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The Greeks and Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 26, 2009

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505164
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,084,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ithis marvelously entertaining and erudite follow-up to Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens, Davidson has written the definitive study of the varieties of same-sex love in ancient Greece. Abjuring recent theory-laden views of ancient Greek sexuality, and in particular homosexuality, Davidson examines the great variety of loves practiced across all ages and classes in such locales as Sparta, Crete and Macedonia. He draws deeply on etymology, philology, archeology, poetry and philosophy, observing, for instance, that the various Greek words for love—from agape (fondness) to pothos (longing) and eros (driving love)—define an amatory universe in which a variety of feelings and sexual practices characterize relationships between individuals. Thus, love manifests itself differently depending on whether the lovers are Spartan women, gods and heroes, comrades-in-arms or master and slave. There is the sweet and playful eros of the lyric poets, the patriotic eros of Pericles' funeral speech, and the letters of Alexander that reject offers to send him the most beautiful boys in the world. Davidson's study is brilliant social history and a first-rate history of classical Greece. B&w illus. (May 26)
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Praise from the UK:

“A highly erudite work of social and cultural history.”
The Guardian (London)

“[A] massive work of research, reflection and surprise.”
Daily Telegraph (London)

“Massively informed and informative . . . [a] vital and outstanding study.”
The Spectator (London)

“A landmark in gay studies . . . James Davidson’s revisionist account emerges with winning charm.”
—Time Out London

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Customer Reviews

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See all 8 customer reviews
This is as bad as a so-called history book can get.
Edmund Marlowe
The book gives the audience a great depth on the topic, explaining the topic from its various angles.
Daniel Jr Lara
Sorry, but ancient female same-sex sexuality just isn't as well established yet as the male variety.
E. Garcia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ever since Kenneth Dover's pioneering work Greek Homosexuality: Updated and with a new Postscript, the homoerotic current in Classical studies has been removed from an embarassing footnote and placed front and center in many studies of Ancient Greek Civilization. Nonetheless, James Davidson feels historians still have it wrong, especially in reducing the concept of Greek Love to sexual acts and who does what to whom being of central importance.

In what promises to be the new landmark study, not only in its controversial theses but in the sheer volume of detail and example accumulated, Davidson has made the case that homoerotic relationships in Ancient Greece were far more complex than historians have previously been willing to explore.

Initially, by examining various words used to describe various shades of amorousness, desire, attraction, friendship, love and sex, and how meaning changes based on context, a complexity is exposed that goes far to impress the basic ambiguities inherent in reading the record and elucidating the questions being asked. Eventually, by further examining vast amounts of written and pictorial elements, a more complete picture of Ancient Greek sexuality is revealed, allowing the Greeks a foreigness that modern writers have frequently ignored, often in order to coopt them for modern political purposes.

It is by allowing the Greeks to be themselves, in all their strangeness, ambiguity and humanity, and by exploring in clear, frequently witty prose what can and cannot be known, that Mr. Davidson has made his indelible mark on the historic record.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Colton Kelley on May 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It is long yes but it is not written in a way that is difficult to understand. Davidson covers every aspect of Greek life in regards to the practice of male-male (and female-female) love, from art to religion to military to societal differences in practices from city-state to city-state. It is well detailed, and very few things mentioned are irrelivent. Some may criticize this book for focusing on homosexual practices amoungst the ancient Greeks, but the author makes it clear that the Greeks were a predominently Heterosexual based culture and homosexual love was not viewed by the ancients as being at odds with this. The ancients loved based on beauty and quality rather than gender. Anyone who wants to learn about same-sex practices in the ancient world will enjoy this wonderful book and learn a lot from it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rufferdawg on April 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
One of the most important books I've read in years, and a stunning work of scholarship and humanity. Those who will not take scholarship seriously unless it is humorless and stacked high in arcane jargon are likely to be disappointed. This is a lively book that reads like a long weekend spent with a brilliant friend who's a born story teller and funny to boot. The 86 pages of footnotes and bilbiographical references are there for those who want all the citations, but what makes this book positively glow is Davidson's ability to bring to life the very complex, very human, story of homosexuality in ancient Greece.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Abbot of Acorn Abbey on February 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The negative reviews of this book are fascinating, in a Freudian sort of way. Frankly I doubt whether the negative reviewers have even bothered to read this book. Get over it, negative reviewers: James Davidson has brilliantly exposed the biases of the likes of K.J. Dover and Michel Foucault. Foucault, remember, never did any primary work on this subject; he only sermonized on the work of others, using a postmodern jargon generator (it would seem) to do his writing for him. As for Dover, Dover remains valuable if you can read him in the context of the staunch traditionalist that he was.

Negative reviewers of "The Greeks and Greek Love" would have us believe that James Davidson expends almost 800 pages in some sort of prolonged recitation of the modern "homosexual agenda." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Davidson takes us into the texts, and into Greek philology, far deeper than Dover did. And besides, Dover seemed to have a preference for urns and vases, which served as more suitable Rorschach images into which Dover could project what he was predisposed to see. Does Davidson write with full awareness of, and often from the perspective of, modern gay men? Yes. What of it? Is that somehow a disqualification, or some sort of guarantee that his scholarship will go astray? Is a "straight" perspective (or a tortured pseudo-straight perspective like Foucault's) on Greek love the only valid perspective? Hardly. It's all about remaining grounded in the texts. Not only does Davidson remain grounded in the texts, in 800 pages he has the room elucidate the texts and to explain and defend his thinking.

So, to all those who want scholarship in this area to remain ossified where Dover left it: Kenneth Dover is dead. Long live James Davidson.
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