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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History) Paperback

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Product Details

  • Series: Hinges of History (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495547
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dukakis makes an oddly fine match for this learned, accessible and occasionally glib survey of early Greek culture and its contributions to Western civilization. While her gruff Boston accent may seem like a strange match for a historical work, it suits this text, which moves fluidly between quoting Sappho on one page and referring to the gods as keeping something "on the QT" on another. Indeed, Cahill's project aims not merely to explain the Greeks, but to enliven them. In an effort to take them off their crumbling pedestals and make a modern audience appreciate them as a complex people struggling to comprehend and improve their world, he quotes passages from well-known Greek works and writes comfortably and unassumingly in a colloquial, contemporary style. Perhaps this is why Dukakis fits right in. As an actress, she has more than enough skill to carry listeners through a lengthy excerpt from the Iliad, but she can also project a no-nonsense demeanor that makes the reader feel like she's sitting you down and telling you how it was. The result is a vivid, tangible look at who the Greeks were and what they have come to mean.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School--Cahill has set himself a daunting task in Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, in which he seeks to make the ancient Greeks accessible to a modern audience. Yet he succeeds. The author examines ancient Greek civilization through a number of specific roles that underpinned that society, such as the warrior, the politician, and the philosopher. He delves into their development and shows how they exemplified and perpetuated the different aspects of behavior and thought that defined their times. The use of specific types with whom readers can relate makes for an effective means of bridging the gap between their civilization and ours. With this common ground established, Cahill can show exactly how ancient Greece has influenced western civilization today, such as in the approach to the military and in the creation of the system by which we organize our knowledge and methods of learning. Scholars of the subject might quibble with certain of the author's pronouncements, and he seems to have an overly dismissive attitude toward the civilization of ancient Rome. Yet there can be no gainsaying the fact that Cahill has succeeded in his goal; by the end of the book, readers can thoroughly understand why the ancient Greeks matter to us today.--Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Thomas Cahill, former director of religious publishing at Doubleday, is the bestselling author of the Hinges of History series.

Customer Reviews

This is not to say that he does not explain Greek contributions to art, theater, and philosophy.
J. Shaffer
All of the books in Thomas Cahill's Hinges of History popular history series are engaging and occasionally irreverent.
Bruce Owen Brady
Again, Mr. Cahill makes ancient times come to life and gives his readers a fresh, organized, and insightful view.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

121 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
How the Irish Saved Civilization is a marvelous book. Though none of the subsequent books in what has become "The Hinges of History" series have equaled the first one, Cahill continues to write very readable accounts of the development of Western civilization. This book, subtitled "Why the Greeks Matter," is, as you might suspect, a sketch of the contributions of the ancient Greeks to our culture from Homer through the influence of Greek though on early Christianity.
I have a soft spot for Greek culture so I was easily won over by this book. Though there is some value to the trend of multiculturalism that has permeated American schools in recent decades, I believe strongly that no culture has had more impact on modern Western civilization than the Greeks and we ignore them at our peril. In examining the strengths and weaknesses of the Greeks, we can see an image of our own strengths and weaknesses.
I was a little disappointed to find very little discussion of the Greek development of mathematics (beyond a brief discussion of Pythagoras, focusing mainly on his philosophy). Greek formalization of mathematics may be their most important legacy to us, ultimately leading to modern science. Instead, Cahill focuses mainly on literature, art, philosophy and politics and, in these areas, offers a nice history.
Clearly, Cahill is knowledgeable and his prose is very readable despite his tendency to quote extensively in this book. He doesn't offer us many unique or challenging insights but he does remind us of the great contributions of Greek culture. It is a valuable thing to do.
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121 of 133 people found the following review helpful By G M. Stathis on January 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a Greek-American, a college professor who has taught a course on the ancient Greeks (Hellenes), and something of a fan of Thomas Cahill, I was very excited to see his latest book on the rise of the Western Liberal Tradition, "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter." Perhaps because my expectations were so high, I was a little disappointed. It is a worthy volume in his "Hinges of History" series, but it is not without some problems. But let us be honest, Cahill is a humanist and speaks of ancient Hellas from the perspective of the humanities in general rather than history or political science and that may be the problem here. Much of his historical narrative is episodic and misses some vital points. For instance, despite his title, "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea," he fails to emphasize the importance of the sea to Greek life or mention the battle of Salamis, "Holy Salamis," which according to many historians, including Victor Davis Hanson, saved Western culture from the Iranian (Achaemenid Persian) onslaught. Cahill devotes a chapter to "The Warrior: How to Fight," but makes no mention of this vital battle or the importance of Hellenic warfare by use of the trireme. The battle is not even included in his brief Chronology (later battles, Plataea and Mycale, are mentioned). True, some have questioned the overall impact of Salamis, but to the Hellenes it was a victory sent by the gods. It is interesting that this subject is missing but other, rather obscure cultural elements such as a somewhat odd emphasis on Greek sexual preferences, are included. Still, this is a valuable volume that will be embraced by the general public. In this context, his discussion of Christianity's debt to the Greeks is quite accurate and illuminating.Read more ›
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85 of 96 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cahill prior to his publication of the first "hinges of history" book, "How the Irish Saved Civilization." I found his premise for this series of books fascinating, and have read every book in the series. I was particularly looking foward to his book on the Greeks because: (1) it was somewhat of a departure for him in that it is a "pagan" civilization, unlike the books on the Hebrews, Jesus, and Saint Patrick he wrote from his theological background; and (2) having read most of the noted Greek works from Plato, Homer, Thuycidides, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, etc., I was interested to get Mr. Cahill's "take" on the importance of this civilization. Well, if you've read the Greeks, don't bother reading Cahill. He quotes liberally from these authors, without much new enlightment for those readers that have read the original works. This would be an okay introductory text for people that have not read the original works. But, even then, it's not all that illuminating. There was a fascination with Greek erotica that did not elevate the tone of the discussion. Nor was his footnote comparing the Peloponnesian War with the Iraq War of Bush & Rumsfeld appropriate in a book that does not wish to date itself for future readers outside our era. Guess Mr. Cahill suspected this book will have a short shelf-life. If you wish to read a more penetrating, poignant, and insightful study of the Greek civilzation, I recommend the hard-to-find Edith Hamilton books, "The Greek Way," and, especially, "Echo of Greece."
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gunther on December 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Cahill's primer of Classical Greece will attract a lot of interest from fans of this series, which began with his popular "How the Irish Saved Civilization." The book focuses on classical Greek culture - Homer, the theatre, philosophy, and art. The choice of topics is standard, the treatment conventional rather than inspired, the writing breezy and informal (including an annoying amount of slang.) Really there is nothing new here, but on the positive side, the book does provide a basic level of information about ancient Greece to readers who are lacking it.
Cahill's discussion of sexuality in ancient Greece is quite explicit; it includes frank translations of obscene Greek verse, explicit images of sexual activity on Greek vases, and blunt explanations of who is doing what to whom, complete with those good old Anglo-Saxon "four-letter words" in case anybody doesn't get the point.
Superficial generalizations and analogies (between Solon and Franklin D. Roosevelt, between Pericles and John F. Kennedy, between the Peloponnesian War and the Second Gulf War) detract from the exposition, and illuminate neither ancient times nor our own.
The book contains several minor lapses, and at least one "howler:" on page 189, Cahill astonishingly asserts that the battle of Thermopylae "proved the decisive turning point of the war, preventing the Persian army from descending on Greece." Of course, Thermopylae did no such thing; after several days of heroic Spartan resistance, the Persians finaly overran the position, poured into Attica, sacked Athens, and burned the Acropolis to the ground.
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