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It's All Greek to Me: From Homer to the Hippocratic Oath, How Ancient Greece Has Shaped Our World Hardcover – March 9, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061804002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061804007
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Touring the literature of ancient Greece, Higgins, formerly a Guardian journalist on the arts beat, revels in her mission to introduce Homer, among others. Wryly if candidly describing her treatment as a “bluffer’s guide,” Higgins offers a companionable start on the monumental significance of the Greek classics, so if one can’t tell Sappho from Sophocles, this is the place to start. Higgins begins, however, with The Iliad and The Odyssey and shuttles between them throughout the volume as she alights on the topics of the gods, mortality, morality, love, war, politics, science, and women—the gamut of inquiry about human nature undertaken by the authors whose names resound through the ages, from Hesiod to Thucydides to Plato. Focused especially on the fifth century BCE, Higgins highlights the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian War as the milieu of intellectual ferment in the Hellenic world and, in colloquial language, strives to inspire her audience to experience the pleasures Higgins does when she reads the classics. Populist, enthusiastic, and informed, Higgins can fan an ember of interest into a flame. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

“Higgins delivers digestible précis and peppy plot summaries. . . . A love letter to ancient Greece.” (The Telegraph)

“A highly entertaining bluffer’s guide to Greek culture, philosophy, and politics.” (Sunday Times (London))

“With a marvellous display of knowledgeable enthusiasm and a keen talent for compression, (Higgins) shows just precisely why the Greeks matter.” (The Guardian)

“Higgins takes on classical Greek, covering politics, barbarians, love, epic and ethics, all done with panache and sly wit.” (Scotland on Sunday)

“Higgins’s sparky style makes her subject matter so palatable that… her readers may not feel the need to seek out the classics because she has distilled them all too well.” (Time Out London)

“In It’s All Greek to Me, Charlotte Higgins does a great job in conveying the heart of Greek culture to a general audience. Perfect for the stocking.” (Mary Beard, History Today)

“[It] is so readable, with a directness and clarity that’s enormously engaging. Every generation needs to rediscover the Greeks: and Charlotte Higgins has provided this one with a wonderful map of the territory and all kinds of help on the way. . . . What an excellent book.” (Phillip Pullman)

“A completely excellent guide to Greek poetry, drama, philosophy, history and culture. Philip Pullman has said that he would put it into every school and every teacher-training course and I’d echo that. . . . Highly entertaining as well as informative.” (A.N. Wilson, Evening Standard)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charlotte Higgins has written an eminently readable book on Ancient Greece that has whet my appetite for more on this subject.

I studied Ancient Greek history and mythology at school and, 30 years on, have forgotten just about everything I learned. I am now sufficiently inspired to put together a reading list (and Ms Higgins has some fine suggestions) to remedy this lacuna.

Highly recommended to all those wanting to revisit the foundations of our civilisation after a long absence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Albert Bigelow on November 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating look back at how Greece influenced our culture. Has a nice recap of Homer's Illiad and Odyssey.Useful timelines, table of the Greek alphabet and a nice map.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By simplifymylife on May 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the few books that really digs in and provides expansive knowledge on Greek culture and society but doesn't overwhelm you. If Greek is all new to you and you want to learn more - as a beginner I highly recommend this book; it is perfect for starting out. A very easy read,interesting and informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Norwood on February 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The reader's initial impression of this book is the breezy writing style of Charlotte Higgins. There is a lively and personalized approach to Greek culture, as apparent from the opening sentence of this short volume.

Another salient feature is the author's excellent command of sources materials. There are well-selected passages from Greek literary sources sprinkled throughout the book.

Above all, Ms. Higgins writes with good feeling for her topic. There is an especially moving description of the famous domestic scene from Homer's "Iliad" in which Hector is virtually forecasting his death during an intimate conversation with his wife. Andromache's touching response is: "You are my husband, young, and warm and strong!" (p. 163) The author argues persuasively that this moment is the "emotional heart" of Homer's epic poem.

While the book ranges across topics from politics, war, poetry, and religion, there is one glaring omission: drama. It was disappointing that the author did not devote a full chapter to the contributions of the four Athenian playwrights--Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. There was a good discussion of Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex." But there was no detailed analysis of the invention of theater, the conditions of live performance in an annual religious holiday, and the vast array of subjects covered by the Athenian playwrights. The book's subtitle of "how ancient Greece has shaped our world" seemed incomplete without a more robust discussion of the theater.

There was also too much simplistic writing with mundane plot synopses, as opposed to insightful analysis of the texts. For example, Ms. Higgins writes the following about the "Iliad": "The storytelling is very simple.
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