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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History) Paperback – 1 Jul 2004

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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History) + How The Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe + The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Books; Reprint edition (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495547
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 435,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 30 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
A rollicking journey through time and culture. Cahill follows the taproot of Western Civilization from today through the Enlightenment to ancient Greece. The tree is comprised of branches on how to make war, what is valuable in literature, the arts, philosophy and religion. It was the Greeks, through Enlightenment thinkers, who provided the seeds of American democratic ideals. Cahill's irreverent prose, hopefully shocking to some, reads like a sophomoric rebellion against his Jesuit mentors. Sex plays a major role in nearly every aspect of Greek society [and what's novel about that?] and Cahill delves into it with gusto. Even here, the Greeks seem to have shown more restraint than Cahill.
Cahill is always a challenging and invigorating read. He holds your attention through dazzling prose and iconoclastic concepts. By dividing the book conceptually instead of simply chronologically, you are given time to pause and reflect on his ideas. For a man relating history, Cahill projects unrelaistic modern values to ancient times. He deems the Greeks "classicist, racist and sexist". Yet these modern terms would puzzle any Greek of the period. He extols their intellectual accomplishments without inquiring how the leisure time to pursue these hobbies was achieved. Slavery was the labour-saving device of the day. No-one then challenged its existence, why does Cahill do so now? Slavery and division of resources bred a social hierarchy allowing the arts to flourish and democracy to evolve. Only anarchy and pure communism can do otherwise - neither lead to arts or stable rule. To call the Greeks "sexist" while admiring their presentation of the human form, whether male or female, seems a bit thin.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Argyraspid on 17 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Quite astonishing what Thomas Cahill has to reveal in Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea. Why the Greeks Matter. I wish my history lessons at school had looked something like this, but maybe this knowledge is rather reserved for the advanced and intrepid readers - in all modesty! As much as Arrian's book on the Campaigns of Alexander the Great is the key reading for everybody interested in Alexander, this book by Thomas Cahill is the one to get an overall view of our Western civilization, including an in-depth understanding of Alexander, of course.

This book is in fact Part Four of Cahill's series published under the global name of "The Hinges of History", comprising:
1. How the Irish saved civilization - The untold story of Ireland's heroic role from the fall of Rome to the rise of Medieval Europe
2. The gifts of the Jews - How a tribe of desert nomads changed the way everyone thinks and feels
3. Desire of the everlasting hills - The world before and after Jesus
4. Sailing the wine-dark sea - Why the Greeks matter.
5. 6. 7. Are still under construction.

So many aspects of Greek life are being treated here that I can only mention a handful of the most striking or pertinent elements, like for instance Herodotus' remark that "No one is so foolish as to prefer war to peace: in peace children bury their fathers, while in war fathers bury their children". Nothing new under the sun, you'll say as it applies to today's circumstances as it did thousands of years ago.

One aspect that is being examined is that for the first time in history the Greeks invented an alphabet containing vowels meaning that reading was no longer a gamble, as opposed to the old Phoenician, Persian and even Arab words that had no vowels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By George F. Simons on 20 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
Thomas Cahill is always a pleasant companion to dig out of my beach bag. This fourth book in his "Hinges of History" series of inquiries, though profound in so many places, reads more like solid journalism rather than dry research findings and analysis. Nonetheless, his insights into history are connected well to the background and context of the story being told, as well as related in terms of their influence throughout subsequent history and the roles that Cahill believes that they play to this day in our thinking and behavior. This is made explicit in the subtitle of this volume, "Why the Greeks Matter."

Why? In a very real sense, the Greeks of ancient times set the borders of Europe in terms of political invention, philosophical thought, literary and artistic expression. The author makes it clear how subsequent European civilizations both depended on and deviated from the original and continuing cultures of Greece. We only need to reflect on how ongoingly our political ideals of democracy repeatedly attempt to ground themselves, for example, in the Athenian experience. It was the language of Greek philosophers informed the shape of Christianity both in its expansion throughout the Greco-Roman world, and its revival via Arab scholars and libraries of Western thinking in the medieval universities and finally blossoming again in the Renaissance and classical periods of our literature.

A lot of ink has been spilled and pixels poured in recent years in the attempts to delineate “the European identity”, discussions in which long-dead Greeks are very vocal participants.
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