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.  Continue reading

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