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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.
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About the Author

THOMAS CAHILL is the author of the best-selling books, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, Mysteries of the Middle Ages: And the Beginning of the Modern World, and, most recently, Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World. These six books comprise Volumes I, II, III, IV, V, and VI, respectively, of the Hinges of History, a prospective seven-volume series in which the author recounts formative moments in Western civilization. In "The Hinges of History," Thomas Cahill endeavors to retell the story of the Western World through little-known stories of the great gift-givers, people who contributed immensely to Western, culture and the evolution of Western sensibility, thus revealing how we have become the people we are and why we think and feel the way we do today. Thomas Cahill is best known, in his books and lectures, for taking on a broad scope of complex history and distilling it into accessible, instructive, and entertaining narrative. His lively, engaging writing animates cultures that existed up to five millennia ago, revealing the lives of his principal characters with refreshing insight and joy. He writes history, not in its usual terms of war and catastrophe, but as "narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance." Unlike all too many history lessons, a Thomas Cahill history book or speech is impossible to forget. He has taught at Queens College, Fordham University and Seton Hall University, served as the North American education correspondent for the Times of London, and was for many years a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Prior to retiring recently to write full-time, he was director of religious publishing at Doubleday for six years. He and his wife, Susan, also an author, founded the now legendary Cahill & Company, whose reader's catalogue was much beloved in literary households throughout the country. They divide their time between New York, Rome and Paris.

Reviews

Adult/High School-Cahill has set himself a daunting task in Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, in which he seeks to make the ancient Greeks accessible to a modern audience. Yet he succeeds. The author examines ancient Greek civilization through a number of specific roles that underpinned that society, such as the warrior, the politician, and the philosopher. He delves into their development and shows how they exemplified and perpetuated the different aspects of behavior and thought that defined their times. The use of specific types with whom readers can relate makes for an effective means of bridging the gap between their civilization and ours. With this common ground established, Cahill can show exactly how ancient Greece has influenced western civilization today, such as in the approach to the military and in the creation of the system by which we organize our knowledge and methods of learning. Scholars of the subject might quibble with certain of the author's pronouncements, and he seems to have an overly dismissive attitude toward the civilization of ancient Rome. Yet there can be no gainsaying the fact that Cahill has succeeded in his goal; by the end of the book, readers can thoroughly understand why the ancient Greeks matter to us today.-Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

As part of his "The Hinges of History" series (e.g., Desire of the Everlasting Hills), Cahill once again presents an entertaining book. This one tells the English-speaking world why the Greeks are relevant to their current culture. He has taken a clever angle by dividing Ancient Greek influence into such categories as "How To Rule," "How To Think," and "How To Party." His enthusiasm and irreverence will prove infectious to most readers and outweighs his tendency to oversimplify certain issues, such as why certain texts survived and others did not. Cahill does not actually address with any depth the evolution of the Greek influence over the ensuing 3000 years but does admit to less attractive influences, such as sexism and slavery. Some may deem this as an updated version of Edith Hamilton's The Greek Way; Cahill stays focused on the Greeks and gives little space to the other influences in play at the same time, but one must concede that that is his thesis. Recommended for all public libraries and academic libraries without a Classics Department. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/03.]-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

In this elegant introduction to Greek life and thought, Cahill provides the same majestic historical survey he has already offered for the Irish, the Jews and the Christians. He eloquently narrates the rise of Greek civilization and cannily isolates six archetypal figures representative of the development of Greek thinking. He opens with a consideration of Homer's Iliad and its glorification of the warrior way as an exemplum of life in the Greek state. Cahill then proceeds to offer an evolutionary look at the rise and fall of Greece by examining the wanderer (Odysseus), the politician (Solon), the playwright (Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides), the poet (Sappho), the philosopher (the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle) and the artist (Praxiteles). These figures provide lessons in how to feel, how to rule, how to party, how to think and how to see. For example, Cahill contends that Odysseus reveals longing and desire for love, domestic peace and his homeland, while the rage of Achilles offers us lessons in the way to fight for one's homeland. The book is full of whimsical characterizations, such as the depiction of Socrates as a "squat, ugly, barefoot man who did not bathe too often." The author includes generous portions of the original writings in order to provide the flavor of the Greek way. Once again, Cahill gracefully opens up a world that has provided so much of Western culture's characteristic way of thinking. (On sale Oct. 28) Forecast: The most recent two titles in Cahill's Hinges of History series each have well over 200,000 hardcover copies in print, and the first printing for this is 175,000. Given Cahill's track record and this book's strengths, it should make bestseller lists. It's a main selection of the History Book Club and a BOMC selection. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"A triumph 0f popularization: extraordinarily knowledgeable, informal in tone, amusing, wide ranging, smartly paced." --The New York Times Book Review "The best introduction to classical Greek culture yet written. . . . Learned, stylish and inspiring. . . . Well-informed, insightful and on the whole written in a sparkling style." --Los Angeles Times "Astonishing. . . . If anybody can get us reading about Homer, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Thucydides, Xenophon and more, Cahill will." --Chicago Tribune "Fascinating. . . . Commendable. . . . Cahill has an impressive knowledge of the Greek world. . . . His admirable skill at summing up movements of enormous complexity surface throughout the book." --The Seattle Times A triumph 0f popularization: extraordinarily knowledgeable, informal in tone, amusing, wide ranging, smartly paced. The New York Times Book Review The best introduction to classical Greek culture yet written. . . . Learned, stylish and inspiring. . . . Well-informed, insightful and on the whole written in a sparkling style. Los Angeles Times Astonishing. . . . If anybody can get us reading about Homer, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Thucydides, Xenophon and more, Cahill will. Chicago Tribune Fascinating. . . . Commendable. . . . Cahill has an impressive knowledge of the Greek world. . . . His admirable skill at summing up movements of enormous complexity surface throughout the book. The Seattle Times" " A triumph 0f popularization: extraordinarily knowledgeable, informal in tone, amusing, wide ranging, smartly paced." "-- The New York Times Book Review "" The best introduction to classical Greek culture yet written. . . . Learned, stylish and inspiring. . . . Well-informed, insightful and on the whole written in a sparkling style." "-- Los Angeles Times "" Astonishing. . . . If anybody can get us reading about Homer, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Thucydides, Xenophon and more, Cahill will." "-- Chicago Tribune "" Fascinating. . . . Commendable. . . . Cahill has an impressive knowledge of the Greek world. . . . His admirable skill at summing up movements of enormous complexity surface throughout the book." "-- The Seattle Times"

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