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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (The Hinges of History #4)

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,907 ratings  ·  196 reviews
In the fourth volume of the acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill brings his characteristic wit and style to a fascinating tour of ancient Greece.
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
Published October 28th 2003 by Random House Audio (first published 2003)
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I rather thought, when I picked this book up, that it would provide a great number of little known facts about the Greeks, that it would draw clearly the often hidden connections modern life has to the earliest democracy, and that Cahill would underline the importance of studying Greek culture for what it can teach us today. Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter is not really that book. In fact, Cahill’s book is really a quick dip in the bath of well-known Greek history and art, a cul ...more
Rick Ludwig
I am a big fan of Cahill's Hinges of History Series, having read the first three before reading this one. I found that this was my least favorite. The writing is still engaging and touches on the lasting effects the culture had on Western civilization, as in the first three books, but there was less Cahill here. There was a lot of Homer, a touch of Sappho, a lot of Plato, a bunch of Sophocles and Aeschylus, some Eurypides, and a big chunk of Pericles. Those of us who have read these classical wo ...more
Book #4 in the Hinges of History series. I enjoyed it, but was also disappointed. When I think of all the Greeks were and did, and how much they influenced modern civilization, I grow almost dizzy. So I was giddily anticipating this book, but it fell short of expectation.

However, I was intrigued by the notion of the Greeks as intellectual scavengers, sailing the Mediterranean to various ports, bringing innovative ideas and inventions back to Athens and integrating them into their culture. Event
To me? This book seemed poorly organized, unnecessarily wordy, slightly arrogant, and frankly, dull. This book really didn't do much to convince the reader how, in fact, the Greeks actually do matter. Even though I know that already. I picked it up expecting to be motivated into more reading about the region and it's history. Guess I'll try again later with a different book as my starting point.
Most of the negative reviews of this book point out that Cahill never says anything particularly original about why the Greeks matter, but be that as it may, it was a good overview for those of us who don't know much history. Also of note: he occasionally throws in inappropriate slang, like "hard-ass" and "schlong", which amused me more than it should have.
This book examines the civilization of the ancient Greeks and shows how their cultural contributions continue to shape our Western way of life even today. He makes use of seven archetypal figures: The Warrior, The Wanderer, The Poet, The Politician, The Playwright, The Philosopher and The Artist to break down the complexities of ancient Greek life into easily manageable sections, then proceeds to show how each of these aspects is relevant to us.

I really enjoyed this book. I'm not an expert on an
A very good, short, overview of Greek culture for those of us who haven't been introduced through school, or have only seen a few references to myths that we don't quite understand. And for those of us who _are_ students of Greek (and, by association, Roman) history, it draws some interesting conclusions, and allows us to step back somewhat from the slightly narrower focus of university courses and see certain aspects of Greek (or I should say, rather, Athenian, for the most part) culture in its ...more
I question some of the scholarship in this book.
I really enjoyed Cahill's _How the Irish Saved Civilization_ and so passed that on to Scott. He enjoyed it so much that he dug up this book about the Greeks, really enjoyed *it*, and passed it back to me.

I think this one is just as well done, and would be a wonderful read if you either (a) don't know much about the ancient Greeks (Scott's situation) or (b) know some and really want to know more. I, however, was a philosophy major in college, and so read a lot of Greek philosophers. I took an hon
Mar 22, 2010 Elizabeth rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one with a brain
Pure, unadulterated garbage. Cahill is not even an historian or a classicist. He aims these books at those unfamiliar with the subject matter, and then treats his audience like idiots. He has no respect for those reading the book, or the civilization he is writing about. He is arrogant and condescending. To use his own words, he is "bellicose, close-minded, pig-headed and absurd". He actually used these very words to describe either those who may not agree with his interpretation, or the Greeks ...more
This was a fun fast read - a bit vulgar at some points - the point of which I couldn't determine, but the author does justice to the topics he tackles in this survey of Greek Culture. I would especially single out his discussion of Plato and the values in the Dialogues compared to some of the values of Homeric characters. He does a very good job of highlighting Plato's inadequacies (as far as I am concerned).
Neil Novesky
I guess you could say this is a Time Life version of Greek history, not great, not terrible. One strong positive though is Cahill's style of offering on page tidbits in the form of inserts, sort of a magazine style factoid. Some of those actually add to the narrative somewhat. For whatever reason, it seems like he is writing 'down' to the reader. I don't think it is necessarily intentional. But it is a little annoying. For example, he writes 'A legendary figure called Thespis (whence thespian) i ...more
A popular history of ancient Greece, from the Mycenean Age to early Christian times. For one not all that familiar with a lot of the details of the topic, I found it enlightening and put a lot of things in perspective: what Sparta was all about (testosterone poisoning), how to understand allusions to Plato's cave, the complex sexuality of Greek society (men could bugger boys with impunity, but boys could not acceptably ask younger boys to blow them), the rather amazing way the earliest Greek phi ...more
This is not a history per se, but a commentary on an interpretation of history. If one is not that familiar with ancient Greek history, this contains enough to be an overview. The author's title thesis is hardly new, as it has been part of the basis of a classic Western education for hundreds of years. I consider that thesis to be an overstatement (as I also consider How the Irish Saved Civilization).

The opening chapters contain great praise for warriors, even when they choose not to defend the
This book was frankly disappointing. Everyone knows that the ancient Greeks are a very essential part of western history, so I thought that this book would go into detail as to how exactly. But it didn't. Actually, it really didn't do much of anything, to be perfectly honest. Cahill wanders aimlessly from contrasting differences in society offered in Homer's Iliad and modern society, then over to dry details Greek poetry and plays, leading over to excessive details of their sexual practices (I' ...more
Review: Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, Sailing the Wine Dark Sea, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, Heretics and Heroes

The Hinges of History is a series including the above books plus Mysteries of the Middle Ages and a volume yet to be published. I am treating them together because, as one might expect, they share many strengths and weaknesses of the author, Thomas Cahill.
Heretics and Heroes was the first book I read, it being a gift, and, therefore, re
This was my second attempt to read this book. I've given it a four-star rating as I found it (both times I set out to read it) rather plodding. The initial chapters of the book were largely filled with quotations from other books (primarily Homer's The Odyssey) which—because I have become accustomed to Cahill's very fluid, easy-to-read style in his previous Hinges Of History volumes—disrupted the flow a bit for me. Perhaps it is my unfamiliarity with the ancient texts that threw me off? That sai ...more
i liked this better than his book on the irish -- it is clear he had more to work with. he covers greek contributions to science art, philosophy and systematic knowledge. it gives a deep sense of the magnitude of their contribution to western culture.
Bish Denham
I am not, by any means, a Greek scholar. Neither am I ignorant of Greece's history, literature, and what it gave to world. What this book did for me was put things into a broad perspective that helped to clarify just how indebted we - Western civilization - are to the remarkable city-state of Athens. So much of our language and our concepts come directly from them. Who knows what the world would be like had they not evolved as they did? But I can possibly make the assumption we would be poorer h ...more
Margo Brooks
A good review of Greek myths and philosophy in a small, easily readable package. A lot of the book is long passages from Greek poems, speakers and plays with a little exposition to tie them together. It is not a really original, in-depth commentary, but for those of us who were exposed to the Odyssey and Greek philosophy in college and haven't thought about it again in decades, it is a good review to kick start the brain. For people who have studied the Greeks extensively, there isn't likely any ...more
A perfect introduction to the study of Ancient Greece. It covers language, culture, politics, history, art, science, religion, war....incredible erudition delivered in a light, breezy tone. Cahill is the perfect tour guide through this remarkable civilization because his discussions of each aspect of Greek life, while giving an excellent survey, whet the reader's appetite for more and deeper knowledge. I was able to make connections I had never considered before. Throughout, he makes cultural an ...more
V. L. Craven
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 diffe
Will Waller
Reading Sailing the Wine Dark Sea was a captivating read, primarily driven by travelling through the setting of his book, Greece. Being in a place of the author’s subject provides undue excellance to whatever you are reading. Thus, having returned from Greece now, I believe I can more accurately portray the book as a bit crass and sensationalist because of his incessant conversation around sexuality. I am no expert on Greek life and culture in the ancient world but I find it hard to believe that ...more
This was my least favorite of Cahill's books to date. I started to tire of his overly casual tone in the first half of the book--he was being way too familiar and childish and he doesn't know me well enough to act that way around me! Towards the middle I got over it, probably coinciding with the philosophy chapter where I got more interested.

Normally Cahill either chooses to write about something that few people know about and hence bring something important and new to the table (i.e. How the Ir
Evan Hays
The weakest one I have read in this series, but I still enjoyed it. The other two I have read were How the Irish Saved Civilization and Mysteries of the Middle Ages, and every time you get at least decent history written in well-crafted language, so that always keeps you interested.

I must say I did feel like I was awash in the sea of Greek history and culture, which at times made me cringe. Don't read this book if you are overly punctilious about sexual practices. Sometimes it is easy to see why
While a good, basic, conceptual introduction to the Illiad, the Odyssey,and Greek Theatre--and relatively thorough introduction at that--this was not a useful a text for my requirements. Much of the theories it forwards were presented as fact rather than theory, at while the ideas it foregrounds are coincident with popular ideas about the Greeks, I think it's also important to include a check on our modern, know-it-all perspective by including references to how very little we know on some of the ...more
Eric Hopkins
I read Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea several years back for an Ancient World class. My review of it then, and now is that it's decidedly mediocre. Cahill isn't an academic historian, and the book is very much popular history. That's not to say that it's entirely wrong, or even mostly wrong. The best way I can think to put it is that the book could stand to be a lot more right. Some of the basic facts are right, others are iffy. Cahill also frequently comes off as a fan boy, rather than a historian o ...more
Dec 28, 2007 Ganesh marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Thomas Cahill was on Billy Moyers Journal earlier. It was clear that Moyers was absolutely fascinated by everything Cahill said -- as was I. This "review" isn't a review of Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea but rather an explanation of why, in general, I'm interested in Cahill's ideas.

In the interview, Cahill referred to a number of his books on history and his latest book on the death penalty.

Here are just two intriguing ideas he shared:

(1) The two major similarities between the fall of the Roman Em
I've read at least two other books in Cahill's "Hinges of History" series, and I liked them much better than I liked "Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea." But I read those books and listened to this one, and I think it's the sort of book that is better absorbed when it's actually read.
Here are some things I didn't like:
1. Really long excerpts from admittedly significant writings.
2. Way too much information on Greek statuary. I'm sure glad there weren't any children in the car.
3. A really long excerpt fro
Jun 22, 2008 Kirsten rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers in the mood for history lite
Recommended to Kirsten by: Maggie
Less a historical overview of ancient Greece than a gloss on the great works of Greek literature and philosophy (as well as the great men/woman (Sappho!)) who produced these works, I found Cahill's style breezy and accessible. Having read most of the works discussed at some point in my undergraduate career, the earlier chapters retrod fairly familiar ground regarding The Iliad and The Odyssey, as well as Plato's Symposium. Later in the book, when the author switches to a discussion of private vs ...more
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Born in New York City to Irish-American parents and raised in Queens and the Bronx, Cahill was educated by Jesuits and studied ancient Greek and Latin. He continued his study of Greek and Latin literature, as well as medieval philosophy, scripture and theology, at Fordham University, where he completed a B.A. in classical literature and philosophy in 1964, and a pontifical degree in philosophy in ...more
More about Thomas Cahill...

Other Books in the Series

The Hinges of History (6 books)
  • How the Irish Saved Civilization
  • 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
  • Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe
  • Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World
How the Irish Saved Civilization The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World

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