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Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization [Paperback]

by Bruce S. Thornton
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1, 2002 1893554570 978-1893554573 New edition
In the classics departments of today’s universities, Bruce Thornton says, the Greeks are accused of stealing their achievements from black Egyptians, of oppressing their wives and daughters, and of hypocritically speculating about freedom while holding slaves. Most of all, classic Greek culture has come under attack precisely because its glorious achievement, extended into history, is what defines the West and makes it distinct. In Greek Ways, Thornton clears away these misconceptions. Writing with wit and erudition, he discusses in fascinating detail those areas of Greek life - sexuality and sexual roles; slavery and war; philosophy and politics - that some modern critics have made into “contested sites.” Perhaps more importantly, he also reclaims the importance of those core ideas the Greeks invented, ideas about human fate and purpose that have shaped the modern world. Nearly seventy years ago, Edith Hamilton published The Greek Way, a book that educated two generations of readers about the debt we owe the handful of city-states that developed “the spirit of the West” some 2500 years ago. Bruce Thornton’s Greek Ways is for our time what Hamilton’s book was for a prior era: a classic inquiry holding up a mirror to Greek culture in which we can see ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"In brief compass and clear, enjoyable prose, Professor Thornton has written a stimulating and delightful account of the remarkable and revolutionary characteristics that distinguished the Greeks of the ancient world from all societies before and since. In the process he responds with calm reason and broad and deep learning to the unhistorical, tendentious and foolish assaults launched against them as part of current political agendas. The happy result is this spendid book that allows the Greeks themselves to speak and reveal the absurdity of the modern barbarians who abuse them. -Donald Kagan, Hillhouse Professor of History and Classics, Yale Univeristy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Bruce thornton

Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; New edition edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893554570
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893554573
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greeks Defended January 17, 2001
By A Customer
This book sets out to rescue the Greeks from the clutches of the postmodernists, deconstructionists and polymorphous perverse who have invaded the modern Classics department. Rather than seeing them as The Other, strangers in our midst, or as hypocrites who preached democracy while practicing slavery, etc., Thornton sees the Greeks squarely--in their own terms--and finds them to be our brothers. What is valuable in the much abused Western tradition--the examined life, the pursuit of truth, the dialogue about the place of the individual in the larger group--comes from the Greeks. Thornton's defense is spirited and learned, and, judging from the dada masquerading as scholarship these days, it arrives not a moment too soon. The Greeks live again in this brilliant book and we learn once again what their achievement was and how much we owe them.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good case for the impact of Greece on Western culture October 31, 2004
The controversy about whether Greek civilisation was the main source of western civilisation's ideas about freedom, rationality etc... doesn't rage as much here as in the US, where a number of writers have, unconvincingly in my view, sought to argue that the Greeks borrowed much of their ideas on rationality, logic, freedom etc.. from other civilisations and in particular from Egypt.

So when I wanted read more about Greek influence on Western civilisation I dreaded a book which was merely a defense against these and other politically correct theories. Instead, although the author makes reference to this controversy, the book stands on its own in describing Greek civilisation and its enormous influence on today's world. The author does not pretend that the Greeks formed a cultural monolith, where everybody was convinced of the power of reason. But his very wide range of sources is persuasive enough that many of the ideas that were necessary building blocks for the rise of Western civilisation, such as that there should be a rational explanation for natural phenomena, originated with Greek thinkers. The fact that some of these paid for their ideas with their life (like Socrates) does not diminish the fact that the Greeks were there first.

What did I miss in this book ? I would have liked more about the transmission of Greek ideas to the West, i.e. how we lost much of this philosophical heritage only to regain it at the time of the renaissance. Secondly, although the author on a number of occasions asserts that other contemporary civilisations had not reached such and such a level, I would have liked to see more detail on this.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading. December 6, 2001
By A Customer
This book should be read by anyone who wants to get a clearer picture of the contributions of ancient Greek society to our modern world.
The author does an excellent job of showing how modern day revisionism is nothing more than short-sighted "dribble", which chooses to ignore the timeless ideals of ancient Greece.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about a great civilization. October 7, 2002
By A Customer
I was truly enlightened while reading this book. Not only did it give me new information, but it also got me interested in reading other books about the Greeks.
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