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Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom
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Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  397 ratings  ·  56 reviews
With straightforward advice and informative readings of the great Greek texts, the authors show how we might still save classics and the Greeks for future generations. Who Killed Homer? is must reading for anyone who agrees that knowledge of classics acquaints us with the beauty and perils of our own culture.
Paperback, 323 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Encounter Books (first published April 7th 1998)
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Start your review of Who Killed Homer: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom
For hundreds of years, the study of the classics was at the heart of a liberal education, thought essential to the cultivation of free men. Yet today speaking Latin would be regarded as a sign of eccentricity, not erudition. People now attend university for technical expertise in fields like business, engineering, or nursing, and such a focus is lauded as practical. A degree in Greek literature would be derided as useless as a degree in art history, the epitome of wasted public finance. Victor H ...more
David Withun
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: language
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Awesome. This book single-handedly caused me to read 10-20 "classics" books that I probably should have read in college. It's worth the cost just for the reading lists provided. If you've ever thought "why should I waste time learning about classical Greece?", this book answers that question clearly and forcefully. Make your kid read it BEFORE he goes off to college. ...more
The book is highly polemical, and the authors waste too much ink on long series to drive home their point.

For example: Tanks in Iran, nerve gas in Iraq, epaulettes and steel helmets in Africa, military departments in South American universities, staff debate over air force doctrine in China, and millions of khaki conscripts in India are the manifestations that world conflict has now become synonymous with Western warfare.

Or: It is not reductionist or fantastic to ask why it is that even the most
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: academic
Hanson and Heath argue that “petty academic careerism” has caused the demise of Classics. Classics is no longer relevant to the typical American undergraduate because Classicists focus their energies on publishing specialized esoterica (which is read by few of their peers and by nobody outside academia) instead of teaching their undergraduates why the Greeks are worth reading. They argue that this is indicative of the prevailing elitism among academics, whose writing has become increasingly full ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Engaging writing. Very sarcastic humor. Highly critical in some places. His arguments are insightful and urgently need to be heard by all classic academics today (and this was written in 1998--think how much worse it has gotten since then!).

I appreciate how the co-authors admit, in the beginning, that they are both guilty of the things for which they criticize other academics. I loved reading about the phantom university structure they advocate for in the "What We Could Do" chapter.

Sometimes Han
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I would give it a five but at times it can be a bit much, as mentioned by others.
Well, I picked this up as a direction header for my journey into reading the Greek and Roman classics. It kept showing up in my Amazon suggestions every time I searched for different translations of Homer and Virgil. That being said it delivers what every literature, humanities, and history teacher wants to hear. The Greeks were really important and here is why. The details in chapter 4 are amazingly concise when d
J.A.A. Purves
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
This book should be considered very valuable for today. Hanson & Heath are arguing against the swindle of modern "education," and they do so with passion, humor, and persuasiveness. Essentially, we have all been cheated. The Classics have been taken out of our education and we are worse and narrower because of it. Our vocabularies are smaller. Our creativity and imaginations are more paltry. Our skills of expression are weakened. Our ability to apply the lessons of history to modern problems are ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

When the Pharaohs were still massively coercing labor to erect their own elaborate tombs, when the Great King of Persia was building palaces for himself and temples for the gods into which no commoner could step, the Greeks were constructing gymnasia, theaters, law courts, public dockyards, markets, and assembly places for their own lowly citizens. That is a different reality and can be evaluated in absolute criteria.

The first section of this is the most interesting to me; the latter sections a
Mar 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
If Classics fostered as little intellectual rigor as Hanson and Heath exhibit, there'd be no need to lament its decline. ...more
Charles Gonzalez
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly understand the origins of the author's thesis and passionate expression of it. Latin was expunged from high school study just a few short years before I attended. While that development perhaps saved me many day, weeks and months of anxiety over grammatical memorization, I feel in retrospect that I was never really given the chance of previous generations to be exposed to history, literature and philosophy of the ancients. It is an omission that I have spent the last several years finall ...more
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Impressively thorough, though I worry about what has changed since this book is pretty old, after all. However I get the feeling nothing much has changed in favour of the Classics since the time of printing.

Suggestions to revolutionise the curriculum can be seen as good-hearted, passionate and well-intended at best; a little idealistic, though.

I especially liked how many examples were given in the course of the entire book, and admit that I enjoyed the (at times nasty) jibes made to articles and
Kevin Keating
Oct 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was written by two Classics academics who basically are predicting the doom of Classics education, at least in this generation, and it is all the fault of academia and Classicists themselves. Some really interesting parts, but also a lot of redundancy. You kind of have to get through those parts to find the good stuff. I expected to learn more about The Iliad, which I teach, but I got no great insights on that score. The book was pretty good, only if you have an interest in education o ...more
Duncan H!
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Greek philosophy brings me here. I am indeed an american plebian. I was curious why my core curriculum of both primary and secondary school had happened to leave out all the inescapable greek wisdom... I sincerely appreciate this book. Needless to say i will not take the time to learn ancient greek, but i've certainly come to understand how we've come to exist within the institutions that define the nation state. I thank the authentic classicists for their timeless perspective into the nature of ...more
Nathan Albright
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
I do not believe that I would be considered a classicist within the context of Academia.  As fond as I am of Greek and Roman history and literature (in translation) [1], my knowledge of classical and koine Greek and Latin is at best very modest.  This book is written by two people who are obviously insiders in the world of Classical studies, and like most insider perspectives of a field or institution in turmoil, this is not a pretty picture.  It is not a surprising picture, to be sure, but it i ...more
Joel Everett
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
A highly interesting, yet polemical, take on state of Classical Education at the end of the 20th Century. A bit humorous at times, and one can only imagine what some of the pantheon of Classical Professors were like in real life. Given the current state of higher education though I find more hope in home grown movements than in a renewal of classical studies within the university as posited by the authors.
Jul 20, 2007 rated it did not like it
Who Killed Homer? is a tract by Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath seeking to change the contemporary method of teaching and researching Classics–which is facing a decline in popularity among the average student–turning it towards the political and moral ideals the authors hold. For these two, the Greek world (Rome and Latin literature is present here only as an afterthought) is seen as a paragon of political, social, and ethical organization whose lessons undergraduate students must learn. Hans ...more
Alexander Delorme
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Easily the best book written by a conservative I've ever read. ...more
Alexandra Barron
Dec 31, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I had to create a new “abandoned” shelf in goodreads for this book (I’ll add The Martian to that shelf too for being so awfully written, but that’s another review).

All I will say is - it’s one thing to write a critique of others work or thoughts but the snide comments and attempts to ridicule anyone who dares to point out that women and other ethnicities have underrepresented in the classics to date were just too much for me to take. I made it to chapter 3. They may have some valid points and c
Christopher Rush
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it
And in the "It Could Have Been So Much Better" category...we have this thing. Every premise they have is correct: we can learn much from the Greeks and should re-embrace a great deal of Greek wisdom; Classicists are culpable for the demise of Classics in America; the love for Classics is moribund in America. The problem is not that they are anti-Christian (though at times they do sound a bit glad America is not under the "burden" of being religiously influenced) or anti-progressive: the chapter ...more
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction-list

I am an eighteen year old female going to college next year. I have studied the Classics and Latin since the fifth grade, both in school and on my own as a personal hobby. I plan to major in it when I head off to school; someday I hope to have a career in it where I can teach and spread my love of this stuff to others. So Who Killed Homer? makes me both depressed and elated when I think about my future career field.

Hanson and Heath should be lauded for their f
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
An amazing book on why classical education is still relevant today, why it has lost its appeal, and how to bring back the study of the foundations of Western culture to mainstream education. I found myself remembering the tidbits of Greek literature, philosophy and drama I have read over the years (to include works of Homer, Thucydides, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato). But, I didn't realize how much of what I read (and have yet to read of the Greeks and Romans) has defined the essence of what we ...more
Samuel Boyle
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Classics, the study of Greek and Latin, used to be the core of higher education. Now it is not: why?

It is a subject which has withstood ages of attack, until now. Classics professors evade teaching undergrads to write esoterica about "gender and rhetoric", "rhetoric and gender". They are not 60's radicals, but careerists who readily sacrifice their discipline for personal gain. Classics is ultimately about real education and needed more now than ever.
One of the most important books in modern Classical scholarship, this book points the blame for the demise of Classical learning directly at those who are supposed to be the guardians of the legacy of Greece and Rome. By focusing on minutiae and fighting for academic position instead of actually teaching, Classicists have only themselves to blame.
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
The best part of this book is that you get to feel indignant along with the authors at the absolutely absurd drivel that passes for scholarship. Privilege, discourse, deconstruct, gender, patriarchy, queer... Are we talking about the Greeks or are we in a "Women's Studies" class here? ...more
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
I like classics, some people don't, Hanson takes it personally. ...more
May 07, 2012 marked it as righteously-skimmed
Because you can never really read enough about how impoverished, hungry and miserable humanities Ph.D.'s are... ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A critique of academia generally with a focus on classics departments.

The main shortcoming is the pointed and derisive tone throughout the book that ends up overshadowing many of the valid, and logical, arguments put forth. Any honest student who expected an opportunity to engage with challenging ideas at University will likely find this book resonates. Furthermore, most people who have worked for any period of time in academia should find much of the criticism valid, if they are honest.

The ma
Don Putnam
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
An excellent book with solid recommendations for the college system to get back on track. I read this book for a couple of reasons. 1) it's VDH. 2) the authors discuss ways for the lay-person to learn the classics.

Large swathes of the book went into analysis of the Iliad and other classic works. Those parts alone were worth reading! The appendix of the book has a couple of lists of books for people like me, to start reading and learning the classics. Sadly, only one of the twenty books recommend
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-modern
This was an interesting book about why the Greek Classics are not studied as extensively as they once were and why Classics departments are on their way out. I am not really qualified to review this book, but I found it to be an interesting read, especially the chapters which described Greek contributions to Western culture. Looking back, I do remember reading some Greek literature in translation.
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Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975), the American School of Classical Studies (1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He lives and works with his family on their forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953.

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