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The World of Odysseus (New York Review Books Classics Series) Paperback – September 30, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

M.I. FINLEY (1912–1986), the son of Nathan Finkelstein and Anna Katzellenbogen, was born in New York City. He graduated from Syracuse University at the age of fifteen and received an MA in public law from Columbia, before turning to the study of ancient history. During the Thirties Finley taught at Columbia and City College and developed an interest in the sociology of the ancient world that was shaped in part by his association with members of the Frankfurt School who were working in exile in America. In 1952, when he was teaching at Rutgers, Finley was summoned before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and asked whether he had ever been a member of the Communist Party. He refused to answer, invoking the Fifth Amendment; by the end of the year he had been fired from the university by a unanimous vote of its trustees. Unable to find work in the US, Finley moved to England, where he taught for many years at Cambridge, helping to redirect the focus of classical education from a narrow emphasis on philology to a wider concern with culture, economics, and society. He became a British subject in 1962 and was knighted in 1979. Among Finley’s best-known works are The Ancient Economy, Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, and The World of Odysseus.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; First Edition edition (September 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170175
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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The picture he draws is interesting and compelling, above all because it is consistent.
Big Dave
Finley addresses the sociological, economic and religious systems of the Heroic Age, and gives a close reading of the Homeric texts in doing so.
C. Ebeling
I am reading this book while re-reading the works of Homer and it is extremely helpful.
Brontina

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Rotpeter on March 13, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading Finley immediately after you finish Homer allows you to revisit the epics' individual passages and tie them into coherent themes. Finley's discussion of the Greek household, or oikos, is especially good, as are his insights on giftgiving. The world that Homer sang of is a stark contrast to the more familiar, Classical Greece, and yet the seeds of that Greece (and hence our world) are already recognizably there. Perhaps they are there in a truer, less alloyed form.

The only regrettable part of this book is the second appendix, a speech that Finley later gave on Schliemann. It is full of such professional bitterness that one begins to doubt Finley's decency. The publisher produced a gem of a book, but it should seriously consider removing these few pages in future editions.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on May 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic account of an epoch in which the worlds of history and mythology merge together. The historical significance of myriad passages in Homer are discussed and elaborated on. One cannot but stand in awe of Finley's perspicuity in deciphering the historical importance of even the minutest details.
This is a superb reference guide to assist one's journey thru the archaic but wonderous historical niche of the ancient Greeks. For those who have already read the works of Homer, the present work is a very useful tool to examine more closely the subtle information provided in even the most remote passages of the epics.
This book is highly recommended to anyone who has ever read Homer, as well as anyone who would ever like to. For students of Greek history and literature, this one is a can't miss!
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Big Dave on November 6, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finley only briefly ventures into archaeology in the beginning of _The World of Odysseus_, and only to demonstrate that Mycenean Greece is not the world of the Homeric heroes. From this conclusion he guesses that Homer is likely describing a world that existed between the Mycenean era and the poet's own time.
Finley then goes literary, eschewing anthropology and archaeology and instead analyzing the texts of the Iliad and the Odyssey. From the stories of Homer, he reconstructs the sort of society in the Homeric heroes lived, in terms of its economy, its social structure, and its morals and values.
The picture he draws is interesting and compelling, above all because it is consistent. Its consistency is, of course, an argument in favor of the view that the Homeric world really did exist (i.e., that gods and magic and specific names aside, the cultural world described by Homer is authentic, and not an artistic creation). Moreover, because the culture is consistent, an understanding of it helps a reader to interpret sometimes puzzling actions on the part of Homer's heroes. This is therefore important secondary reading to accompany any reading of Homer.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on September 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
Moses Finley's WORLD OF ODYSSEUS is that rarest of rarities: it is a work of historical-literary scholarship that so far hasn't dated hardly at all. As such, it makes the perfect edition to the NYRB Classics series: this nifty little study gives the reader a very informative (and mostly very accurate) overview of life during Homer's age, the so-called "Dark Ages" of ancient Greece. The iconoclasm of Finley's approach--his daring refusal to believe the Homeric epics gave accurate portraits of the Mycenaean Age they purported to describe, and his insistence that they rather spoke to Homer's own time--still seems brave and innovative fifty years later, and Bernard Knox does a superb job contextualizing the impact of Finley's study.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By T. F. Johnson on June 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
This relatively short work by the famed ancient historian M. I. Finely remains as influential and important today as it was when it was published over 30 years ago, no small feat in field that has seen major shifts in opinion over the same time period. Finley is one of those unique authors that can combine solid historical scholarship within an engaging framework that makes his works accessible to all, from the lay reader to a student of the field. I found the book to be both an interesting companion to The Odyssey as well as an interesting read in its own right, although I have been know to be a bit partial to Greek history. Regardless of ones interests, Finley is a very accessible author who consistently leaves me craving more.

The main goal of the book is too illuminate the obscure world of Greek prehistory using the later of the two major epic poems attributed to Homer, The Odyssey. Finley set himself no small task, for both the Iliad and The Odyssey have been regarded as representing a picture of the Greek Bronze Age to varying degrees since the founding of modern historical scholarship and indeed even before. What Finley proposes is a departure from this line of thought, namely that the epics of Homer recall the memory of the `Heroic Age of the Greeks' that is traditionally associated with the Mycenaean civilization of the later Bronze Age. Instead he suggests that the poems represent a time closer to Homers own, thought to be c. 800-750 B. C. The time period in question is known by various names but is most often called the Greek Dark Age, the period of time between the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization c. 1200 B.C. and the onset of the Archaic Age c. 750.
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