Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill

I’ve already begun thinking of myself as part-Greek, which is, I know, very ridiculous.  Just because I will live in the country for a year does not mean I have a right to claim their heritage as my own….except that Cahill has written an entire book about how the Western world has been shaped by the Greek worldview for the last two and a half thousand years.  So while I may not be Greek in heritage, I am in spirit.

Cahill divides his chapters into themes that also follow a general chronological pattern.  I found this to be a much easier way to track with the history and culture presented.  He also makes use of a lot of literature, which, as a book nerd, I found especially delightful.  Beginning with Homer’s The Iliad, Cahill describes Greek warriors and their obsession with glory on the battlefield.  We then move on emotions, celebrations, politics, philosophy, art, and religion.  Over and over again, Cahill reminds us just how strongly our present-day culture resembles the ancient Greeks.

I’ve always loved Greek mythology, my high school English class spent some time with Sophocles and Homer, and I took art history classes as electives in college.  I’m a little familiar with a lot of Greek history and thought, but Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea put everything into context.  For instance, the shift in Greek sculptures from rigid idealistic poses of men to the twisting, agonized figures in the famous Laocoon and His Sons came about as the strength of Athens waned, first to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War and then to Rome.

This book hits all of my interests:  art, literature, history, culture, and GREECE.  Perfect. 

513B6RKVH9LBook Jacket

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.

Full of surprising, often controversial insights, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea is a remarkable intellectual adventure–conducted by the most companionable guide imaginable.  Cahill’s knowledge of his sources is so intimate that he has made his own fresh translations of the Greek lyrics poets for this volume.

Release Date:  October 2003

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