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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks…
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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History) (edition 2004)

by Thomas Cahill

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Member:camainc
Title:Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Hinges of History)
Authors:Thomas Cahill
Info:Anchor (2004), Paperback, 352 pages
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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill

  1. 00
    Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  2. 00
    The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World by Charles Freeman (gmicksmith)
    gmicksmith: These two volumes, although different in treatment and scope, do cover similar ground and make an interesting comparison.
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The foundations of what we call Western culture today seemingly sprung from one place, Greece, yet that is not the entire truth. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, the fourth volume of Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, examines and explains the structure of Greek society and ideas as well as the reasons why it has permeated so much of what we know of Western culture. But Cahill’s answer to why the Greeks matter is two-fold.

Over the course of 264 pages of text, Cahill looks at all the features of Greek culture that made them so different from other ancient cultures. Through the study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cahill examined the Greek’s view of war and honor in their grand war epic then how the same man expressed how the Greek’s expressed their feelings. The contradiction of the Homeric works is part of a larger theme that Cahill explores in Greek poetry beyond Homer, politicians and playwrights, philosophers, and artists. Throughout each chapter, Cahill examines what the Greeks did differently than anyone else as well as relate examples that many will know. Yet Cahill reveals that as time went on the Greeks own culture started to swallow itself until stabilized by the Romans who were without the Greek imagination and then merged with newly developing Christian religion that used Greek words to explain its beliefs to a wider world; this synthesis of the Greco-Roman world and Judeo-Christian tradition is what created Western thought and society that we know today.

Cahill’s analysis and themes are for the general reader very through-provoking, but even for someone not well versed in overall Greek scholarship there seems to be something missing in this book. Just in comparing previous and upcoming volumes of Cahill’s own series, this book seems really short for one covering one of the two big parts of Western Civilization. Aside from the two chapters focused around the Homeric epics, all the other chapters seemed to be less than they could be not only in examples but also in giving connections in relevance for the reader today.

For the Western society in general, the Greeks are remembered for their myths, magnificent ruins, and democracy. Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea does reveal that ancient Greece was more than that and why a culture millennia old matters to us today. While not perfect, this book is at least a good read for the general reader which may be what Cahill is aiming for but for those more well read it feels lacking once finished. ( )
1 vote mattries37315 | Mar 29, 2017 |
Account of the contribution of the Greeks to Western civilization ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 9, 2017 |
The ancient Greeks looked at the world as it was and thought, ‘We can improve upon all of this. Just…all of it.’

Well, not really. But that’s what they ended up doing. Whether it was in ways of warfare, poetry, politics or philosophy–even how we thought about being alive and our place in the world–they had their hands in it and minds on it. They wound up creating Western civilization.

Sailing the Wine Dark Sea follows the Greeks from the time when they were separate, warring tribes with very different personalities to the era of Greece’s unlimited power, to its fall to Rome. It tracks the various movers and shakers of each movement through those times and makes them as real as if they were standing before you. (Pythagoras was a cult-having hippie and the politicians of the first democracy are as unscrupulous as the ones we know today. The more things change…)

Cahill provides translations of poetry and plays and speeches (some from Robert Fagles and some of his own) to illustrate the changing Greek mind over time. There are also images of sculpture, pottery and other types of artwork and architecture, showing the evolution of each of these throughout the golden age of Greece.

Entertaining and informative, Sailing the Wine Dark Sea is an excellent introduction to the history of ancient Greece and its contributions to Western civilization. At 352 pages it’s not for the established Greek scholar, but it is a good overview and gives some idea of the scope of their influence. For those reasons I give it 5/5 ( )
  vlcraven | Feb 12, 2015 |
Beautifully written appreciating the Greeks contribution to civilization this volume adds to his series covering Western history. Some of the translations are brought up to date, graphically and profanely, but they may read as a contemporary appreciation of the Greek genius. The volume would be useful to anyone who is trying to grasp in an articulate manner why the Greeks are so important to the world.
  gmicksmith | Aug 19, 2012 |
A quick overview of some of the highlights of ancient Greek literature, art and history. Cahill's breezy style gets a bit grating in this book, as he tries too hard to be casual and, I suppose, intellectually non-threatening. However, it does expose you to a bit of the most obvious parts of the Greek contribution to western civilization without having to work too hard at it. ( )
2 vote TerriBooks | Feb 9, 2012 |
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Epigraph
'One can achieve his fill of all good things, even of sleep, even of making love...' Homer
'Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.' William Butler Yeats
Dedication
To Madeleine L'Engle and Leah and Desmond Tutu and in memory of Pauline Kael mentors and models of life and art
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History must be learned in pieces.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385495544, Paperback)

In Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, his fourth volume to explore “the hinges of history,” Thomas Cahill escorts the reader on another entertaining—and historically unassailable—journey through the landmarks of art and bloodshed that defined Greek culture nearly three millennia ago.

In the city-states of Athens and Sparta and throughout the Greek islands, honors could be won in making love and war, and lives were rife with contradictions. By developing the alphabet, the Greeks empowered the reader, demystified experience, and opened the way for civil discussion and experimentation—yet they kept slaves. The glorious verses of the Iliad recount a conflict in which rage and outrage spur men to action and suggest that their “bellicose society of gleaming metals and rattling weapons” is not so very distant from more recent campaigns of “shock and awe.” And, centuries before Zorba, Greece was a land where music, dance, and freely flowing wine were essential to the high life. Granting equal time to the sacred and the profane, Cahill rivets our attention to the legacies of an ancient and enduring worldview.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:18 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"The Greeks invented everything from Western warfare to mystical prayer, from logic to statecraft. Many of their achievements, particularly in art and philosophy, are widely celebrated; other important innovations and accomplishments, however, are unknown or underappreciated. In Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, Thomas Cahill explores the legacy, good and bad, of the ancient Greeks. From the origins of Greek culture in the migrations of armed Indo-European tribes into Attica and the Peloponnesian peninsula, to the formation of the city-states, to the birth of Western literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, art, and architecture, Cahill makes the distant past relevant to the present."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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