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Sailing the wine dark sea
Thomas Cahill
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Sailing the wine dark sea (The Hinges of History #4)

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,190 Ratings  ·  221 Reviews
In the 4th volume of the Hinges of History series, Cahill brings his characteristic style to a 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 & philosophy, are widely celebrated. Other innovations & accomplishments, however, are underappreciate ...more
Published (first published 2003)
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Jul 17, 2008 J rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2010 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  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
May 03, 2013 Kathleen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-quasi
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
Jun 15, 2008 Jennie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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.
Jan 14, 2011 Ammie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2010 Rebester rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Gary Chapin
Feb 27, 2016 Gary Chapin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to come to the defense of this book. What everyone else says is true: no new analysis, lots of quotations ... But all of that makes this a fantastic audio book experience. I have listened to it many times over. Sections of mythology and ancient lit followed by musings on same? Really love it.
A complicated and uneven read. At turns fascinating and then mind-numbingly boring. Certainly the most explicit history book I've ever read. Also quite a bit more opinionated and rooted in modern society than I remember from the first two of the series. It tried very hard to convince me to pick up a true classic - so far to little success. I do expect to read the 3rd book in the series (this is the 4th and I own the 1st and 2nd). Call it 3.5 out of 4. But worth a reread.
Jacob Aitken
This book is vintage Cahill: witty, provocative, and probably over-sexed. I have to give him credit--Cahill is a competent scholar and he does cover the relevant topics. He covers the “Greek” outlook on poetry, war, partying, and philosophy. There is some oversimplification, but that can’t be helped.

His first few sections retell the Homeric stories. Some parts are interesting but if you have already read Homer, there isn’t much to add. (Sidenote: Reading this chapter along with the relevant sec
Sep 12, 2009 Sharon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I question some of the scholarship in this book.
Sep 17, 2014 Will rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 10, 2009 Sueij rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bish Denham
Aug 07, 2014 Bish Denham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Apr 03, 2015 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul Peterson
Nov 13, 2015 Paul Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Piqued and renewed my interest in the Classics and I will read at least one selection by Thomas Cahill each year from now on. Promise to self!
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Fourth in the Hinges of History series, following up on

the Jews (The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History))
the Irish (How the Irish Saved Civilization (Hinges of History))
and Jesus (Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus (Hinges of History))

Cahill wraps up his typically short but powerful summary and popularization (in the best sense of the word) by showing how these disparate influences created ou
Mar 28, 2015 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2015 Richp rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2014 A. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
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
Mar 07, 2015 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 04, 2015 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Greece from the very beginning to the rise of Christianity. Insightful, many illustrations.
Jan 21, 2016 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, non-fiction, 2016
A look at Greek literature, poetry, political experiments, art and philosophy and how their attitudes and approaches to life...especially their insatiable curiosity....helped develop Western Civilization.
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.
Dec 11, 2015 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this one up because I read How the Irish Saved Civilization. I remembered that I liked it well enough, but it didn't blow me away. This one, however, was much better. It was really interesting to see how much where we are today was determined by the Greeks. It almost makes me want to go back and reread the Irish book. I'm starting to feel like all of his books need to be read at once, or reread to see the entire sweep of what he's creating.

At the same time, I also feel like he's not cle
Margo Brooks
Mar 27, 2014 Margo Brooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, history
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
Jul 10, 2014 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Amy Hughes
This is the first of Cahill's books I've read and I was impressed with his command of what I would call "the spirit of Greek thought." He's a compelling writer and helps his reader make connections through what on the face of it might be intimidating material. I especially appreciated the large collection and explanation of Greek art and artifacts (with lots of pictures!) and how Cahill included extended selections from primary source material at the beginning of each chapter (and at several poi ...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

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