Introducing the Ancient Greeks From Bronze Age Seafarers

Introducing the Ancient Greeks From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind They gave us democracy philosophy poetry rational science the joke They built the Parthenon and the Library of Alexandria They wrote the timeless myths of Odysseus and Oedipus and the histories of Leonidas’s three hundred Spartans and Alexander the GreatBut who were the ancient Greeks And what was it that enabled them to achieve so muchHere Edith Hall gives us a revelatory way of viewing this geographically scattered people visiting different communities at various key moments during twenty centuries of ancient historyIdentifying ten uniue traits central to the widespread ancient Greeks Hall unveils a civilization of incomparable richness and a people of astounding complexity – and explains how they made us who we are today‘A thoroughly readable and illuminating account of this fascinating people This excellent book makes us admire and like the ancient Greeks eually’ Independent‘A worthy and lively introduction to one of the two groups of ancient peoples who really formed the western world’ Sunday Times‘Throughout Hall exemplifies her subjects’ spirit of inuiry their originality and their open mindedness’ Daily Telegraph‘A book that is both erudite and splendidly entertaining’ Financial Times Ancient Greece culture is one of the pillars of modern Western civilization and this book is a great introduction to almost two thousand years of history that still shapes our cultureThe author lays out in the very beginning of the book what she considers as the essential components of ancient Greek culture and character and then proceeds in chronological fashion to show us how parts of ancient Greek history relates to those components It is not easy to summarize such a long segment of history in only a few hundred pages but within these constraints this book does a splendid job becoming almost a page turner I found some parts of the book not detailed enough for example the period and events surrounding Hypatia deserve details but that's the mathematician in me speaking There are so many fascinating periods events characters in this history it is indeed very difficult to be fair to all of them All in all this book helped me fill in many blanks for me because before this book my knowledge of ancient Greece were limited to my readings on history of philosophy mathematics and medicine; that is somewhat patchy and fragmentaryI can easily recommend this book to the curious readers who want a very easy to follow introduction to ancient Greek culture and history a coherent guide to this important period of our civilization A few laughs and smiles are almost guaranteed and some of the characters you will find so alive as if ready to jump from those pages to you lecturing on their current events Finally suggested reading and notes section are also very valuable for guiding the readers so that they can satisfy their appetite for history At first I felt that this book was ok but it grew on me so that now I think it is uite nice and eminently recommendable as a non threatening introduction to the Ancient GreeksHall has a double approach which structures the book one broadly chronological the other ten key characteristics which she thinks typical of the Ancient Greeks apart from the Spartans who don't have all of them view spoiler I can't remember what the ten wereview spoiler nor can I be bothered to check it's not that important view spoiler and in my opinion even less serious view spoiler and as for the seven deadly sins phffgh don't try and tell me anything about sloth hide spoiler This book looked interesting on the shelves; I thought that if nothing else I might learn one or two things at least about post Mycenean pre classical Greece and since the author is a philosophy prof get her particular take on the ground zero of western philosophyUnfortunately whopper errors at the start and end of the book mar any good content in the middleFirst near the start Hall talks about how small Greece is at 25000 suare miles smaller than Portugal or ScotlandEr WRONG It's 50000 suare miles and bigger than both With that error occurring in the first dozen pages my skeptical antennae were up for the rest of the bookIt's much worse at the end where a mix of errors and unsupported presuppositions are horrendousFirst she claims that there were 110000 Christians in the year 200 CE First we don't know the exact number of Xns Second to the degree we have guesstimates we don't know how many of them were inside the Roman empireNext she claims the gospel of Mark was written 61 CE Uhh most New Testament scholars would date it about 5 years later I think it could have been written as late as 70 71 depending on the provenance of its originFinally she repeats the old secularist canard as did Carl Sagan that the death of Hypatia at the hands of Christians was what led to the destruction of the Library of Alexandria Actually the library was first sacked if not necessarily destroyed during the reign of Emperor Aurelian a century earlier in battle that had nothing to do with Christians Its final destruction may not have happened until the Muslim invasion of Egypt nearly two centuries after HypatiaBesides the errors of fact some of Hall's interpretations of classical Greece are spotty Yes the Greeks were great seafarers by and large But did every city state focus on the sea that much? No Sparta didn't certainly North of Athens on the mainland areas like Thessaly certainly didn'tAlso on the central conundrum of some parts of ancient Greece that of personal liberty and in yet smaller places that of democracy vs the ubiuity of slavery Hall simply doesn't wrestle with the conundrum that much Without expecting classical Attica to abhor slavery as much as us and with Stoics like Epictetus even detaching from their own slavery nonetheless it was a conundrum of sorts even back then The Epicurean brotherhood of man attests to thatBeyond that classical era Greece seems too much filtered through the lens of AthensIonia on one hand and Sparta on the other I mentioned Thessaly above What about Corinth? Or the borderlands of the northwest? The lens should have a wider angleSo look for some other relatively new book for an introductory overview of ancient Greece A big subject in a small book It is difficult to get everything that was important about Greeks in 300 pages but the book does a good job of giving a sketch of why we should still pay attention to the ancient Greeks The story is not revisionist and in many ways is old school about the Greeks but it is an entertaining synopsis of the highlights of Greek Culture Pleasurable See my updates for details

  • ebook
  • Introducing the Ancient Greeks From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind
  • Edith Hall
  • 26 March 2016
  • 9781473548961

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