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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Study of a fascinating subject
This book, based on a series of lectures, first appeared in the early 1950s, but it remains a standard reference for anyone looking to discover more about the "irrational" beliefs of the ancient world. Curiously, its subject becomes ever more relevant, as New Age beliefs gain ground in the supposedly rational West -- our modern society seems to be turning the clock back...
Published on 16 April 2003 by Marcus Horatius

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2.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle version
I've just bought the Kindle edition, and I regret it. Two specific problems:

1) The book has a very large number of footnotes (over 100 in one chapter) and some of them are lengthy and relevant. But there is no link to them from the text.

2) Most of the Greek quotes - of which there are many - are in microscopic type, and some of them are...
Published 2 months ago by Tony Jackson

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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Study of a fascinating subject, 16 April 2003
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This book, based on a series of lectures, first appeared in the early 1950s, but it remains a standard reference for anyone looking to discover more about the "irrational" beliefs of the ancient world. Curiously, its subject becomes ever more relevant, as New Age beliefs gain ground in the supposedly rational West -- our modern society seems to be turning the clock back to a time when magic and superstition still ruled people's hearts and minds. But that's one of Dodds' central contentions: that such beliefs never actually disappeared, despite the intellectual enlightenment of Plato, Aristotle and the other great thinkers of the ancient world. The same is true today it seems.
One caveat for the general reader: there is a profusion of learned notes and untranslated Greek terms which can be off-putting. But the text itself is clear and not over-stuffed with jargon, as is too often the case with more modern academic writing.
I would also recommend Georg Luck's "Arcana Mundi" (Amazon ASIN: 0801825482), which collects many relevant texts on these subjects in new English translations.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars E.R. Dodds, the master communicator, 6 April 2000
By 
M.I. "migoe" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a book that can't fail to grip. Specialist or non-specialist, or just interested in our culture, Dodds' course of lectures will haunt you. We do our cultural ancestors, the Ancient Greeks, a disservice by thinking of them as the last word in rational thought at all times. They too had their psychic side, upon which their philosophy and art developed. For them, madness or possession (mania)could be positive as well as negative - a god-sent gift to the favoured. There is a thoughtful, attention-gripping, examination of the treatise of Hippokrates on the Sacred Disease (epilepsy). Here too, possibly the first description of an 'out-of-body experience' - to be found in Pindar, c.460 BCE.
When you've read this book, you can't forget it - for the Irrational of the Greeks is with us still, not so very far below the surface.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'A SIMPLE PROFESSOR OF GREEK', 17 Feb. 2005
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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Eric Dodds was sometime professor of Greek at Oxford. This book created a certain amount of a stir in its time both within and outside the arena of classical studies by either addressing, or being believed to address, up-to-date-issues of anthropology and psychology. It consists basically of the Sather Classical Lectures that Dodds was invited to deliver at the University of California in 1950, and as it has been reissued in paperback in 1997 it's fair to assume that the publishers intend it to reach a wider readership than the dwindling band of classical initiates.
I very much hope it does that, but a word or two would probably be in place regarding what to expect and what not to expect to find in the book. The author's preface warns us not to look in the book for a history of Greek religion, and more pertinently recognises that modern scholarship is a worlds of specialists, and Dodds reiterates right at the end that he is 'a simple professor of Greek'. Amateurs, dilettantes and bluffers will find plenty of material to suit them I don't doubt, but Dodds is not one of their number. This work is best read as a standard piece of classical scholarship, not as breaking down any moulds or enclosures. The most casual glance at the daunting catalogue of references in the notes appended to each chapter will show what a vast amount of writing on the topics covered here was in situ before Dodds, and how could it be otherwise? Any commentary on, say, Plato or Empedocles or Greek history by and large had to do its best with issues of religion and trends in thought. There are numerous references to other cultures, and Dodds is certainly better versed in such matters than other classics dons that I knew. By my standards he shows wide reading and deep interest in anthropology and human behaviour. On the other hand my standards in these matters are a thing of shreds and patches, and if I wanted to improve that situation this is not where I would look. The focus here is exclusively on Greeks, and any parallels cited are cited from that point of reference. Another thing to be wary of is trying to read this book as any kind of parable for our times. In my own view it is a powerful parable for our times, but that's my own parable only. In the last chapter Dodds alludes to recent history. His date is 1950, which is nearer to the start of the first world war than to 2005. It seems to me that what he has to say about the recrudescence of irrational religion and what he calls 'the pathetic reverence for the written word' is very near the bone indeed in 2005, but even if I'm right Dodds could not have known that in 1950, and modern history is invoked by him to illustrate ancient history, not the other way about.
What one does expect and demand from a professor of Greek is knowledge and elucidation of what Greeks said thought and did. This is where The Greeks and the Irrational comes up trumps. There are eight chapters plus two appendices (on maenadism and the semi-magical theurgy). Dodds begins, very reasonably, at the beginning with Homeric terminology for the divine, seeing a culture in which values were a matter of status rather than of morality in any modern sense. He traces the development of the latter together with an analysis of various kinds of 'madness', the significance (for Greeks not for Swedenborg or for Kant or for moderns) of dreams, the phenomenon of shamans in the context of trends in religious belief, the rise of rationalism and the counter-reaction that followed it, and the complex issue of Plato's teachings, which are far from unified or consistent. His final chapter is 'The Fear of Freedom', and for my money this rings (or tolls) a loud clear bell in the early years of the third millennium. Genuine freedom of thought, much less of expression, is resented widely as being subversive, it seems to me, not least in a culture that likes to pose as embodying liberty by some kind of definition. In this Dodds seems to me to support my own view, but my own view it remains. Dodds is talking about Greeks.
The presentation of the material improves as the book goes along. The early chapters contain too much Greek that should have been reserved for the notes in what was after all lectures, not the printed word, and will not be fully intelligible without help unless you have Greek. For all that they remain readable, and anyone who can recognise a first-class mind and a first-class scholar will recognise it here. In this respect Dodds has not been as adept as his Cambridge opposite number Denys Page, whose History and the Homeric Iliad followed about a decade later in the Sather series of annual lectures.(Curiously, Page was restricted to six lectures, not the eight he seemed to have been expecting.) Dodds has all eight at his disposal, the book is beautifully written, and I ended wishing there had been more. Still a book for a wide reading-public I should say, wherever intellectual curiosity and a wish to understand human thought-processes thrive.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle version, 18 Feb. 2015
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I've just bought the Kindle edition, and I regret it. Two specific problems:

1) The book has a very large number of footnotes (over 100 in one chapter) and some of them are lengthy and relevant. But there is no link to them from the text.

2) Most of the Greek quotes - of which there are many - are in microscopic type, and some of them are garbled.

The new reprint also listed in Amazon costs only a fraction more, even including delivery. The footnote problem would of course be avoided; and from what I can see, the Greek typeface is large and perfectly clear. I'm tempted to buy it as well - the book, as expected, is very interesting - but I balk at paying twice. Better luck next time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition needs corrections, 12 Jan. 2014
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My five stars are for the book, not the edition, which needs correcting. There are many missing words and letters, and some wrong letters - e.g. 'a' for 'c' in this transfer.
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2 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Greek math roots that extended to Egypt were not well understood in the 1950s, 16 Jan. 2014
By 
Milo (Sacramento, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Greeks and the Irrational (Sather Classical Lectures) (Paperback)
"The Greeks and the Irrational" takes the reader back to the 1950s and a time when classical Greek math was reported as taking large steps to improve older Egyptian mathematics. The 1950s was a golden era that European and US universities shut down their Egyptian math departments , with the retirement of Prof. Reisner, Harvard was the last to close its department. Irrational numbers were reported as only known by Greeks like Archimedes.

The 1950s was the time that I worked as a military code breaker, assigned to Germany and Lebanon to decode Russian and Arabic texts.:

Last year fragments of Greek square root were reassembled by the request of a researcher. Several surprises came into view.

Unresolved aspects of Archjimedes' ESTIMATION OF PI problem were reported by Kevin Brown and E.B. Davis with upper and lower limits;

(1351/780)^2 is greater than PI is greater than (265/153)^2

A. Archimedes calculated the higher PI limit(1351/780)^2 by:

1. step 1. guess (1 + 2/3)^2 = 1 + 4/3 + 4/9 = 2 + 3/9 + 4/9, meant 2/9 = error1

2. step 2 reduced error1 2/9

by dividing 2/9 by 2(1 + 2/3)

steps that meant

2/9 x (3/10) = 1/15

such that

(1 + 2/3 + 1/15)^2, error2 (1/15)^2 = 1/225 = error2

knowing (1 + 11/15) = 26/15

3. step 3 reduced error2 = 1/225 by dividing by 2 x (26/15) = 52/15

1/225 x (15/52) = 1/15 x (1/52) = (1/780)^2 = error 3

reached

(26/15 - 1/780)^2 = (1351/780)^2 in modern fractions

recorded a unit fraction series that began with step 2 data and subtracted 1/780

(1 + 2/3 + 1/15 - 1/780)^2

as Archimedes would have written

(1 + 2/3 + 1/30 + (13 + 6 + 4 + 2)/780)^2 = (1 + 2/3 + 1/30 + 1/60 + 1/+ 1/195 + 1/390)^2

B . The lower limit 265/153 modified step 2, used

1/17 rather than 1/15, (1+ 2/3 + 1/17) = (1 + 37/51)

such that (1 + 111/153)changed to (1 + 112/153) = 265/153.

The decoded raw data shows that Ahmes in 1650 BCE and the scribe that wrote the 1900 BCE Berlin Papyrus solution to two second degree equations had used the same square root method.

As an aside, today Harvard has refunded its Egyptian mathematical chair. There are critical rational steps that Harvard may be considering to update the classical Greek views of the 1950s. For example, will Harvard revisit the rosay "The Greeks and the Irrational" Dodd narrative and offer corrective suggestions for us all? I for one vote yes.

Best Regards,

Milo Gardner
Sacramento, Caiifornia
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The Greeks and the Irrational (Sather Classical Lectures)
The Greeks and the Irrational (Sather Classical Lectures) by E R Dodds (Paperback - 22 Jun. 2004)
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