ho hum. Cahill fails to prove his primary thesis, that the Greeks do matter.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Saleh MoonWalker

    Onvan : Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter - Nevisande : Thomas Cahill - ISBN : 385495544 - ISBN13 : 9780385495547 - Dar 352 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2003

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Book #4 in the Hinges of History series. I enjoyed it, but was also disappointed. When I think of all the Greeks were and did, and how much they influenced modern civilization, I grow almost dizzy. So I was giddily anticipating this book, but it fell short of expectation. However, I was intrigued by the notion of the Greeks as intellectual scavengers, sailing the Mediterranean to various ports, bringing innovative ideas and inventions back to Athens and integrating them into their culture. Event Book #4 in the Hinges of History series. I enjoyed it, but was also disappointed. When I think of all the Greeks were and did, and how much they influenced modern civilization, I grow almost dizzy. So I was giddily anticipating this book, but it fell short of expectation. However, I was intrigued by the notion of the Greeks as intellectual scavengers, sailing the Mediterranean to various ports, bringing innovative ideas and inventions back to Athens and integrating them into their culture. Eventually, these ideas trickled or gushed into other cultures, and remain part of civilization today. Interesting! I read the first four books in the Hinges of History series, starting book 1 almost 20 years ago. They stuck with me fairly well. Since then, Cahill wrote two more books, but I have not read them. This is not fiction, but rather quasi-history told in an accessible narrative style. Each book examines how a particular European people changed the world (sorry Asians and Africans). The four cultures (one per book): Irish, Jews, Christians, Greeks. I enjoyed them all. They are easy to read. Not a historian, so cannot adequately argue Cahill's points. He probably stretched the "story" to make a strong case for the particular "gifts" he suggests the culture brought to the world. I cannot recall whether Cahill included the contributions women made. I think not. The most memorable book in the Hinges of History series is #1, How the Irish Saved Civilization. It's set in the Dark Ages, after Rome fell, when Visigoths, Goths, and Vandals plundered, burning books, libraries, monasteries, etc. I found it riveting, but doubtless there are some holes in his argument that Irish monks "saved civilization" by saving classic writings from extinction (by burning). They did so by copying ancient Greek and Latin texts (Ptolmy, Euclid, Cicero, Plato, etc), as well as ancient Biblical scriptures, creating illuminated manuscripts. The author is Irish, and probably biased. His argument is not fully convincing, yet interesting. He embellished on history, but admits it. According to The Gift of the Jews (book #2), the Hebrew people introduced various key concepts to Western Civ: hygiene, kosher, the written word (along with Phonecians, Greeks, Sumarians, etc), a code of law, and monotheism, including caring for widows and orphans via a tithing system -- much like paying taxes. That's all I remember. Book 3 is Desire of the Everlasting Hills, about the contributions the message of Christ brought to modern society: principles of mercy, forgiveness, eleventh-hour second chances, and unconditional love (opposed to the eye-for-an-eye system of retribution). Cahill also attributes the eventual advance of literacy and the decrease in human sacrifices to Christian doctrine. I felt Cahill was a little scattered, but I still enjoyed it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    To me? This book seemed poorly organized, unnecessarily wordy, slightly arrogant, and frankly, dull. This book really didn't do much to convince the reader how, in fact, the Greeks actually do matter. Even though I know that already. I picked it up expecting to be motivated into more reading about the region and it's history. Guess I'll try again later with a different book as my starting point.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Pure, unadulterated garbage. Cahill is not even an historian or a classicist. He aims these books at those unfamiliar with the subject matter, and then treats his audience like idiots. He has no respect for those reading the book, or the civilization he is writing about. He is arrogant and condescending. To use his own words, he is "bellicose, close-minded, pig-headed and absurd". He actually used these very words to describe either those who may not agree with his interpretation, or the Greeks Pure, unadulterated garbage. Cahill is not even an historian or a classicist. He aims these books at those unfamiliar with the subject matter, and then treats his audience like idiots. He has no respect for those reading the book, or the civilization he is writing about. He is arrogant and condescending. To use his own words, he is "bellicose, close-minded, pig-headed and absurd". He actually used these very words to describe either those who may not agree with his interpretation, or the Greeks that he so lovingly wants everyone to know about. This book is a vile misuse of the trust his readers have put in him. He displays a disturbing lack of respect for religion in general, but especially the religous practices of the Greeks. He chooses selections from Greek poets, not for their historic value, but for shock value and tittilation. To me this was very (using another one of his terms) "distasteful". He seems to try to appeal to our basest natures--to celebrate all that's crude instead of noble about the Greek civilization. Cahill tries to help the reader understand the situations he presents by comparing them to situations we, as modern readers, may be familiar. However, he is so flippant about the way he does this, that they are not helpful comparisons, but distortions of the past (see pg 98 on how he presents the symposia "You may, if you like, label this prayer, but it was from our perspecive a lot closer to a conga line"). The worst part about the whole book is that those to whom this book is targeted will not know that what they are reading is so very skewed that they are not getting an accurate version of history. I still can't figure out what he was actually trying to do in the book, because he is missing a thesis (unless you count the title), and his concluding paragraph is in opposition to what he wrote in the rest of the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rick Ludwig

    I am a big fan of Cahill's Hinges of History Series, having read the first three before reading this one. I found that this was my least favorite. The writing is still engaging and touches on the lasting effects the culture had on Western civilization, as in the first three books, but there was less Cahill here. There was a lot of Homer, a touch of Sappho, a lot of Plato, a bunch of Sophocles and Aeschylus, some Eurypides, and a big chunk of Pericles. Those of us who have read these classical wo I am a big fan of Cahill's Hinges of History Series, having read the first three before reading this one. I found that this was my least favorite. The writing is still engaging and touches on the lasting effects the culture had on Western civilization, as in the first three books, but there was less Cahill here. There was a lot of Homer, a touch of Sappho, a lot of Plato, a bunch of Sophocles and Aeschylus, some Eurypides, and a big chunk of Pericles. Those of us who have read these classical works many times before wished he could have told us more about what they meant to him and his opinions of their impact. There was a lot more earthy terminology here, which probably reflected the nature of Greek society. His earlier works avoided overdoing this to their credit. Maybe he was tired of having his texts used so often by church groups. I will continue to enjoy the series and am moving on to the next installment with high hopes for something a bit more like the first three books.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ammie

    Most of the negative reviews of this book point out that Cahill never says anything particularly original about why the Greeks matter, but be that as it may, it was a good overview for those of us who don't know much history. Also of note: he occasionally throws in inappropriate slang, like "hard-ass" and "schlong", which amused me more than it should have.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I question some of the scholarship in this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Teri-K

    I didn't finish this. The author makes so many assumptions about the ancient Greeks; apparently he sees no need for scholarship or research, just whatever he thinks must be so. I got seriously annoyed at all the speculating without any basis and gave up.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    The foundations of what we call Western culture today seemingly sprung from one place, Greece, yet that is not the entire truth. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, the fourth volume of Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, examines and explains the structure of Greek society and ideas as well as the reasons why it has permeated so much of what we know of Western culture. But Cahill’s answer to why the Greeks matter is two-fold. Over the course of 264 pages of text, Cahill looks at all the features of Greek The foundations of what we call Western culture today seemingly sprung from one place, Greece, yet that is not the entire truth. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, the fourth volume of Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, examines and explains the structure of Greek society and ideas as well as the reasons why it has permeated so much of what we know of Western culture. But Cahill’s answer to why the Greeks matter is two-fold. Over the course of 264 pages of text, Cahill looks at all the features of Greek culture that made them so different from other ancient cultures. Through the study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cahill examined the Greek’s view of war and honor in their grand war epic then how the same man expressed how the Greek’s expressed their feelings. The contradiction of the Homeric works is part of a larger theme that Cahill explores in Greek poetry beyond Homer, politicians and playwrights, philosophers, and artists. Throughout each chapter, Cahill examines what the Greeks did differently than anyone else as well as relate examples that many will know. Yet Cahill reveals that as time went on the Greeks own culture started to swallow itself until stabilized by the Romans who were without the Greek imagination and then merged with newly developing Christian religion that used Greek words to explain its beliefs to a wider world; this synthesis of the Greco-Roman world and Judeo-Christian tradition is what created Western thought and society that we know today. Cahill’s analysis and themes are for the general reader very through-provoking, but even for someone not well versed in overall Greek scholarship there seems to be something missing in this book. Just in comparing previous and upcoming volumes of Cahill’s own series, this book seems really short for one covering one of the two big parts of Western Civilization. Aside from the two chapters focused around the Homeric epics, all the other chapters seemed to be less than they could be not only in examples but also in giving connections in relevance for the reader today. For the Western society in general, the Greeks are remembered for their myths, magnificent ruins, and democracy. Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea does reveal that ancient Greece was more than that and why a culture millennia old matters to us today. While not perfect, this book is at least a good read for the general reader which may be what Cahill is aiming for but for those more well read it feels lacking once finished.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This book examines the civilization of the ancient Greeks and shows how their cultural contributions continue to shape our Western way of life even today. He makes use of seven archetypal figures: The Warrior, The Wanderer, The Poet, The Politician, The Playwright, The Philosopher and The Artist to break down the complexities of ancient Greek life into easily manageable sections, then proceeds to show how each of these aspects is relevant to us. I really enjoyed this book. I'm not an expert on an This book examines the civilization of the ancient Greeks and shows how their cultural contributions continue to shape our Western way of life even today. He makes use of seven archetypal figures: The Warrior, The Wanderer, The Poet, The Politician, The Playwright, The Philosopher and The Artist to break down the complexities of ancient Greek life into easily manageable sections, then proceeds to show how each of these aspects is relevant to us. I really enjoyed this book. I'm not an expert on ancient Greek history, though I am familiar with most of the major events and players. This book helped me to expand my knowledge on the subject while keeping me entertained, which is usually all I ask from a book on history. The author manages to present the subject in a fairly concise manner without getting bogged down in excessive detail, and this kept the pages turning at a good clip. I also liked the overall tone of the writing, which was casual and conversational...it felt like the author was sitting down and speaking with me personally. It kept me involved and didn't make me feel as though I was being put at a distance. So while this is definitely not the most exhaustive or detailed work on the subject, it's a very accessible and not at all intimidating, good for people like me who don't know a whole lot about the subject and would like to know more, but without being overwhelmed. This is actually the fourth volume in the "Hinges of History" series, which shows how various ancient civilizations shaped our current culture. I'm definitely going to be reading the others when I can get my hands on them!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebester

    A very good, short, overview of Greek culture for those of us who haven't been introduced through school, or have only seen a few references to myths that we don't quite understand. And for those of us who _are_ students of Greek (and, by association, Roman) history, it draws some interesting conclusions, and allows us to step back somewhat from the slightly narrower focus of university courses and see certain aspects of Greek (or I should say, rather, Athenian, for the most part) culture in its A very good, short, overview of Greek culture for those of us who haven't been introduced through school, or have only seen a few references to myths that we don't quite understand. And for those of us who _are_ students of Greek (and, by association, Roman) history, it draws some interesting conclusions, and allows us to step back somewhat from the slightly narrower focus of university courses and see certain aspects of Greek (or I should say, rather, Athenian, for the most part) culture in its actual _context_. Both before its supposed peak and after. Something professors often either cannot include in their lectures, or decline to. I enjoyed this book a lot - I recognized things I had forgotten about, and found new territory to explore in the bibliography. I look forward to that voyage (if not on the wine-dark sea, then certainly on waters that flow from it).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell

    A complicated and uneven read. At turns fascinating and then mind-numbingly boring. Certainly the most explicit history book I've ever read. Also quite a bit more opinionated and rooted in modern society than I remember from the first two of the series. It tried very hard to convince me to pick up a true classic - so far to little success. I do expect to read the 3rd book in the series (this is the 4th and I own the 1st and 2nd). Call it 3.5 out of 4. But worth a reread.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This was a fun fast read - a bit vulgar at some points - the point of which I couldn't determine, but the author does justice to the topics he tackles in this survey of Greek Culture. I would especially single out his discussion of Plato and the values in the Dialogues compared to some of the values of Homeric characters. He does a very good job of highlighting Plato's inadequacies (as far as I am concerned).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gary Chapin

    I'm going to come to the defense of this book. What everyone else says is true: no new analysis, lots of quotations ... But all of that makes this a fantastic audio book experience. I have listened to it many times over. Sections of mythology and ancient lit followed by musings on same? Really love it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Fredrickson

    I liked this less than I thought I would. The book covers very wide ground: war, politics, philosophy, art, etc. Some of this material felt very informative and fresh in its presentation. Curiously, the section on "thinking" and "seeing" felt very undirected or laborious in their presentation. What is a little disconcerting is that the author intersperses comments throughout that do not seem to contribute to the book at all. Overall, the author does a good job of putting things into context, but I liked this less than I thought I would. The book covers very wide ground: war, politics, philosophy, art, etc. Some of this material felt very informative and fresh in its presentation. Curiously, the section on "thinking" and "seeing" felt very undirected or laborious in their presentation. What is a little disconcerting is that the author intersperses comments throughout that do not seem to contribute to the book at all. Overall, the author does a good job of putting things into context, but comes across as too intimate and flippant.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Stama

    Excellent volume in Thomas Cahill's body of work from "the Gifts of the Jews" to "How the Irish Saved Civilization". Now want to read one more in the series: "Desire of the Everlasting Hills". Interesting statement of Thomas Cahill which I hope indicates he might tackle Orthodox Thought. "Sadly, its form of Christianity which came to be called Orthodoxy and is full of rarified spiritual insight, has never been well known in the West."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    This book is vintage Cahill: witty, provocative, and probably over-sexed. I have to give him credit--Cahill is a competent scholar and he does cover the relevant topics. He covers the “Greek” outlook on poetry, war, partying, and philosophy. There is some oversimplification, but that can’t be helped. His first few sections retell the Homeric stories. Some parts are interesting but if you have already read Homer, there isn’t much to add. (Sidenote: Reading this chapter along with the relevant sec This book is vintage Cahill: witty, provocative, and probably over-sexed. I have to give him credit--Cahill is a competent scholar and he does cover the relevant topics. He covers the “Greek” outlook on poetry, war, partying, and philosophy. There is some oversimplification, but that can’t be helped. His first few sections retell the Homeric stories. Some parts are interesting but if you have already read Homer, there isn’t much to add. (Sidenote: Reading this chapter along with the relevant section in C.S. Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost shows one the utter despair of the Greek world). The section on philosophy was neat, but again if you have read the relevant material (Plato et al) it reads like a summary. As to be expected, his most notorious chapters deal with sex. I guess it isn’t as graphic as one would expect from Cahill and some sections really do illustrate the Greek outlook on relationships. Cahill is correct, for example, that the Greeks didn’t see homosexual relationships as denoting a sexual preference called “homosexuality.” Nor was their penchant for pederasty one of forced relations, or so they thought. The boy was to be wooed. (The “call girls” at the Symposia were probably not given that option (Cahill 97-98).) Cahill observes: “To represent ancient Greece as a homosexual society is to miss the central lesson. It was a militarized society that saw everything in terms of active and passive, swords and wounds, phalloi and gashes” (134). Certain members of society (aristocratic males and boys) were not allowed to be made into passive receivers. Of course, that didn’t apply to lesser classes. (In any case, one surmises that St Paul’s condemnations would apply regardless of labels or orientations) Cahill points out something that should have been obvious but wasn’t: if you look at a lot of representations of Greek sexuality (I know, vulgar) you will note that the positions are always variants of some rear-entry position. Cahill suggests a reason for it: sex in a position that implied face-to-face presupposed a value of communication and mutual unity. These ideas had no place in the Hellenistic world. (Side note: I am not saying that these various “positions” are right or wrong. Cahill is simply making a point). Those who know the history of Trinitarianism will see something else: the ancient Greek world really didn’t have a concept of “Person” as we have it today, a turning of the face towards another’s face. Conclusion: Should you get the book? I don’t know. Aside from Cahill’s asides (which are always interesting), I didn’t learn anything. If you are familiar with Plato and Homer, I don’t see what this will offer you.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I really enjoyed Cahill's _How the Irish Saved Civilization_ and so passed that on to Scott. He enjoyed it so much that he dug up this book about the Greeks, really enjoyed *it*, and passed it back to me. I think this one is just as well done, and would be a wonderful read if you either (a) don't know much about the ancient Greeks (Scott's situation) or (b) know some and really want to know more. I, however, was a philosophy major in college, and so read a lot of Greek philosophers. I took an hon I really enjoyed Cahill's _How the Irish Saved Civilization_ and so passed that on to Scott. He enjoyed it so much that he dug up this book about the Greeks, really enjoyed *it*, and passed it back to me. I think this one is just as well done, and would be a wonderful read if you either (a) don't know much about the ancient Greeks (Scott's situation) or (b) know some and really want to know more. I, however, was a philosophy major in college, and so read a lot of Greek philosophers. I took an honors Greek Civ class and read Herodotus and Thucydides. I took a Greek and Roman Civ class. I took a Greek etymology course. I recently read something else Scott found about the history of Sparta and the battle that prompted the movie "The 300". Though this book was very well done, it was just more Greek history and perspective than I need. So by all means, read it if you don't know much about the time and place and how it changed the world. It did, and Cahill does a great job making that history accessible and interesting. It just wasn't something I needed more of right now.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bish Denham

    I am not, by any means, a Greek scholar. Neither am I ignorant of Greece's history, literature, and what it gave to world. What this book did for me was put things into a broad perspective that helped to clarify just how indebted we - Western civilization - are to the remarkable city-state of Athens. So much of our language and our concepts come directly from them. Who knows what the world would be like had they not evolved as they did? But I can possibly make the assumption we would be poorer h I am not, by any means, a Greek scholar. Neither am I ignorant of Greece's history, literature, and what it gave to world. What this book did for me was put things into a broad perspective that helped to clarify just how indebted we - Western civilization - are to the remarkable city-state of Athens. So much of our language and our concepts come directly from them. Who knows what the world would be like had they not evolved as they did? But I can possibly make the assumption we would be poorer had they not. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea started out a bit slow for me, but by the time I got passed the importance of the Iliad and Odyssey it picked up, but this may also have been because I fell into the rhythm of Cahill's writing. For anyone who might want to learn a little about Greece, I think this is a good book. It's not a history, is really more about our psychological, emotional, and even our religious roots.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Neil Novesky

    I guess you could say this is a Time Life version of Greek history, not great, not terrible. One strong positive though is Cahill's style of offering on page tidbits in the form of inserts, sort of a magazine style factoid. Some of those actually add to the narrative somewhat. For whatever reason, it seems like he is writing 'down' to the reader. I don't think it is necessarily intentional. But it is a little annoying. For example, he writes 'A legendary figure called Thespis (whence thespian) i I guess you could say this is a Time Life version of Greek history, not great, not terrible. One strong positive though is Cahill's style of offering on page tidbits in the form of inserts, sort of a magazine style factoid. Some of those actually add to the narrative somewhat. For whatever reason, it seems like he is writing 'down' to the reader. I don't think it is necessarily intentional. But it is a little annoying. For example, he writes 'A legendary figure called Thespis (whence thespian) is credited with developing the soloist into a genuine stage character by his invention of a......'. There is an undertone of effete academic over doing it throughout that waters down what could be a pretty interesting book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jrobertus

    i liked this better than his book on the irish -- it is clear he had more to work with. he covers greek contributions to science art, philosophy and systematic knowledge. it gives a deep sense of the magnitude of their contribution to western culture.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura Jean

    A look at Greek literature, poetry, political experiments, art and philosophy and how their attitudes and approaches to life...especially their insatiable curiosity....helped develop Western Civilization.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul Peterson

    Piqued and renewed my interest in the Classics and I will read at least one selection by Thomas Cahill each year from now on. Promise to self!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Greece from the very beginning to the rise of Christianity. Insightful, many illustrations.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maddie

    This was an unexpected addition to my to-read shelf, but I was given this book and the first two books in the Hinges of History collection by a friend to borrow, so in the interest of getting this book back to the owner, I decided to pick it up immediately after I finished The Fallen Kingdom. I didn't really have any expectations for what this book would entail, I just had heard that it would change the way I read the Iliad and the Odyssey (both of which I've yet to read). I was very surprised b This was an unexpected addition to my to-read shelf, but I was given this book and the first two books in the Hinges of History collection by a friend to borrow, so in the interest of getting this book back to the owner, I decided to pick it up immediately after I finished The Fallen Kingdom. I didn't really have any expectations for what this book would entail, I just had heard that it would change the way I read the Iliad and the Odyssey (both of which I've yet to read). I was very surprised by the different types of knowledge that went into this book which included literary analyses of parts of the Homeric epics, a section on the art history of the Greeks, and a large portion dedicated to Greek philosophy. Thomas Cahill did an incredible job weaving all of these strands together and making it readable and relevant for a person in the 21st century. I enjoyed this book immensely, and have a newfound appreciation for the Greeks and all the ways that they influenced virtually all of Western society, even up to the present day. The book goes from the beginnings of Greece and its rise to a cultural power in the Western world and follows it until the waning philosophical prowess of the Greeks comes into contact with Judeo-Christianity and the rise of the Byzantine Empire overshadows that of the Greek. This particular chapter at the end of the book was especially fascinating as the split between Western and Eastern Christianity become more apparent. But really, there was never a dull moment in this book, and I'm looking forward to reading the Iliad and the Odyssey knowing what I know now. I also think it would be interesting to go back and re-read Esther Friesner's YA reimagining of Helen of Troy that I read five or six years ago given this context. And of course, I still have the first two books in this collection, which I'll hopefully be getting to later this year.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    5/10 You know when you hear a song, and really like it, so you find the artist to listen to more of their work, only to discover that the first song you heard was by far the best? That's how I feel about Thomas Cahill. Gift of the Jews was incredible, and the rest of his works have been only passable in comparison. His greatest strength is not in strict history, but rather in giving the audience an impression of what the time in question was actually like. This is what he does in "Sailing the win 5/10 You know when you hear a song, and really like it, so you find the artist to listen to more of their work, only to discover that the first song you heard was by far the best? That's how I feel about Thomas Cahill. Gift of the Jews was incredible, and the rest of his works have been only passable in comparison. His greatest strength is not in strict history, but rather in giving the audience an impression of what the time in question was actually like. This is what he does in "Sailing the wine dark sea", and does fairly well. However, it strikes me that you could just read Homer, and would likely get a more thorough impression. I would most likely recommend this over a work like "life of the Greeks" by Durant, as it imparts more in 1/4th the time, but still is nothing like a seminal work on the Greeks. It is instead a decent overview of what we all should have learned in high school, albeit more enjoyably done. As an aside, I think this is all the proof I need that I need to discard the peripheral material and wade into the source data that I've already dipped toes into. This is most likely true of many of the books I read, and yet I'm reluctant to do anything quite so studious.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    This is the fourth book I’ve read of Cahill’s. The first, How the Irish Saved Civilization, was an outstanding read. I learned a lot about how St Patrick converted the Irish people, who then collected and spread the Latin classics all over Middle Age Europe. The second book in the series, The Gift from the Jews, is a good primer on how the concept of Monotheism is a lasting ‘gift’ from Judaism. Since I’m somewhat familiar with the Old Testament, it felt a little repetitive. The third book in the s This is the fourth book I’ve read of Cahill’s. The first, How the Irish Saved Civilization, was an outstanding read. I learned a lot about how St Patrick converted the Irish people, who then collected and spread the Latin classics all over Middle Age Europe. The second book in the series, The Gift from the Jews, is a good primer on how the concept of Monotheism is a lasting ‘gift’ from Judaism. Since I’m somewhat familiar with the Old Testament, it felt a little repetitive. The third book in the series, a book on Jesus, I read back in 2012. I don’t remember a thing about it, even when I tried to refresh my memory of it by reading my review. I can say I liked it. That brings me to this book on the Greeks. Although I’ve read a lot on the ancient Greeks, I still learned a ton about the different facets of their society. Cahill is good about bringing the social, artistic, political, and philosophical parts of a society into a cohesive whole, bringing me to an ‘aha’ moment where I felt I could connect the dots. Unfortunately, the moment has faded, but I have still retained most of the major points. Good book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I've owned several of Cahill's books for many years, and I've been looking forward to finally getting into them this year. I picked up this one first, hoping that it would shed light on some of the points that came up in Riddle of the Labyrinth (the story of the deciphering of Linear B) and the meaty introduction to Wilson's translation of The Odyssey. Instead, there were many points when the fact that I'd read both of those last year was the only reason I could follow the story Cahill was telli I've owned several of Cahill's books for many years, and I've been looking forward to finally getting into them this year. I picked up this one first, hoping that it would shed light on some of the points that came up in Riddle of the Labyrinth (the story of the deciphering of Linear B) and the meaty introduction to Wilson's translation of The Odyssey. Instead, there were many points when the fact that I'd read both of those last year was the only reason I could follow the story Cahill was telling. Cahill seems like he'd be a really good storyteller and would be a lot of fun to listen to. But as a writer aiming to make a point about history... The narrative was a little too muddy, he never seemed to get around to making the point that the book description and title implied he'd be making, and I honestly didn't walk away from this feeling that I could trust any of the assertions he'd made.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    Sailing The Wine-Dark Sea. When Cahill picks a theme for a book, he sticks to it. Fun idea for a drinking game if you want to read and get drunk at the same time: Take a shot everytime that he actually writes ‘Wine-Dark Sea.’ You’ll find yourself feeling like you’re walking on a ship in a storm in no time. When I picked this up, I was looking for a brief reprieve from the England/France books that I’ve been reading lately and I did receive that - however, what I didn’t get from this book was new i Sailing The Wine-Dark Sea. When Cahill picks a theme for a book, he sticks to it. Fun idea for a drinking game if you want to read and get drunk at the same time: Take a shot everytime that he actually writes ‘Wine-Dark Sea.’ You’ll find yourself feeling like you’re walking on a ship in a storm in no time. When I picked this up, I was looking for a brief reprieve from the England/France books that I’ve been reading lately and I did receive that - however, what I didn’t get from this book was new information. Being a great dabbler in history non-fiction books, I do find that the same facts get repeated a lot, and that is especially the case in this book. It’s perfect if you’re just getting into Greek History or writing a ninth grade history report. It’ll cover the basics but you’re much better off searching for another boo if you’re looking for rarer tidbits. Great source of pictures though! Number 33 is my personal favorite.

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