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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History) Reviews

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History)

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History) 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

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3 responses to “Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History) Reviews”

  1. Timothy Haugh says:
    121 of 128 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Not Challenging but Useful, January 4, 2004
    By 
    Timothy Haugh (New York, NY United States) –
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    How the Irish Saved Civilization is a marvelous book. Though none of the subsequent books in what has become “The Hinges of History” series have equaled the first one, Cahill continues to write very readable accounts of the development of Western civilization. This book, subtitled “Why the Greeks Matter,” is, as you might suspect, a sketch of the contributions of the ancient Greeks to our culture from Homer through the influence of Greek though on early Christianity.
    I have a soft spot for Greek culture so I was easily won over by this book. Though there is some value to the trend of multiculturalism that has permeated American schools in recent decades, I believe strongly that no culture has had more impact on modern Western civilization than the Greeks and we ignore them at our peril. In examining the strengths and weaknesses of the Greeks, we can see an image of our own strengths and weaknesses.
    I was a little disappointed to find very little discussion of the Greek development of mathematics (beyond a brief discussion of Pythagoras, focusing mainly on his philosophy). Greek formalization of mathematics may be their most important legacy to us, ultimately leading to modern science. Instead, Cahill focuses mainly on literature, art, philosophy and politics and, in these areas, offers a nice history.
    Clearly, Cahill is knowledgeable and his prose is very readable despite his tendency to quote extensively in this book. He doesn’t offer us many unique or challenging insights but he does remind us of the great contributions of Greek culture. It is a valuable thing to do.

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  2. G M. Stathis says:
    121 of 133 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Not Quite Up to the Standard of Arete, January 22, 2004
    By 
    G M. Stathis (cedar city, utah USA) –
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    As a Greek-American, a college professor who has taught a course on the ancient Greeks (Hellenes), and something of a fan of Thomas Cahill, I was very excited to see his latest book on the rise of the Western Liberal Tradition, “Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter.” Perhaps because my expectations were so high, I was a little disappointed. It is a worthy volume in his “Hinges of History” series, but it is not without some problems. But let us be honest, Cahill is a humanist and speaks of ancient Hellas from the perspective of the humanities in general rather than history or political science and that may be the problem here. Much of his historical narrative is episodic and misses some vital points. For instance, despite his title, “Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea,” he fails to emphasize the importance of the sea to Greek life or mention the battle of Salamis, “Holy Salamis,” which according to many historians, including Victor Davis Hanson, saved Western culture from the Iranian (Achaemenid Persian) onslaught. Cahill devotes a chapter to “The Warrior: How to Fight,” but makes no mention of this vital battle or the importance of Hellenic warfare by use of the trireme. The battle is not even included in his brief Chronology (later battles, Plataea and Mycale, are mentioned). True, some have questioned the overall impact of Salamis, but to the Hellenes it was a victory sent by the gods. It is interesting that this subject is missing but other, rather obscure cultural elements such as a somewhat odd emphasis on Greek sexual preferences, are included. Still, this is a valuable volume that will be embraced by the general public. In this context, his discussion of Christianity’s debt to the Greeks is quite accurate and illuminating. And like a number of others he reminds us of the current relevance of Thucydides, in light of American imperial temptaions in the Persian Gulf. Even so, the West’s debt to a people that gave us the single most defining element of the Western Liberal Tradition, “secularism” and the division of church and state, the very notion that the people who live by law should have the right to write them and govern themselves according to written constitutions, is only a passing reference here, and reduces the impact of what could have been a much better book.

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  3. Anonymous says:
    86 of 97 people found the following review helpful
    2.0 out of 5 stars
    Greek 101, November 15, 2003
    By A Customer
    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cahill prior to his publication of the first “hinges of history” book, “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” I found his premise for this series of books fascinating, and have read every book in the series. I was particularly looking foward to his book on the Greeks because: (1) it was somewhat of a departure for him in that it is a “pagan” civilization, unlike the books on the Hebrews, Jesus, and Saint Patrick he wrote from his theological background; and (2) having read most of the noted Greek works from Plato, Homer, Thuycidides, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, etc., I was interested to get Mr. Cahill’s “take” on the importance of this civilization. Well, if you’ve read the Greeks, don’t bother reading Cahill. He quotes liberally from these authors, without much new enlightment for those readers that have read the original works. This would be an okay introductory text for people that have not read the original works. But, even then, it’s not all that illuminating. There was a fascination with Greek erotica that did not elevate the tone of the discussion. Nor was his footnote comparing the Peloponnesian War with the Iraq War of Bush & Rumsfeld appropriate in a book that does not wish to date itself for future readers outside our era. Guess Mr. Cahill suspected this book will have a short shelf-life. If you wish to read a more penetrating, poignant, and insightful study of the Greek civilzation, I recommend the hard-to-find Edith Hamilton books, “The Greek Way,” and, especially, “Echo of Greece.”

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