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Eros: The Myth Of Ancient Greek Sexuality Paperback – February 13, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0813332260 ISBN-10: 9780813332260 Edition: New Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press; New Ed edition (February 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780813332260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813332260
  • ASIN: 0813332265
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,612,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bruce S. Thornton is professor of classics and chairman of the Department of Foreign Languages at California State University at Fresno.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 100 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
First of all, ignore the ridiculous Kirkus review of this book! Bruce Thorton's "Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality" is a badly needed voice of sanity on this subject. Indeed, as Thorton himself says, "Most of the writing on ancient sexuality these days grinds the evidence in the mill of an 'advocacy agenda' supported by some fashionable theory that says more about the crisis of Western rationalism than it does about ancient Greece." He could have been talking about the Kirkus review. By thoroughly examining the ancient sources themselves, Thornton reveals what the Greeks actually thought and said about sexual relationships.
The Greeks understood, perhaps, something we moderns do not; the Greeks understood the "inhuman chaos of nature" and perceived human order as the triumph of the mind and culture over the brute forces of nature. Eros, Thornton explains, is not "love" but "sexual desire." It is a representation of how sex attacks the mind and breaks man's will. Eros is a "disease of the soul." Consequently, sexual attraction as madness is a theme that recurs throughout Greek literature. The Greeks saw sex and violence as two sides of the same irrational coin.
To the Greek way of thinking, mind must control the irrational. Subjection to passion and appetite is a form of slavery. The Greeks understood that women possess "a power that speaks to the irrational in men." And ultimately, "what disturbs men about women is what disturbs men about themselves...." Unlike those who would like to portray women as powerless victims of a male patriarchy, Thorton shows how and why the Greeks saw female erotic power as dangerous; it intensifies the chaotic passion of all humans.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a superb treatment of Greek sexuality and culture in general, and anyone interested in a clear-eyed, unbiased look at ancient culture should buy it and read it carefully. Thornton presents a well-documented, convincing case that the Greeks viewed sexuality as enticing, necessary...and potentially very destructive. Thornton even dares to draw moral lessons for our own times from the thoughts and actions of the Greeks. The viciousness and malice of the Kirkus review presented above shows just how badly we academics need authors with Thornton's combination of courage and erudition. And it shows just how much truth can sting. Buy this book, but be careful when you start it--you won't be able to put it down till you're finished!
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Janell M. Ramos on October 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Dr. Thornton's views are from a "Greek" perspective and his conclusions can't be judged by modern standards of love and romance. The discussion of Odysseus and Penelope's relationship is very enlightening. It is perhaps the best discussion of marriage in the ideal sense that I have ever read. As a matter of fact, it is an inspiration. I re-read my Homer. Waiting for Odysseus
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By _alters-not on May 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Not being a historian myself, I only really know the past from works of scholarly writers & History TV.

The question for an average person like me is just how erudite a scholar / presenter is. What's her/his reference reading like from the period under discussion?

I won't even bother asking about 'narrative' because that's everywhere these days.

What matters to me is the historian's references which I can check out for myself and help me understand his/her perspective of the past, whether or not it fits my own preferred narrative.

In this case, Prof. Thornton has an impressive breadth of sources. From appr. 800-100 BC, ranging from history & philo, literature & legend.

Most 20thC authors of this subject, ancient Greece's thoughts on human sexuality, narrow their sources on Plato and writers of the classical period, roughly just 150 yrs out of entire Greek history.

I only found out about the BCs, the actual extent of the author's study after reading the book and discussing it with a friend who read Greek History at uni.

That said, I enjoyed and appreciate this well-researched book, and likely to re-read it in case someone blithely quotes a movie version of certain Greek tales to me ;)
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kate Gilbert on July 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Well, no, actually, I don't like it. But my review isn't for people who don't like it but for people who do. You are being sold a bill of goods here. And I'm sorry for you.

I've been reading Bruce Thornton's book for a few days and I feel it necessary to comment because I see that many of the favorable reviews of his book take Thornton's assessment of his place in scholarship at face value. Thornton (and his work buddy VD Hansen) both assert that Thornton's scholarship holds the line against a torrent of wrong think from other scholars who unfairly bring their modern political biases to bear on the Greeks and use them to score modern political points. In order to make this argument Thornton has to bring his modern political biases and partisan political approach to bear to make the Greeks themselves rebut Thornton's perceived enemies. As we anthropologists say: its turtles all the way down.

Thornton's point, which he makes over and over and over again, is that if you thought that the ancient Greeks were modern romantics, you'd be wrong. For instance, if all you knew about Jason and Medea came from seeing the execrable Hollywood movie "Jason and the Argonauts" you might think that Jason and Medea were just like Romeo and Juliet...or that nice witchy woman with the wrinkling nose in some suburban sit com! As I pointed out to my children you might also think that sea serpents were made of cardboard and moved by wires. But mercifully no modern scholars that I know aside from Camille Paglia (the only woman of whom Thornton approves) bothers with this kind of cheap comparison. In academia, when you pick a straw man interlocutor to bounce your ideas off of, we generally discover you don't have much to offer to the real discussion. This is Thornton's problem.
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