Wednesday, September 22, 2004

review of 'sailing the wine-dark sea: why the greeks matter'

here is n.s. gill's review of thomas cahill's book 'sailing the wine-dark sea':

The Bottom Line:
In a non-pretentious format, "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea - Why the Greeks Matter" does indeed show to those interested why the ancient Greeks should matter -- even to modern Americans.


* Clear, easy reading
* Photographs of representative artwork
* Puts all of ancient Greece into a compact framework


* Needless profanity and slang
* Some factual errors


* Retells various important Greek myths and puts them in historical context.
* Describes the contributions the Greeks made in all aspects of culture.
* Discusses Plato's Republic's cave and the sex discussion in the Symposium.
* Contains many photographs of ancient Greek sculpture and pottery.
* Compares ancient democracy and leaders with modern politics and political
* Catalogues important writers and philosophers.
* Drenched with facts and anecdotes.

Guide Review - Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea - Why the Greeks Matter:
In eight chapters Thomas Cahill covers the history of ancient Greece in a light, informal manner, using anecdotes and comparisons with modern mores and political figures. Although Cahill has been criticized for exactly this modern outlook, this seems to me crucial to a look at a distant world with an eye to making it relevant as the subtitle "Why the Greeks Matter" demands. If we do indeed have problems with people who are racist, classist, and sexist, as Cahill says the ancient Greeks were, they must have other redeeming characteristics if they're to be worth studying. They developed art, adapted Egyptian mathematics, added vowels to the Semitic consonants to produce the alphabet, produced innovations in various literary fields, created science and philosophy, and introduced the democratic system. It is a bit hard to decide the audience for Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea. It is not a scholarly work, nor is it a work for people who can't tell Ancient from Medieval History. A certain familiarity with ancient Greece seems crucial, but if you already have that understanding, "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea" is somewhat redundant. Still, it is hard to keep the wealth of detail in mind at all times, so Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea seems a refresher for those of us who originally learned about ancient Greece -- whether at the Met, like Cahill, or in school -- in our youth and have since forgotten some of the lessons we learned.

and here is what publisher's weekly had to say:

In this elegant introduction to Greek life and thought, Cahill provides the same majestic historical survey he has already offered for the Irish, the Jews and the Christians. He eloquently narrates the rise of Greek civilization and cannily isolates six archetypal figures representative of the development of Greek thinking. He opens with a consideration of Homer's Iliad and its glorification of the warrior way as an exemplum of life in the Greek state. Cahill then proceeds to offer an evolutionary look at the rise and fall of Greece by examining the wanderer (Odysseus), the politician (Solon), the playwright (Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides), the poet (Sappho), the philosopher (the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle) and the artist (Praxiteles). These figures provide lessons in how to feel, how to rule, how to party, how to think and how to see. For example, Cahill contends that Odysseus reveals longing and desire for love, domestic peace and his homeland, while the rage of Achilles offers us lessons in the way to fight for one's homeland. The book is full of whimsical characterizations, such as the depiction of Socrates as a "squat, ugly, barefoot man who did not bathe too often." The author includes generous portions of the original writings in order to provide the flavor of the Greek way. Once again, Cahill gracefully opens up a world that has provided so much of Western culture's characteristic way of thinking.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

No comments: