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The Greeks And Greek Love: A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality In Ancient Greece Paperback – 11 Dec 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (11 Dec. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753822261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753822265
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Davidson's own scholarship is impressive, but worn lightly, and matched with an easy tone that makes The Greeks and Greek Love a lively, and often very funny, read (LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS)

poses a radical challenge to prominent assumptions about same-sex love in ancient Greece (OXONIAN REVIEW)

Book Description

A radical reappraisal of homosexuality in Ancient Greece, by a young historian described as 'the best thing to happen to ancient history for decades' (Andrew Roberts, MAIL ON SUNDAY)

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Edwin Dion on 15 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really wanted to love this book. It seemed to have everything required for a good one, to me; a subject on which I was very interested, an author who seemed, based on the introduction, to be lively, highly intelligent, and perhaps just a touch whimsical - and yet it's such a massive let-down.

And the main reason is an absolutely simple one: this is the worst-structured non-fiction book I have ever read. It seems to adhere to no hypothesis on Davidson's part, the chapters seem to jump around randomly in their focus, and Davidson all too easily gets mired in subsidiary detail which is largely irrelevant. (Was Alexander really as famously chaste as established history has lead us to believe?) What I got in this book was an avalanche of detail and meta-detail on the subject which not only renders the book essentially unreadable, but completely drowns out what Davidson is trying to say on the subject. So we don't have an introduction to the subject, but neither do we have anything approaching Davidson's own theory of the subject - or at least not, to me, in any terms that are intelligible. Was homosexuality in the ancient world more accepted than contemporary academic understanding credits it with being? Less? Having read the book, I'm still not entirely sure.

The sheer impenetrable depth is even more strange when set aside the subjective idiosyncrasies of Davidson's judgement and the, frankly, ropeyness of his scholarship in many places. Davidson is simply too willing to make leaps of argument when it suits his purposes and source critiques are often highly tenuous.

I just hope that Davidson gives another go at this, and instead of putting down a rambling PhD thesis in book form, actually writes a book next time.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A. McGuire on 14 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Greek construction of male sexuality has fascinated scholars since the 19th century and before, and it was recognised that the subject was complex. Then came Kenneth Dover's important study, which seemed to put everything in order and to make the whole subject readily comprehensible.

Davidson recognises that it is anything but ordered and straightforward. This is a social phenomenon that lasted several centuries, and spanned very different Greek cultures. It's hardly likely that the Spartans, the Athenians and the Cretans would all have had identical behaviour patterns. So if Davidson seems confusing, that's because he's trying to be faithful to the topic. Yes, he does need a good editor to focus his writing, but for the time being this is the best study that we have.

That said, there is a whole range of Greek art forms - not just vases - that have visual evidence which literally illuminates the subject: sculpture, cameos, murals, metalwork, etc, etc. If Davidson had paid greater attention to the wealth of unexplored material, then his criticisms of Dover would be a lot sharper and his insights would be more useful.

So maybe Davidson will favour us with a revised second edition that tackles these issues: then that really could be an important work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kritikos on 23 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This over-hyped book has buried within it a few interesting and genuinely fresh ideas. But its scholarship, despite some endorsements from journalistic reviews, is seriously flawed and the writing is cringe-makingly self-indulgent to the point of narcissism. Look for Thomas Hubbard's online review for a probing assessment.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By emmcol on 30 Jun. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Davidson's previous book (Fishcakes and Courtesans) was one of the best things ever written on the Ancient World. By contrast, this one should have had the serious attentions of an editor, who would, first of all, have reduced its length by at least half. And then controlled Davidson's runaway propensity for slang terms, neologisms and typographical innovations, all of which are confusing and irritating. I do now believe I have read the whole book (to do so from cover to cover in the order it is written is impossible) but I am still not clear what he is trying to say: was homosexuality the accepted norm in ancient Greece or not? It seems, reading between the lines, that Davidson thinks it wasn't (in the earlier book, he says so more clearly), but then, what is he trying to say? As far as I can see, only that certain sorts of male-male relationships (not necessarily physical) were ritualized, in different ways in different places (big deal), and that some cities even had to pass legislation fobidding the condemnation of homosexuality (a gay lobby at work, even then).
The first one-third of the book is an entertaining read. After that, it's something for professional classicists only.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 8 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
James Davidson is a renowned classicist but sadly I feel that too much personal emotional investment in this topic has rather stilted or skewed his usual insightful readings. Romanticising the Greek ideal of elite masculine 'homosexuality' is not so much a reappraissal, I fear, as a throw-back to a more C19th view of the Greeks a la E.M.Forster et al who found a legitimisation of their own feelings.

I don't find the idea of male/male sex at all problematic but I don't feel that Davidson has added anything to the exemplary work already done (Winkler, Richlin etc)and elides too much of the politics of sex which is what makes classicial civilisation, Roman as well as Greek, both so fascinating and 'so good to think with'.

Always an erudite, witty and engaging writer, too much of this book was way too 'out there' (e.g. some of the readings of myth, Homer etc).

So overall I think this is an interesting book for the classical scholar aware of the debates and problems of uncovering ancient sexuality, but it is perhaps too misleading in its conclusions to the average interested reader.
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