In Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, his fourth volume to explore “the hinges of history,” Thomas Cahill escorts the reader on another entertaining—and historically unassailable—journey through the landmarks of art and bloodshed that defined Greek culture nearly three millennia ago.
In the city-states of Athens and Sparta and throughout the Greek islands, honors could be won in making love and war, and lives were rife with contradictions. By developing the alphabet, the Greeks empowered the reader, demystified experience, and opened the way for civil discussion and experimentation—yet they kept slaves. The glorious verses of the Iliad recount a conflict in which rage and outrage spur men to action and suggest that their “bellicose society of gleaming metals and rattling weapons” is not so very distant from more recent campaigns of “shock and awe.” And, centuries before Zorba, Greece was a land where music, dance, and freely flowing wine were essential to the high life. Granting equal time to the sacred and the profane, Cahill rivets our attention to the legacies of an ancient and enduring worldview.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I started with "How the Irish Saved Civilization," loved it, and then went on to what I believe are the next two - Desire of the Everlasting Hills, and Gifts of the Jews. Each offered new spins on old topics that made each read fascinating.
Not here. I guess Cahill likes poetry, because the Iliad and the Odyssey are the eyes through which he frames everything. And believe me, you're going to be reading a lot of the Iliad and the Odyssey. In fact, much of the page count of this book is consumed by long, long verbatim pastes of both - pages-long pastes of both. And then characterizations of both by other authors and poets, also pasted verbatim, consuming yet more page count.
I guess the technique of copying and pasting huge chunks of another work into your own book could have been a plus had your own book said anything coherent, logical, or that followed some form of thematic narrative, like "we are like the Greeks because . . . " Or "the...
This is one of the volumes in Cahill's "hinges of history" series, about periods in Western history upon which our culture hinges. I read it along with the Iliad and the Odyssey, the plays of Euripedes, and a survey course about the Hittites and Myceneans. I think professional writers and teachers of Greek history might consider it a bit quick or facile, but as an accompaniment to the kind of non-professional immersion I have been doing, it is most useful. He brings in the relationship of the Myceneans and later Greeks to the influences surrounding the area, which were many and powerful. The Greeks and Athenian democracy did not occur in a vacuum.
In the last chapter he makes some observations about our intellectual inheritance in modern forms which are certainly provocative and worth considering. I highly recommend this book and the rest in the series.
I really don't care that this was a National Best seller. I found the level of writing in the book really oriented to a 5th grader. Additionally, the book felt very formulaic. I did not enjoy the casual language in a book that was supposed to be instructive on the significance of the Greek culture. I found the author's approach definitely aimed toward tween and teenaged boys--lots of references to orgies and (my personal favorite) the use of the word "schlong." There have to be better written and more entertaining books on why Greek culture matters. Not worth the time to read or the money spent to purchase.
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